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David McCallum: NCIS and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. actor dies aged 90

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By Max Matza

BBC News

David McCallum, the British actor who became a star by playing a secret agent in 1960s spy drama The Man from U.N.C.L.E., has died at the age of 90.

More recently, McCallum was known for his long-running role as a medical examiner on hit CBS programme NCIS.

“We will miss his warmth and endearing sense of humor that lit up any room or soundstage he stepped onto,” the NCIS account said on social media.

The Scottish-born actor also starred in TV shows Colditz and Sapphire & Steel.

“David was a gifted actor and author, and beloved by many around the world,” the NCIS tribute 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.”

His role as mysterious Russian agent Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. won him many fans and made him one of the decade’s biggest TV stars.

The series ended in 1968, but not before he received several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.


Image caption,

Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in popular TV series The ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E., circa 1965

Four years later, he played an RAF officer in the BBC’s Colditz, set in the German World War Two prisoner of war camp.

At the end of the 70s, he teamed up with Joanna Lumley as a time-travelling agent, assigned by an unknown authority to safeguard time itself, in Sapphire & Steel.

On the big screen, McCallum had roles in films including The Great Escape, The Greatest Story Ever Told and A Night to Remember.

He also guest starred on TV series Perry Mason and The Outer Limits.

‘No one did it better’

Born in Glasgow to parents who were classical musicians, McCallum initially pursued a career in music before finding work as an actor.

In a statement released by CBS, his son Peter McCallum said: “He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father. He always put family before self.

“He was a true renaissance man – he was fascinated by science and culture and would turn those passions into knowledge.

“For example, he was capable of conducting a symphony orchestra and (if needed) could actually perform an autopsy, based on his decades-long studies for his role on NCIS.”

The actor died in New York on Monday. His death was said to have been due to natural causes.

NCIS co-star Michael Weatherly was among the others paying tribute.

Sharing a signed photo of McCallum alongside Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, Weatherly wrote: “David McCallum made every moment count, in life and on set. Let’s raise a jug and celebrate a funny fantastic authentic man.

“I’ve only got three autographs. [Sean] Connery, Tony Bennett and McCallum,” he continued. “I felt the same way as Steve McQueen in this picture from The Great Escape: Wow! It’s David McCallum! No one did it better.”