David McCallum- Illya Kuryakin to you- zoomed to fame and stardom in MGM-Arena's fabulous THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Now, for the first time, Illya stars in this magazine!
For an unknown "second banana", David McCallum had done well with the peeling. The whole TV world has fallen for him.
The young co-star of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." is now riding high with one of the most talked about shows on television.
The crowning evidence attesting to his meteoric rise is his Emmy nomination for outstanding achievement in acting. The award is presented by one's peers and
coworkers in the business and it is rare for a foreign, unknown actor to be so honored.
"U.N.C.L.E." surprisingly became a `Cinderella Show' in its first year. For four months, McCallum and his U.N.C.L.E. cohorts, star Robert Vaughn and co-star Leo G. Carroll, would arrive at MGM not knowing if the show would last the entire season.
"Then, suddenly, about Christmas time that first year, what we had hoped for finally happened," says McCallum. "The show's far-out reputation began spreading by
word of mouth during the holiday vacation. College and high school students were home, and many of them saw U.N.C.L.E. for the first time."
The series, from a modest start, has zoomed to top Nielson rating in the entire crime field.
McCallum himself seems to have become the symbol of much of American youth. "It's really not me," he corrects. "It's Illya. I suspect this has been the year of the
loner. Young people have become essentially loners. Just look at the dance fads-the Frug, Swim, Watusi- a big mob scene, but no one is making contact with anyone else. That's Illya, the loner. He's what I call a "quiet swinger". No on knows what he does when he goes home at night."
McCallum and Illya have much in common in real life, though the actor shrugs ruefully whenever the subject is broached. He considers his private life inviolate, and in order to make the point unmistakable, he has never allowed his home, or his wife, or his three sons to be photographed.
"I think if my private life ever was forced to become public, they'd have to cart me off in a little van. That's my one sure refuge," he maintains.
McCallum's penchant for doing his own stunt work in the series, not only is adding a dash of gray to producers Norman Felton and David Victor, but the film crew as well. MGM purposely spent $400 for a wig and stand-in for the many hazardous falls, rope climbings, fights, etc., but McCallum goes right on doing them all himself.
"I can't explain it, but I feel terrible when I see someone else doing these things and pretending to be me," he says. "Besides, I've always believed the only way to do
something right is to do it yourself."
McCallum's Illya Kuryakin is a complex creature indeed.
As a key agent for U.N.C.L.E. assigned to Solo's section, Illya is somewhat of an enigma. He is clever, extremely adept physically, all in all a good man to ride the
river with in a tight spot.
But he is also a loner, a bookworm, a man who likes to keep to himself when the call to danger is over. Like a machine designed to perform one task, he does his job. Like Solo, he doesn't discuss it with others. Illya has worked behind the Iron Curtain (as have many of U.N.C.L.E.'s agents) sometimes with, sometimes without the consent of the authorities. Only too well he knows the rule that all top-secret espionage men know: the devil take the man who gets caught. For him there is no country, no consul, no haven.
Getting back to the real life of David McCallum, one can only wonder what there is about this admittedly shy Scot that makes susceptible, otherwise sensible young
ladies either swoon when he appears, or as in the case of one nightmare day at the Dallas airport, swarm all over him, tearing his clothes and fighting like tigresses to
get close enough to kiss him.
"He's just different," one ardent fan has been quoted as saying. "And he never does what you think he's going to do. He looks like he needs a woman to understand
him. And it better not be anyone else but me!"
If that isn't hero worship, what is?
McCallum's emergence as a delirium-inspired sex symbol (they call him a `sexy Scot', a description that causes him to moan deeply) had left him little changed from
the quiet, self-effacing unknown of a year ago.
"I'm well aware of the fickleness of the TV public towards `personalities'," he observes. "I haven't worked for fourteen years as an actor, director, scenery-painter and stage manager for nothing. This personality cult thing means absolutely nothing to me. My one wish is to keep a percentage of my fans with me in years to come."
And Scotsman David McCallum need not worry-U.N.C.L.E. should keep him busy for years to come.
By Peter Oppenheim