‘NCIS’ and ‘The Man from Uncle’ actor David McCallum dies at 90


David McCallum, the Scottish-born actor who became a surprise sensation in the 1960s as the mysterious Russian spy Ilya Kuryakin in “The Man from Uncle” and found television stardom again in the hit series “NCIS” nearly 40 years later, has Died on Monday. In Manhattan. He was 90 years old.

CBS, the network that airs “NCIS,” confirmed his death in a statement.

Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Mr. McCallum was an experienced character actor who could use an accent or an odd piece of clothing to give depth to a role. He played numerous roles in theatre, film and television, from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Central Park in 2000 to the voice of Professor Paradox in the animated television series “Ben 10: Ultimate Alien” a decade later.

He was hired in 1964 to play Ilya Kuryakin, the Russian-accented assistant to Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in “The Man from Uncle”, a secret agent working for the fictional United Network Command for law and enforcement. There was a tremendous series about agents. , His share was to be small; He only had four lines in the first episode. He suggested making Ilya more interesting by giving her secret information about his personal life (he told an interviewer that no one knows what Ilya Kuryakin does when he goes home at night) and to a lesser extent towards Solo. Be unfavorable.

Writers began developing her character, and she became a main cast member of the series and a two-time Emmy Award nominee. Somewhat to his irritation, he also became a sex symbol.

With his mysterious style, his Beatle haircut and his trademark black turtleneck, Mr. McCallum was a magnet for teenage fans. Sent to promote the show at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge in 1965, he was surrounded by screaming female students and had to be rescued by police officers.

The New York Times reported in a 1965 profile, “McCallum’s motorcade is now, by order of the police chiefs of the cities he visits, forbidden to stop anywhere during the drive line.” “If the siege slows down, there will be a massacre in the streets.”

“The Man from Uncle” ended in 1968, and Mr. McCallum happily moved into lower-profile roles. He continued to work steadily, mostly in B-films and supporting roles on television. He also played the title role in the short-lived series “The Invisible Man” (1975–76) and the role of Emperor Joseph II in the 1999 revival of “Amadeus” on Broadway.

But wherever he went, he said, Russian secret agents followed him. “It’s been 30 years, but I can’t escape them,” he told The Times in 1998. “Ilya Kuryakin is there 24 hours a day.”

In 2003, the Russian Shadow finally got a fight against the bow-tied, bespectacled and eccentric medical examiner Donald Mallard, better known as Ducky, in the hit CBS crime series “NCIS.” He remained with the show, which consistently ranked in the Nielsen. Top 10, for two decades. He was still a member of the cast at the time of his death.

In interviews, Mr. McCallum said that apart from Julius Caesar, Dr. Mallard was his favorite role, partly because it taught him a lot about forensics. He studied with pathologists in Los Angeles and even sat in on autopsies, learning so much that the show’s writers would ask him for technical advice.

David Keith McCallum Jr. was born on 19 September 1933 into a musical family in Glasgow. His father was first violinist of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London; His mother, Dorothy Dorman, was a cellist. He later told interviewers that his Scottish Presbyterian upbringing had limited him emotionally.

“We Scots, we live very tight inside,” he told TV Guide in 1965. “As an actor I’m saddened by this happening – so naturally restricted.”

Hoping to follow in his family’s footsteps and pursue a career in music, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music to study the oboe. But he found himself drawn to acting and went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. (However, he never completely lost interest in music; at the height of his “Uncle” fame, Capitol Records released several albums under his name on which he performed instrumental renditions of pop hits.)

Mr McCallum was drafted into the British Army in 1951 and served two years, including 10 months in Ghana, as a small arms specialist. Shortly after his discharge, he signed with a British production company, Rank Organization, and began acting in both films and television.

He met Jill Ireland, already a rising actress in Britain, when they were both cast in the rank production “Robbery Under Arms” in 1957. He proposed seven days after they met, and they were married that spring. In 1961, when he was cast as Judas Iscariot in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (the film would not be completed and released until 1965), the couple moved to Los Angeles.

They seemed to be thriving. He had three children. She became a busy TV actress and made several guest appearances on “The Man from Uncle”, playing three different characters.

But the stress of Mr. McCallum’s stardom took a toll on his marriage, and she left him for the actor Charles Bronson, whom she met while both Mr. McCallum and Mr. Bronson were shooting “The Great Escape” (1963) . Less than a year after his divorce in 1967, Mr. McCallum married Katherine Carpenter, a model.

She is survived by her children, Peter and Sophie McCallum; two sons, Paul and Valentine, from his first marriage; and eight grandchildren. His third son from his first marriage, Jason, died of a drug overdose in 1989.

Mr. McCallum and his wife lived in Manhattan. CBS said he died in hospital but did not say why he was admitted to the hospital.

When “NCIS” made Mr. McCallum a television star for the second time, he found fame much less oppressive than the first time. In a 2009 interview he told BBC Radio, “In New York now I leave 15 minutes between appointments – because I walk everywhere in New York – because I have to wait at least 15 minutes across the street to talk about NCIS. Will be stopped for a minute.”

When asked if he ever got tired of this kind of attention, he said, “I love it.” “I’ve never been fed up with anything in my entire life.”

Alex Traub Contributed to the reporting.


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