April 11, 2007 -THE TIMES - NORTHWEST INDIANA
Celebrity Rides David McCalllum
The Man from U.N.C.L.E returns, as the actor who was Illya Kuryakin in the '60s is back enjoying a few more star turns – including one as the voice of a cartoon car By Dave Waldon CTW Features
Actor David McCallum The journey has been pretty sweet for David McCallum, an actor who at 73 finds himself in the enviable position of being on his second hit TV show. As the witty, worldly medical examiner Dr. "Ducky" Mallard on the CBS crime drama "NCIS," the Glasgow, Scotland-born McCallum is enjoying a new wave of fame four decades after he helped save the world each week as Russian spy Illya Kuryakin on the cult classic "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
Cars played a role, to a certain degree, in his roles on both shows. And while he has owned and driven cars all of his life, he isn't one of those automotive prima donnas who must own and drive the swankiest vehicle available.
Take McCallum's current celebrity ride of choice: a 2000 Jeep Cherokee. He purchased it used four years ago when he moved from New York to L.A. to assume his role on "NCIS." "I flew into California, and I said to myself, If I could pick any car, what would it be? And I thought that I needed a sport utility vehicle because I'd be going on location." Specifically, he sought out a second-hand Jeep in a shade of British racing green ("I believe that it's the nicest car color ever," McCallum allows) that would cost around $15,000. Within days, he'd found a Cherokee in just the right color and, at $16,000, just a bit more than his budget. "It had 50,000 miles on it," says McCallum. "And I'm still driving it. I'm getting close to 100,000 miles on it."
The Jeep, which McCallum calls "The Duckmobile," has more than fulfilled its purpose. "You know, I talk to it all of the time," he says. "Saturday mornings when I was growing up, everyone who had a car – there weren't that many – they'd have them out rubbing and polishing them and talking to them. I don't know if the British still do that, but in the early days of motoring, they were definitely part of the family."
McCallum describes his overall car history as "practical," with a couple of exceptions – most notably, the Ford Fairlane he procured upon arriving in Hollywood to play Judas in the 1965 epic "The Greatest Story Ever Told." (When he describes how the top of the Fairlane folded neatly into its truck with the push of a button, he beams as if he were a teenager.) Not so practical, or ordinary, is the car that Ducky owns on "NCIS" – a fully restored Morgan roadster. McCallum originally had campaigned for Ducky to drive a 1936 MG Tourer. "And then executive producer Don Bellisario said, `No, no, no, Ducky drives a Morgan,' so that's where that came from," says McCallum. "And then they found one." It drives like a charm, with one exception: "You can tell that it's coming from about six miles away. It growls."
The Morgan's loudness reminds McCallum of a Cobra he drove during the making of "U.N.C.L.E.," but he and co-star Robert Vaughn did not get their own specialized "spy mobile," a sleek, customized Piranha, until late in the series' run. "Robert and I hated it," says McCallum. The biggest problems for them were the doors, which were of a gull-wing design. "You couldn't get in and out of it elegantly. So we actually sabotaged it. I don't think the producers really knew. It would stall at the oddest places – really, because we switched it off." Eventually the actors got their wish, and the "U.N.C.L.E. car" was retired to stud.
C.A.R., which McCallum voices for the Disney series "The Replacements." McCallum has no such qualms about one reel-life vehicle he's now involved with, perhaps because his role is the vehicle itself. In the Disney Channel animated series "The Replacements," he supplies the very British voice of C.A.R., the supercharged mode of transportation of the "replacement" parents – Mom's a spy, Dad's a stuntman – literally ordered via the mail by two orphaned siblings. As is usually the case with cartoons, McCallum did much of his voice work without seeing what his character looked like, but he was mightily impressed once he did. "He's pretty cool," he says. "The car has all sorts of gadgets that keep flying out – swords and toasters and whatever. And there's this sense of James Bond and the sense of the Aston Martin, although he looks more like an Austin Healey than anything. And he talks through his grill."
"The Replacements" has offered McCallum an offbeat alternative from the blood and guts of "NCIS," as well as a nice throwback to his "U.N.C.L.E." days. And now that Disney has picked up the show a second season, the possibility of another repeat performance exists. In an age where Illya Kuryakin dolls still turn up on eBay, McCallum may again become an action figure. "It's very likely that if they're going to market this, and they seem to market everything, that there will be a C.A.R., and it will have a voice in it," he says proudly. "And that I'm really looking forward to, so I can give it to my grandchildren and it'll say, `Don't lean on me; I've just been polished!'"
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