How Did David McCallum Die? 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' and 'NCIS' Star Dies from Natural Causes Aged 90 as Tributes Pour In

Scottish-born McCallum had a successful career, appearing in hit films like "A Night to Remember" (about the Titanic), "The Great Escape."

David McCallum, known for his roles as a teenage heartthrob in the 1960s series "The Man from UNCLE" and as an eccentric medical examiner in "NCIS" years later, has died aged 90. McCallum passed away on Monday from natural causes. His family was by his side at New York Presbyterian Hospital at the time of his death, CBS said in a statement.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of David McCallum and privileged that CBS was his home for so many years. David was a gifted actor and author, and beloved by many around the world," the statement read.

Death of a Star

David McCallum
David McCallum X

"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," the statement from continued. "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."

Peter McCallum, the son of David McCallum, conveyed a statement on behalf of the family.

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

The statement continued, "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'."

David McCallum
David McCallum X

"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."

Scottish-born McCallum had a successful career, appearing in hit films like "A Night to Remember" (about the Titanic), "The Great Escape", and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (portraying Judas).

However, it was "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." in the mid-1960s that catapulted the blond actor with a Beatlesque haircut to household fame.

The Spy Every Teenager Girl Loved

The popularity of the James Bond books and films sparked a wave of secret agent-themed productions on both the big and small screens. Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, contributed ideas during the development of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as noted in Jon Heitland's book, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book.

David McCallum
David McCallum in 'The Man from the U.N.C.LE.' X

This show, which debuted in 1964, starred Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, an agent within a clandestine, technologically advanced team of crime fighters known as the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (U.N.C.L.E.). Despite the Cold War backdrop, the agency boasted an international team, with David McCallum portraying Illya Kuryakin, Solo's Russian comrade.

Initially, McCallum had a small role, as he mentioned in a 1998 interview, expressing that he had never encountered the term "sidekick" before. The show received mixed reviews initially but gradually gained popularity, especially among teenage girls who were drawn to McCallum's attractive appearance and enigmatic, intellectual character.

By 1965, Illya had evolved into a full-fledged partner to Vaughn's character, and both actors became loved figures, mobbed during personal appearances. The series continued until 1968.

David McCallum
David McCallum X

In 1983, Vaughn and McCallum reunited for a nostalgic TV movie titled "The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.", where the agents, now retired, were called back to action to save the world once again.

In 2003, McCallum returned to television in yet another series centered around an agency represented by initials, CBS's NCIS. He portrayed Dr. Donald 'Ducky' Mallard, a scholarly pathologist affiliated with the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS), an organization responsible for investigating crimes involving the Navy or the Marines. Mark Harmon played the role of the NCIS boss.

McCallum initially had reservations about Ducky's appearance, describing him as a bookish character with glasses and a bow tie, as well as an attraction to attractive women. Despite that, he found playing the character immensely enjoyable.

The series gained a following gradually, eventually securing a spot among the top 10 shows. During NCIS production, McCallum, residing in New York, stayed in a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.

McCallum's work in U.N.C.L.E. earned him two Emmy nominations, and he received a third nomination for his portrayal of an educator grappling with alcoholism in the 1969 Hallmark Hall of Fame drama titled Teacher, Teacher.

In 1975, he played the title role in a brief-lived science fiction series, "The Invisible Man." Following that, from 1979 to 1982, McCallum played Steel in a British science fiction series named "Sapphire and Steel." Throughout his career, he made guest appearances on numerous TV shows, such as "Murder," "She Wrote" and "Sex and the City."

According to People, McCallum's family plans to organize a celebration of life service at a later date. They've suggested that those who wish to pay tribute to McCallum's memory can make donations to the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.

David McCallum
David McCallum X

McCallum had three sons from his first marriage: Paul, Jason, and Valentine. He also had a son and daughter from his second marriage, Peter and Sophie. Jason passed away due to an overdose.

In a statement, Peter McCallum described his father as a true Renaissance man with a profound fascination for science and culture, which he translated into knowledge. Peter highlighted David's diverse capabilities, including conducting a symphony orchestra and even performing an autopsy if necessary, based on his extensive studies for his role on NCIS.

David McCallum is survived by his wife of 56 years, Katherine McCallum, and his sons Paul, Valentine, and Peter McCallum, his daughter Sophie McCallum, and eight grandchildren: Julia McCallum, Luca de Sanctis, Iain de Sanctis, Stella McCallum, Gavin McCallum, George McCallum, Alessandro de Sanctis, and Whit McCallum.