Scottish actor David McCallum, who shot to fame in 1964 playing Russian agent Illya Kuryakin in American TV spy spoof The Man from U.N.C.L.E., has died at the age of 90. David McCallum also starred in series Colditz, in Sapphire & Steel with Joanna Lumley, in movies The Great Escape and Mosquito Squadron, and most recently as pathologiest Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard in NCIS and as the voice of Alfred Pennyworth in Batman animations.
David Keith McCallum Jr. was born on September 19th 1933, in Maryhill, Glasgow, the second of two sons of orchestral violinist David McCallum Sr. and Dorothy (née Dorman), a cellist. He was conscripted for National Service at 18 and was promoted to lieutenant. After leaving the army he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where Joan Collins was a classmate.
He began his acting career doing boy voices for BBC Radio in 1947 and taking bit parts in British films from the late 1950s. His first American film was Freud: The Secret Passion (1962), directed by John Huston, shortly followed by a role in Peter Ustinov’s Billy Budd and in The Great Escape in 1963.
While The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was intended as a vehicle for Robert Vaughn, David McCallum’s character, the intellectual Russian Illya Kuryakin, made him a sex symbol on a par with The Beatles. While playing Kuryakin, McCallum received more fan mail than any other actor in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s history, including such popular stars as Clark Gable, Robert Taylor and Elvis Presley. McCallum received two Emmy Award nominations in the course of the show’s four-year run (1964–’68).
Beginning in 2003, David McCallum starred in the CBS television series NCIS as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, the team’s chief medical examiner and one of the show’s most popular characters. In Season 2 Episode 13 The Meat Puzzle, NCIS Special Agent Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander) asks Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), “What did Ducky look like when he was younger?” and Gibbs replies, “Illya Kuryakin”.
With series lead Mark Harmon’s departure from the show in the fall of 2021 (Season 19), McCallum became the last remaining member of the original NCIS cast.
David McCallum also recorded four music albums and wrote a novel. He was married for 10 years to actress Jill Ireland, and in 1967 married Katherine Carpenter. David McCallum died of natural causes at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City on 25th September 2023, six days after his 90th birthday.