David McCallum, NCIS and The Man from UNCLE star, dies aged 90

David McCallum, one of the original NCIS cast members and star of the hit Sixties spy drama The Man From UNCLE, has died aged 90.

His son, Peter, announced on Monday (25 September) that McCallum had died of natural causes in New York City.

“He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father. He always put family before self,” Peter said in a statement issued on behalf of his family. “He looked forward to any chance to connect with his grandchildren, and had a unique bond with each of them. He and his youngest grandson, Whit, 9, could often be found in the corner of a room at family parties having deep philosophical conversations.

“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 returning from the hospital to their apartment, I asked my mother if she was OK before she went to sleep. Her answer was simply, ‘Yes. But I do wish we had had a chance to grow old together.’ She is 79, and dad just turned 90. The honesty in that emotion shows how vibrant their beautiful relationship and daily lives were, and that somehow, even at 90, Daddy never grew old.”

NCIS executive producers Steven D Binder and David North added: “For over 20 years, David McCallum endeared himself to audiences around the world playing the wise, quirky, and sometimes enigmatic, Dr Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard.

“But as much as his fans may have loved him, those who worked side by side with David loved him that much more. He was a scholar and a gentleman, always gracious, a consummate professional, and never one to pass up a joke. From day one, it was an honour to work with him and he never let us down. He was, quite simply, a legend. He was also family and will be deeply missed.”

David McCallum in 1975 (AP1975)
David McCallum in 1975 (AP1975)

McCallum was the last remaining original cast member on CBS’s NCIS, in which he played Chief Medical Examiner Donald “Ducky” Mallard for two decades.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of David McCallum and privileged that CBS was his home for so many years,” the network and NCIS studio CBS Studios said in a joint statement.

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

“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. Our hearts go out to his wife Katherine and his entire family, and all those who knew and loved David.”

McCallum was born in Glasgow in 1933. After leaving school, he was conscripted for National Service and served in west Africa where he was eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

After leaving the army he attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London where Joan Collins was a classmate.

David McCallum in 2010 (Getty Images)
David McCallum in 2010 (Getty Images)

His breakout role in the US came in 1963 when he was cast as Lieutenant-Commander Eric Ashley-Pitt (aka “Dispersal”) in The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen.

He went on to appear in the movies The Greatest Story Ever Told, Mosquito Squadron, Billy Budd, Freud and A Night to Remember.

McCallum joined the cast of NCIS in 2003, devoting himself to the study of forensics to play Mallard. Producer Donald P Bellisario said in a 2006 interview that McCallum's knowledge had become so vast that he was considering making him a technical adviser on the show.

In addition to acting, McCallum recorded four albums for Capitol Records comprised of instrumental versions of hits at the time. In 2016 McCallum published his first novel, Once a Crooked Man.

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: Julia McCallum, Luca de Sanctis, Iain de Sanctis, Stella McCallum, Gavin McCallum, George McCallum, Alessandro de Sanctis and Whit McCallum.

In lieu of flowers, McCallum’s family asks that donations be made to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation at http://www.mcsf.org.