From The Sun Sentinel.com
The Man From T.h.e.a.t.e.r.
David Mccallum Is Glad He Left Television After The Man From U.n.c.l.e. In 1968 And Returned To The Stage.
March 16, 1986, By Roger Hurlburt, Entertainment Writer
The setting was different, but actor David McCallum had played this scene many times before.
``Let`s sit over there and talk in the sunshine,`` McCallum suggests, pointing toward the ocean from the doorway of his seaside bungalow in Palm Beach. ``Then I`m going down for a swim.``
The Scene: Three ladies walk along the sidewalk, stop and do double takes in unison. One walks over and gives the familiar cue: ``Say, are you who we think you are?``
McCallum smiles and stands up. He has grown used to people still identifying him as Illya Kuryakin, Napoleon Solo`s towheaded partner from television`s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Though the popular series ran from 1964-68, people are still quick to associate McCallum with the impish, Russian secret agent he portrayed.
After a souvenir snapshot with the actor, the ladies depart.
``You know, you`ve hardly aged at all,`` one of them waves.
McCallum sits back on the seawall. He has pushed the blond hair off his brow and rolled up his sleeves, exposing the white line of a golfer`s tan.
Besides whatever redness he`ll earn from this day`s sun, McCallum will be even more red-faced that evening, from all the huffing and puffing onstage in the British farce Run for Your Wife, which opens at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday and continues through April 5.
McCallum may be a few pounds heavier, but it is true the 52-year-old hasn`t changed much since U.N.C.L.E. days. The role of Kuryakin made him an overnight sensation, yet McCallum believes that leaving television when the show ended was the right decision, even though he was a hot item.
``People had seen enough of me,`` he says with a hint of a Scottish accent. ``Some people can go from series to series, then do What`s My Line, some specials and the game shows and be very successful. I preferred to make a slightly more radical career adjustment.``
The move was back to theater, where McCallum didn`t have to worry about becoming, as he says, just ``a personality in a series.``
He toured in Camelot, Deathtrap and California Suite and appeared in a few feature films, including Watcher in the Woods, King Solomon`s Treasure and Those Golden Years.
``The scripts came after U.N.C.L.E and I took some,`` he says. ``Besides, it`s a great opportunity to travel. I did King Solomon`s Treasure because I got to go to Swaziland.
``But,`` he adds, ``the movie is something you`ll have to see on a plane or on late night television.``
In the beginning, McCallum never thought about going to Hollywood.
Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, he started out as a music student, playing oboe. Later he made the switch to theater at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
After a number of productions in Europe, McCallum came to America in 1961 after landing the role of Judas Iscariot in the memorable film The Greatest Story Ever Told. It`s a role McCallum carefully researched.
``I think I was picked for Judas because I didn`t look too Semitic,`` McCallum says. ``The producers were afraid of offending the Jewish community with the character. When you think about it, Judas was probably the most intelligent of the disciples. He was the treasurer and a scholar. I`ve always thought that Judas was in part responsible for starting the Christian religion. His decision to betray was an intellectual one; the 30 pieces of silver had nothing to do with it.``
After the film McCallum decided to stay in Hollywood, even though he was out of work most of the time.
``I had trouble making ends meet,`` he continues. ``Then I did a Perry Mason episode and the part of a red coat (British) soldier in a TV movie.
``One day Charlie Bronson took me into the NBC commissary to meet some people and I got the part on U.N.C.L.E.``
One senses that McCallum prefers not to reminisce about the show that keeps him famous.
``It`s all a matter of what you decide to choose to remember,`` he says. ``I went on to do other things. Bob Vaughn (co-star Robert Vaughn who played Solo on U.N.C.L.E.) has homes on the West Coast and in Connecticut. He`s mellowed out and works a lot.`` Vaughn recently has had a string of movie roles, including the villain in Black Moon Rising and a cameo in Delta Force.
By the early 1970s, McCallum seemed to disappear from television altogether.
Ironically, the vanishing act followed the cancellation of the short-lived TV series The Invisible Man. ``It was great fun doing it, but the producers at Universal just didn`t want to take it seriously,`` he says.
``That`s one of the problems with television -- the miniseries, especially. So many people have a say in the product. Maybe British television has gained attention because there is still some autonomy between the writer and director.``
Today McCallum, his wife and children live in New York City. When not traveling in a show, he enjoys sharpening his diction by recording ``talking books`` -- taped readings of literary works such as The Wind in the Willows.