David McCallum, spy in The Man From Uncle, dies at 90

The British-born actor also starred in The Great Escape and NCIS

David McCallum was famous for his role as enigmatic Russian agent Illya Kuryakin in The Man from Uncle. AP
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David McCallum, the British-born actor who starred in popular 1960s show The Man From Uncle, has died at age 90.

McCallum, who was known to modern-day audiences for his role as a medical examiner in NCIS, died at a New York hospital with his family by his side, CBS reported.

"He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father. He always put family before self," his son Peter McCallum said.

"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."

After training at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, McCallum appeared alongside an all-star cast in the epic 1963 war film The Great Escape, working alongside actors including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence.

But it was McCallum's casting the following year as enigmatic Russian agent Illya Kuryakin in The Man From Uncle, working with Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, that cemented his fame.

With a luxuriant mop of blond hair and turtleneck sweaters, McCallum was a Beatles-era heartthrob who, The New York Times reported, was mobbed by students in Louisiana in 1965.

The Man From Uncle ran for only four years, but the character followed McCallum for life.

"It's been 30 years, but I can't escape him," he told The New York Times in 1998. "Illya Kuryakin is there 24 hours a day."

Updated: September 26, 2023, 6:11 AM