David McCallum, Actor on ‘NCIS,’ ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,’ Passes away at the age of 90



David McCallum, who played Illya Kuryakin opposite Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in the hit spy thriller “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” in the 1960s and had a supporting role as pathologist Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on the hit show “NCIS” decades later, passed away on Monday in New York City of natural causes. He was 90.

On behalf of the family, Peter said, “David McCallum was the nicest, coolest, most patient, and loving father. He was a selfless family man. He treasured spending time with his grandchildren and valued every opportunity to spend time with them. At family gatherings, he and his youngest grandson, Whit, age 9, could be seen huddled together in a quiet corner, deep in conversation.

David McCallum

David McCallum was the epitome of the renaissance guy, someone who could channel his enthusiasm for science and culture into insightful understanding. Because of his extensive preparation for his part on NCIS, David McCallum could direct a symphony orchestra and, in a pinch, even conduct an autopsy.

When we got back to their apartment from the hospital, I checked on my mom to make sure she was doing fine before she went to bed. The short “Yes” was her response. I wish we could have spent our golden years together. She’s 79, and her father recently turned 90. Daddy never grew old, and the vitality of their love and daily life is reflected in the sincerity of your emotion.

Even though the show’s tone veered from fairly serious to cartoonish and back again across its four seasons, the James Bond–inspired “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” in which Vaughn’s Solo and David McCallum Kuryakin battled the evil forces of THRUSH around the globe (thanks to the wonders of stock footage), was quite the pop-culture phenomenon in the mid-1960s. During the duration of the TV series, it was adapted into a number of movies, including “One Spy Too Many,” “One of Our Spies Is Missing,” and “The Karate Killers,” all of which starred Vaughn and McCallum. It also produced a spinoff, “The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.,” starring Stefanie Powers.

David McCallum reprised his role as Kuryakin in the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Fifteen Years Later Affair, and he also appeared as a guest star on the sitcom “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.”

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Mark Feeney, writing in 2008 for the Boston Globe, praised “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” series, saying, “Where Vaughn’s Solo was chilly, McCallum’s Kuryakin was cool — very cool indeed.” McCallum may have had the second-sexiest lower lip of the 1960s, but it was no match for Julie Christie’s. A teen idol was created when you factored in his blond bangs, high cerebral forehead, and preference for dark turtlenecks.

The film version of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Henry Cavill as Solo and Armie Hammer as Kuryakin was released in August of 2015.

David McCallum Dr. Mallard provided crucial forensic clues and acted as a criminal profiler on the hit CBS show “NCIS,” which followed a squad of agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service commanded by Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs. McCallum played a crucial role in making the show work by giving Mallard a crazy, old mother who got dementia and died. When it first aired in 2003, “NCIS” became so popular that it generated two offshoot series: “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “NCIS: New Orleans.”

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of David McCallum and privileged that CBS was his home for so many years,” CBS stated in a statement. David was admired all around the world for his acting and writing skills. He lived a remarkable life, and his loved ones and the many viewers of his movies and TV shows will ensure that his memory will never be forgotten.

The insightful anecdotes he often recounted from a life well-lived, as well as his infectious warmth and charming sense of humor, will be sorely missed. Our deepest condolences go out to Katherine, their children, and all of David’s loved ones.

According to a Harris Poll conducted in 2011, “NCIS” was deemed the most popular show in the United States, and it continued to draw in viewers during the 2012–13 television season.

He told Variety’s Chris Willman in 2012, “I’m doing it because I absolutely love what I’m doing,” which is why he was still working after six decades. Just following my calling. And I did it in 1946 when I first joined Equity. And it’s great to have this program and this role so early in my career.

“My life is dedicated to the new script coming through the door,” he continued, “making sure that all the pathology is right, and then finding out how many words I have to learn for Ducky, which then translates into how many hours I have to do to work to get it in my head and get it as best we can.”

It can seem like you walk in, get a couple lines, and then Pauley just keeps talking the whole time. Sometimes I’ll have to memorize three pages of medical jargon so that I can spout it off in a scene and sound like I know what I’m talking about.

David McCallum had something of a second career as a voice actor despite his commitment to “NCIS.” He voiced C.A.R. in the Toon Disney show “The Replacements,” Professor Paradox in several installments of the “Ben 10” series, and other characters in video games like “Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.”

David McCallum Keith McCallum’s father was the first violinist for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and his mother was a cellist. David was born in Glasgow, Scotland. As a result, he first attempted to establish a career in music, taking up the oboe and enrolling in the Royal Academy of Music before dropping out and switching to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After graduating from RADA, he began his acting career in repertory.


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