The older generation may know him as Illya Kuryakin from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” while the younger generation may know him as Dr. Donald “Duckie” Mallard from “NCIS.”
Irrespective of how he is known, David McCallum is one actor who has learned a lot about death from the movies and series he acts to the personal tragedy he once faced.
After losing his son in 1989, David McCallum could not talk about it for over 20 years because he said, “the pain is very real.”
David McCallum at the 2nd Annual S.E.T. Awards on November 15, 2012, in Beverly Hills (left), David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” (right) | Photo: Getty Images
David Keith McCallum Jr. was born on September 19, 1933, to the first violinist for the London Philharmonic, David McCallum Sr., and his cellist mother, Dorothy Dorman.
David, who played the oboe, first pursued a career in music as he studied briefly at the Royal Academy of Music before leaving for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
He began his acting career in 1947 but became popular for his role as Illya Kuryakin, the secret agent in the series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” in 1964.
Portrait of David McCallum from the series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images
He has appeared in movies such as “Billy Budd” in 1962, “The Great Escape” in 1963, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” in 1965, an episode of “Murder, She Wrote” in 1989, among others.
The younger generation will recognize him for his role as Dr. Donald “Duckie” Mallard, the team’s chief medical examiner, on the series “NCIS” since 2003.
Besides being an actor, David had recorded four albums in the 1960s for Capitol Records with music producer David Axelrod. The albums are “Music…A Part of Me,” “Music…A Bit More of Me,” “Music…It’s Happening Now!,” and “McCallum.”
Photo of David McCallum from the series “NCIS” | Photo: Getty Images
In 2016, he became a published author when he released “Once a Crooked Man.” The book published by Minotaur is a mystery thriller with light comedy.
On May 11, 1957, he married the actress Jill Ireland, and they had three sons. Paul, an adopted son Jason, and Valentine. In 1967, she left him for Charles Bronson, whom he introduced to her.
Seven months after their February 8, 1967 divorce, David married Katherine Eaton Carpenter on September 16, 1967. Together they have a son, Peter, and a daughter, Sophie.
Photo of David McCallum from the series “NCIS” | Photo: Getty Images
On November 7, 1989, David’s adopted son Jason was found dead at 27 in his Laurel Canyon home. Jason’s body was found on the bathroom floor by his girlfriend, Tracy Medina.
When he was found, there were no obvious signs of trauma to the body and no signs of foul play, so the cause of death was unknown even though Jason had a history of abusing heroin, cocaine, morphine, and alcohol.
After he was found, Los Angeles County coroner said they would perform an autopsy, but the results of the toxicological tests would take at least a week to 10 days to be ready.
David McCallum at the 2014 CBS Upfront After Party on May 14, 2014, in New York | Photo: Getty Images
One week after Jason’s body was found, the coroner’s office disclosed that Jason’s death was accidental. He had died of acute multiple drug intoxication, administered by ingestion and injection.
Jason’s adopted mother, Ireland, thought Jason had been clean as she had documented his long battle with heroin addiction in her book “Life Lines.”
They also turned Jason’s story into a television movie called “Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story” in 1991. The film was based on Ireland’s book, “Life Lines,” and focused on Jason’s battle with drug addiction.
David McCallum at the Television Critic Association’s Summer Press Tour on July 29, 2013 in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images
DAVID’S REGRETS ABOUT HIS LATE SON
As a pathologist on the NCIS series, David is familiar with death, but he revealed that he doesn’t take his studio life home. That way, he never gets depressed after being confronted by stories of death.
However, the death of his son, Jason, is one death that continues to haunt him. He saw the loss as the worst event in his life and refused to talk about it.
David McCallum at the 2nd Annual S.E.T. Awards, which took place at Beverly Hills Hotel on November 15, 2012 | Photo: Getty Images
After 21 years, David was able to open up, and he said he regretted not being there for Jason during the time leading up to his death. After his divorce from Ireland, he lost touch with his children and had no control over what was happening with them.
He believed that Jason moved with the wrong people in the show business industry. Jason had been moving with people who were a part of the drug culture that killed Jason.
David McCallum at the Mark Harmon’s Star unveiling on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on October 1, 2012 in Hollywood | Photo: Getty Images
DAVID’S HEARTACHE OVER SON’S DEATH
When Jason died, David found out that Jason was an expectant father. He also revealed that Jason always had a special place in his heart even though he was adopted.
David went on to say that Jason was one of the most wonderful people you could ever hope to meet. They had fantastic times together, and Jason’s legacy is his son, Tory.
Photo of David McCallum on the set of “NCIS” | Photo: Getty Images
Tory became friends with David’s other sons, and he had hoped that Tory would turn out to be as fine a person as Jason. The actor who has learned a lot about death said,
“You never come to terms with the death of a child. The pain is very real, but it’s like an ache that turns into anger.”
He believes that even though the pain is there, there is also the frustration that you couldn’t have done anything about it, making it worse, and you just have to accept it.
David McCallum and Jill Ireland at the 1966 Emmy awards in Los Angeles | Photo: Getty Images
David’s wife Katherine is a former actress and model and has worked with her husband on different philanthropic projects, including helping with the United States Marine Corps.
When they met, Katherine was 21, while David was 11 years older than her. They got married in a small ceremony once his divorce from his first wife was finalized.
After over 50 years together, the couple’s marriage is still going on strong, and David believes he’s living the best moments of his life right now.
David McCallum and wife Katherine leaving Heathrow Airport for New York on January 18, 1968 | Photo: Getty Images
From his first marriage, David’s son, Valentine, is now a guitar player, known for playing with artists like Jackson Browne and has also released his first solo record, titled “At the End of the Day.”
David has always kept his family out of the spotlight. Being a celebrity, very little is known about his other children as they also prefer to remain out of the spotlight.