David McCallum, who portrayed Illya Kuryakin alongside Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in the 1960s hit espionage drama
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” and later played the role of assistant to pathologist Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard in the top-rated series “NCIS,” passed away on Monday in New York City due to natural causes.
At the age of 90, he celebrated his remarkable journey through life. His son, Peter, who spoke on behalf of their family, fondly shared, “He embodied the essence of kindness, warmth, patience, and boundless love as a father.
He selflessly prioritized his family above all else, nurturing deep connections with his grandchildren. It was during family gatherings that you could often discover them engaged in profound philosophical discussions, tucked away in some quiet corner.
His spirit was that of a genuine Renaissance soul, equally captivated by the wonders of science and the beauty of culture. He had an incredible ability to transform his passions into a wealth of knowledge. For example, he was
capable of conducting a symphony orchestra and, if necessary, could perform a real autopsy based on decades of deep study for his role on NCIS.”
“After returning from the hospital to his apartment, I asked my mom if she was okay before going to sleep. Her response was simply, ‘Yes.’ But I want us to have a chance to grow old together,” he added.
She is 79, and my father recently turned 90. Her sentiment reflects how vibrant their beautiful relationship and daily life were, and somehow, even at the age of 90, my father never really grew old.”
Influenced by James Bond and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” where Vaughn’s Solo and McCallum’s Kuryakin fought the forces of evil worldwide (thanks to the wonders of stock footage), the 1960s were a happening era in pop culture.
Though the tone of the show became quite serious and the show returned for another run in its four seasons. It spawned a spin-off, “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.,” starring Stefanie Powers, along with a few feature adaptations during its run, such as “One Spy Too Many,” in which Vaughn and McCallum also starred.
McCallum also made guest appearances in sitcom “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” as Kuryakin, and he reprised his role in the 1983 TV movie “The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair.”
“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” received praise, with Mark Feeney writing in The Boston Globe series in 2008, “Where Vaughn’s Solo was cool, McCallum’s Kuryakin was good – very good indeed.
If Julie Christie had the decade’s most iconic lower lip, as she surely did, then McCallum was a close second. Add to his golden hair, lofty cerebral forehead, and deep tan turtleneck, and the birth of an adolescent idol had occurred.”
A film adaptation of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” helmed by Guy Ritchie, hit theaters in August 2015, featuring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in the roles of Solo and Kuryakin, respectively.
On CBS’s smash hit “NCIS,” centered around a team of agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service led by Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs, McCallum’s Mallard was not just known for presenting crucial forensic discoveries but also for his role as a criminal profiler.
McCallum’s character in the series gained depth due to his eccentric elderly mother, who, unfortunately, battled mental health issues before her passing, adding complexity to the show’s blend of comedy and drama.
The series, which commenced in 2003, gave rise to two successful spin-offs, namely “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “NCIS: New Orleans.” In an official statement, CBS expressed their deep sorrow over the loss of David McCallum, highlighting the fact that CBS had been his home for many years.
David was not only a gifted actor but also a writer, cherished by countless people worldwide. He lived an extraordinary life, and his legacy will endure through his family and the countless hours he dedicated to bringing warmth to both the big and small screens.
CBS fondly recalled his charisma and captivating humor, which lit up every room and soundstage he graced, along with the wonderful stories he often shared from his rich life.
In a 2011 Harris Poll, “NCIS” earned the title of America’s favorite television show, and it reigned as the most-watched series in the United States during the 2012-13 TV season.
In a 2012 interview, when asked why he continued working in the industry after six decades, he candidly explained to Variety’s Chris Willman, “I’m doing it because I absolutely love what I’m doing. It’s what I was born to do, and that’s why I keep going.” And I started doing it when I joined Equity in 1946. And to be at this stage of my career to be able to do this show and this character is just fantastic.”
“My life is dedicated to coming up with new scripts through the door,” he continued, “making sure all the medical jargon is correct, and then finding out how many words I have to learn for Ducky, which then has to be put into my brain and acquired as quickly as possible.
Sometimes it feels like you go in there, you’ve got a few lines, and Pauley is talking all the time. Or the other time you go into a scene and you’ve got three pages of medical jargon, and it requires a lot of work and turning it into chicken scratch, and it feels like I know what I’m doing.”
Although he was busy with “NCIS,” McCallum developed a second career as a voice actor in animated TV shows, voicing characters such as C.A.R.R. in “The Replacements” for Disney, various incarnations of Professor Paradox in the “Ben 10″ series, and in video games like “Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.”
David Keith McCallum was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and his father was a former violinist for the London Philharmonic and his mother was a cellist. Thus, he initially pursued a career in music, training on the oboe and spending some time studying at the Royal Academy of Music, though he soon left and enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Following his time at RADA, he embarked on his acting journey by joining repertory theater troupes.
But he really began his professional acting career at age 12, in 1946, as a performer on the BBC Radio Repertory Company.
In 1953, he began his journey in the world of entertainment with the BBC fantasy series “The Rose and the Ring.”
As a young actor, in the late 1950s, Peter Finch starred in the Australian Western “Robbery Under Arms” and appeared in big-screen crime dramas like “The Secret Place,” “Hell Drivers,” and “Violent Playground.”
He had a short cameo in the 1958 movie “An Unforgettable Night,” centered around the Titanic tragedy, where he portrayed a minor character in the role of a radio operator.