‘NCIS’ Star David McCallum Was a Leading Man in Classic Show ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’

by Josh Lanier

Long before David McCallum was the talkative and eccentric chief medical officer Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on NCIS, he was one of the most famous actors in Europe.

McCallum played Russian spy Illya Kuryakin on the wildly popular spy thriller The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In the show, McCallum and Robert Vaughn worked together to unearth secret plots and deceptions to save the world. U.N.C.L.E. stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, a non-existent intercountry spy agency.

The show ran from 1964 until 1968. The world was spy-crazy then. It was the peak of real-world Cold War espionage and the height of Sean Connery’s run as James Bond. And McCallum became a superstar.

According to Press and Journal, McCallum received more fan mail than any other actor in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s history. That includes A-list figures such as Elvis Presley.

“I was rescued from Central Park by mounted police on one occasion,” he told the Press and Journal. “When I went to Macy’s department store, the fans caused $25,000 worth of damage and they had to close Herald Square to get me out of there. That is pretty classic, but you just have to deal with it. And then whoever was next came along, and you get dropped overnight, which is a relief.”

But oddly, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. has been consigned to the bin of megahits that conjure little-to-no nostalgia. There was a film version in 2015 that bombed at the box office. Armie Hammer played McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin in the film.

McCallum Enjoys His Level of Fame on ‘NCIS’

David McCallum isn’t inciting riots at shopping centers for his role as Ducky Mallard on NCIS. But he’s quite fine with that. Though, that’s not to say the fan mail has stopped rolling in.

“But NCIS has been a phenomenon, it has attracted huge audiences all over the world, and I’m now hearing from people who have watched me in programs from the 60s and 70s after first noticing me in NCIS,” he told the paper.

“In the old days, we used to get fan mail, but nowadays, it’s all Facebook and Twitter and the impact of these things is remarkable.”

The 87-year-old stays busy writing books in his spare time. He published his most recent, The Crooked Man, in 2016.

“I have to be very happy with how things are going and the idea of being described as an actor/author really appeals to me. Being asked to read my own words for the audiobook took the whole thing another step forward,” he said. “So it has all been very exciting.”