From UK Photoplay, 1966
by Marcia Borie
Gaining admission to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sound-stage where "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is filmed is about as easy as being left along with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London! Currently one of the most popular television series on both sides of the Atlantic, the stars of "U.N.C.L.E." Robert Vaughn and David McCallum are the darlings of millions. Every visitor to Metro eagerly requests a tour of the soundstages where David and Robert are busily filming. At first, authorised studio guests were permitted to visit the U.N.C.L.E. men. Lately things have got out of hand. Consequently, an armed guard is posted and only cast, crew and a few select guests and journalists are privileged to enter the "inner sanctum."
If you could spend a typical working day with Vaughn, McCallum, Leo G. Carroll and the rest of the cast and crew, it would begin very early in the morning. You'd arrive at the East Gate and be greeted by M.G.M.'s most popular police officer, Mr. Kenneth Hollywood. A studio guard for more than twenty years, Mr. Hollywood has his own claim to fame -- the most apropos name in all the film industry. Since both David and Robert live in the same Hollywood Hills area, they each leave home around six-thirty a.m. in order to arrive on set by seven, or seven-fifteen the latest. Because this year's "Man From U.N.C.L.E." shows are being filmed in colour, the make-up process takes a bit longer. Both men, as well as Leo G. Carroll (he usually works two days a week) go from make-up to their respective portable dressing-rooms where they study their lines or just rest until they are called before the cameras -- usually by the assistant director.
The normal crew for a television show consists of about thirty-eight highly skilled men and women who handle every phase of the behind-the-scenes production. However, because U.N.C.L.E. is such a technically complicated show, the crew often numbers sixty. It's a happy, smooth-working company -- kept alert not only by their keen interest in the show but also by a huge silver coffee urn which bubbles forth hot "java" continuously.
Actually filming gets underway around nine a.m. If they are doing indoor scenes, Robert and David can be found on one of the three permanent stages devoted exclusively to the show. Just as "Dr. Kildare," which is filmed on the same M.G.M. lot, has its Blair General Hospital set and operating rooms, so, too, places such as the U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, and Mr. Waverly's office are on stationary sets.
No American TV series utilises more bizarre or exotic settings than does U.N.C.L.E. Therefore one is apt to walk on set and find a huge vat full of oatmeal (in which Illya or Napoleon is about to thrust by a member of THRUSH) or else a medieval torture chamber, an underground cave -- you name it and if it's a far-out and unique you'll find it on the U.N.C.L.E. soundstage.
If you happen to visit on a day when the company is out-doors, you will go to either Lot 2 or Lot 3 depending on the outdoor sequence. Lot 2 houses among other things a complete arsenal of weapons and a collection of World War II planes. Lot 3 has large lakes, rivers, park areas, stretches of lawn and dirt roads, hills, flat places, valleys. Any country or rural terrain can be and has been duplicated on M.G.M. Lot 3...
Each show is prepared for a six-day filming schedule and therefore careful attention is paid to detail -- nothing is left to chance. Both stars and behind-the-scenes people work quickly, quietly, efficiently, all pulling together like some marvellously well-trained team.
After a busy morning's work, the company usually breaks for lunch around one. Often both Robert Vaughn and David McCallum have press interviews. On such days the stars greet their respective reporters in the special Executive Dining Area called the Walnut Room, located in the rear of the huge building housing the main studio commissary which seats three hundred people.
Incidentally, as a visitor the U.N.C.L.E. company you'd most probably want to order something for lunch in keeping with the mood. The M.G.M. menu features many dishes named for the studio's top stars -- for instance, a most popular dish is the Richard Chamberlain Salad. But on this day you'd probably find yourself ordering either a Robert Vaughn Sandwich (hot pastrami on pumpernickel bread), or a David McCallum Special (a sliced chicken and avocado sandwich)...
Usually, if either has a luncheon appointment, they spend the hour relaxing in their respective dressing-rooms. Both Bob and David have two sets of dressing-rooms: the portable type which follows them on to the specific stage where they are filming, plus permanent dressing-rooms (Bob has number 14, David number 8) located in a special building right above the rehearsal hall which Elvis Presley uses when he's at M.G.M.
The company resumes filming promptly at 2 p.m. and continues on to at least 6 -- sometimes until 6:30. On days when sequences requiring night time backgrounds are being filmed, the stars don't usually come in until 11 a.m. -- but then they work clear through until midnight.
In between scenes, both David and Robert are the quiet types -- each prefers to spend any free time studying lines, reading, signing fan photos, or just relaxing. On set, McCallum's portable dressing-room and Vaughn's always are adjoining. The rooms are identical and only the personal touches of each man sets them apart -- of course, each has a brass name plate on his door. David's reads: ILLYA; Robert's says: MR. VAUGHN. The two stars, who are working closely together for the second year, are quite friendly on the set but rarely see each other away from the studio. Bachelor Vaughn and happily married David McCallum lead quite varied lives away from the studio. Especially David. His wife, actress Jill Ireland, and their three sons, Paul, Jason and Valentine, are very much a close family unit...
Incidentally, while Robert always has had a large, framed portrait of his girl-friend Joyce Jameson in his dressing-room, David only recently "decorated" his room with a lovely candid photo of Jill and one of the boys which he took himself. He's most reserved about his family and very seldom discusses them for publication. This is only because his inherent British reserve makes it difficult for him to talk casually about his family -- the most important people in his life.
Despite both Vaughn and McCallum being the quiet types, they are extremely warm and friendly with their co-workers. Neither puts on any airs. At the end of the day, Robert leaves the studio in his black Lincoln convertible, while David goes home in his shiny new Corvette.
If you've been lucky enough to have visited them for the day, you also leave via M.G.M.'s East Gate -- happier for having spent some very special hours with U.N.C.L.E.