by Andrew J Edelstein
The turtleneck and sports jacket have been replaced by a crisp white shirt, regimental tie and Harris-tweed suit. And gold-rimmed specs now frame eyes that could spot a Thrush agent 100 yards away. But some things remain the same. the blondish hair still falls over his forehead much as it did 20 years ago when David McCallum played suave secret agent Illya Kuryakin in the spy spoof series The Man From UNCLE.

Unlike his fellow UNCLE agent Robert Vaughn, McCallum has been absent from American screens for quite awhile. He’s appeared in several British TV series and has busied himself with stage work here and abroad.

McCallum returns to TV on Sunday, Dec. 29 in Behind Enemy Lines, an NBC movie about the Office of Strategic Services, the Second World War-era predecessor to the CIA. (ASN will air the movie Saturday, Dec. 28.) He plays Lt. Col. Shelley Flynn, a career officer who resents the civillians who have become officers in the OSS.

"This character is about as far away from Kuryakin as you can possibly get and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it. He’s a very pragmatic, real, professional soldier," says McCallum, digging into a huge spinach salad in a Manhattan restaurant. He has arrived back home in New York just two hours earlier on the "redeye" from Los Angeles, where he had gone to do some last-minute title changes for the film and to play golf with old buddy, Charles Bronson

"Kuryakin has allowed me to be here and has built my house, paid my rent and put my kids through school," says the Scottish-born actor. "I toast him" But The Return of the Man From UNCLE (a 1983 TV movie) was the last time I will ever have anything to do with him. I now what to create something new and I happen to like this character a lot."

The 90-minute NBC movie, billed as a "development project," may become a series next year if the ratings warrant. McCallum says he’s anxious to do a series again. His last U.S. series was the forgettable Invisible Man in 1975, based on the H.G. Welles novel.

"Everything is the same as it was 20 years ago except now it takes about an hour longer in the morning for my face to fall in. So if I have to shoot, I have to get up an hour earlier," McCallum says. "I always take an hour off to sleep at lunchtime, otherwise at four o’clock, the cameraman is looking desperate. You see him looking through the lens and saying ‘Can we do something about David’s face?’ But playing a military man during a time of war and stress, it doesn’t matter whether the face falls apart."