Robert Vaughn and David McCallum face almost as much danger making The Man From U.N.C.L.E.as their characters, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. Marcel Vercoutre, who is U.N.C.L.E.'s special effects specialist, shoots LIVE bullets that strike props within inches of David's and Robert's heads.
"Our stars are safer on the set under a hail of bullets than while travelling home by car after work," producer Boris Inger [sic] told TV WEEK . "Marcel has the steadiest hand in the business."
David McCallum told TV WEEK : "When they hired me for the job, they told me that it could be dangerous at times but not to worry about it. Stunt men would do all the dangerous work. I said, `Nothing doing. If I am to play in your series I'll do my own dirty work.' "
Eventually they compromised. David was forced to admit that an injury in a stunt could place the whole series in jeopardy.
"We agreed," executive producer Norman Felton said, "that David would do all his stunts - with the exceptions of leaps from moving cars and long falls."
When Robert Vaughn heard about this "deal" he politely requested that he be given terms equal with David's.
The two men have appeared in more than 60 Man From U.N.C.L.E. episodes. They've had more than their share of beatings, near-drownings and falls. As well as being fired upon weith real bullets, they have been suspended in mid-air, feet up, trampled upon, held under water until they were out of breath, kicked, run over and subjected to the most ingenious tortures.
In most of these situations, the two men took all the punishment themselves.
"I wouldn't say that David has kept his part of the bargain," Norman Felton said. "In fact, I'd say he's cheated. He's taken long falls - and he's jumped from moving cars. Each time he tricks us into doing it without the stunt men.
"I think that David takes a sneaky sort of pride in doing these things himself. And when he's hurt he'll be the last to admit it. In fact, he hasn't complained once, even on the occasion he's received a bloody lip in the fist fights that proved a bit too real."
Once David convinced a stunt man called in to do a long leap for him that the scene had been postponed. The stunt man went home and David calmly advised the director to shoot the scene.
"The scene called for a villain to hit Illya Kuryakin in the face and send him tumbling down into a stream 25ft. below," an official said.
"A bit player struck and David swung around to allow the camera to catch his face so the audience would know that this was he and not a double. Then he keeled over and went into the fall.
"He was flat on his back when he hit the water. Then he floated down the stream, allegedly in a dead faint. It was great. We all thought he must have hurt himself when he hit the water but he assured us that he hadn't."
Later David was summoned to Norman Felton's office and was gently reminded that he could have caused the series a million dollars of damage had he actually knocked himself out of it.
"Stunt co-ordinator" Dick Geary doubles for Robert Vaughn whenever a stunt is too dangerous - and there's enough danger for him to work in U.N.C.L.E. two days a week.
Stunt man Fred Waugh doubles for Illya Kuryakin in a blond wig. There is a third "regular," Hugh Hooker, who often does the villain's dirty work.
Which has been Dick Geary's most dangerous job? He nominates the sequence in which he had to jump from the hood of a fast-moving Jaguar XKE on to a plane taxiing for a take- off with its ramp still out. He almost missed his footing as he jumped.
"Frankly," Dick said, "I don't approve of the way David takes his chances. He doesn't realise how close he can get to disaster. I pray that it never happens. But I've felt it my duty to step in on several occasions and to insist that a stunt man take his place."
"We are not insured," U.N.C.L.E. public relations man Chuck Painter said, "because even Lloyds of London won't take a chance on us."