A Long and Distinguished Career
David McCallum, the Scottish actor who played a secret agent in the 1960s spy drama The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and a medical examiner in the popular TV show NCIS, has died at the age of 90. He passed away peacefully of natural causes, surrounded by his family at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Monday, according to a statement from CBS.
McCallum had a long and distinguished career in film and television, spanning seven decades. He was born in Glasgow to parents who were classical musicians, and initially pursued a career in music before finding work as an actor. He appeared in several British TV shows and movies, including A Night to Remember, The Great Escape, and The Greatest Story Ever Told.
A Teen Heartthrob and a Spy Icon
McCallum rose to fame in the US when he co-starred as Illya Kuryakin, a Russian agent, opposite Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo, in the hit series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The show ran from 1964 to 1968, and made McCallum a teen heartthrob and a spy icon. He received two Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination for his role, and also recorded several albums and singles as a musician.
McCallum continued to work steadily in film and TV after The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ended, appearing in shows such as The Outer Limits, Perry Mason, The Invisible Man, and Babylon 5. He also lent his voice to animated series and video games, such as Batman: The Animated Series, Ben 10, and Metal Gear Solid.
A Beloved Character on NCIS
McCallum’s most recent and longest-running role was as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, the eccentric and skilled chief medical examiner on NCIS. He joined the show in 2003, after appearing in a guest role on its predecessor, JAG. He became a beloved character on the show, serving as a mentor and a friend to the team of investigators. He also wrote two novels based on his character, Once a Crooked Man and The Last Mile.
McCallum was one of the few original cast members who remained on NCIS until its 19th season, which premiered earlier this month. He had reduced his screen time in recent years, but still appeared in several episodes per season. He also reprised his role as Illya Kuryakin in a cameo appearance in the 2015 film adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
A Loving Father and a Renaissance Man
McCallum is survived by his wife of 56 years, Katherine McCallum, four sons, a daughter, and eight grandchildren. His family issued a statement, calling him a “true renaissance man” who was “fascinated by science and culture” and “capable of conducting a symphony orchestra and (if needed) could actually perform an autopsy”.
“He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father. He always put family before self,” his son Peter McCallum said. “He led an incredible life, and his legacy will forever live on through his family and the countless hours on film and television that will never go away.”
CBS also paid tribute to McCallum, saying he was a “gifted actor and author, and beloved by many around the world”. The network added: “We will miss his warmth and endearing sense of humor that lit up any room or soundstage he stepped onto, as well as the brilliant stories he often shared from a life well-lived.”