David McCallum, the Scottish-born actor and musician who rose to fame as the spy Illya Kuryakin in the 1960s TV series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., has died at the age of 90 from natural causes. He passed away this morning surrounded by his family at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
A versatile and prolific performer
McCallum was born in Glasgow on September 19, 1933, to a musical family. His father was a violinist and his mother was a cellist. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and made his film debut in 1953 in The Cruel Sea. He appeared in several British films and TV shows, including A Night to Remember, Billy Budd, and The Great Escape.
In 1964, he moved to the United States and landed the role of Illya Kuryakin, a Russian agent who teamed up with American agent Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) in the popular spy series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The show ran for four seasons and spawned several spin-offs, including a theatrical film and a TV movie. McCallum became a teen idol and a sex symbol, receiving thousands of fan letters every week.
McCallum also pursued his musical career, releasing several albums and singles. He played various instruments, including the guitar, the piano, the harpsichord, and the oboe. He composed music for some of his TV shows and films, such as The Invisible Man and Hauser’s Memory. He also wrote a novel, Once a Crooked Man, which was published in 2016.
A long and successful career in TV
After The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ended in 1968, McCallum continued to work in TV, appearing in shows such as The Outer Limits, Colditz, Sapphire & Steel, and NCIS. He played Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, a medical examiner and a friend of the main character Leroy Jethro Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon), in NCIS since its inception in 2003. He was one of the longest-serving cast members of the show, appearing in more than 400 episodes.
McCallum received several awards and honors for his work, including two Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe nomination, a BAFTA nomination, and an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2019 for his services to drama.
A loving husband and father
McCallum was married twice. His first wife was actress Jill Ireland, whom he met on the set of Hell Drivers in 1957. They had three sons: Paul, Valentine, and Jason. Jason died of an accidental drug overdose in 1989. McCallum and Ireland divorced in 1967, and she later married actor Charles Bronson.
McCallum’s second wife was Katherine Carpenter, a model whom he married in 1967. They had a son, Peter, and a daughter, Sophie. They also adopted Katherine’s niece Miranda after her parents died in a car crash.
McCallum is survived by his wife of 56 years, Katherine McCallum, his sons Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum and Peter McCallum, his daughter Sophie McCallum and his eight grandchildren.