Newark Evening News, no date
By: Tom Mackin
Illya Kuryakin, the slender, pale blonde aide to Napoleon Solo may be a mysterious gossamer figure to fans of Man From U.N.C.L.E., but his portrayer, David McCallum feels he knows him quite well.
“The character has not been explained very well in the series,” said the actor, “so I’ve adopted him to my own character. He’s very close to me.”
In one way, the two are different, however. Glasgow born McCallum speaks with a soft Scottish burr, which would not do at all for a Russian counter-espionage agent. In the series, he uses a foreign accent that is hard to place.
“I mix my North Country sound with a kind of French accent,” he said uncertainly. “What comes out is what you hear. There is no name for it, really.”
McCallum is more concerned with what he says than the way he says it. He never permits Illya to use Americanisms. He combs the scripts carefully for such remarks and carefully edits them out.
“Illya would never say, ‘Hi,’ but rather a soft ‘Hello,’ he explained. “This is a subtle but an important distinction. He would not say, ‘I’ve gotten used to it,’ but rather, ‘I’ve become accustomed to it.’ What a man says is a key to what he is.
“I make sure that Illya never gets sloppy over females. His amours, as befitting a gentleman, are private. Oh, I could write a book about Illya. I’ve done two synopses for the series, but I’m not really a writer.”
McCallum was interviewed at NBC where he had rushed from Hollywood to host a segment of Hullabaloo. He is currently one of the most sought-after actors in TV. Already this season he has appeared with Andy Williams and Johnny Carson and he has signed for a Carol Channing special due February 18.
He is a hero to the teenagers who mob him wherever he goes. “I can’t go shopping any more,” he said with a wry smile. (Like his video character, McCallum smiles rarely.) “The crowds get too big to handle. It is all quite scary.
“When a thousand kids charge after you, wanting to kiss you and feel your hair—well, it’s frightening. I don’t mind so much if my hair falls out prematurely, but I don’t want it pulled out by the roots.”
The actor wears his hair in a modified Beatle style. “I’ve always worn it that way,” he said, patting it defensively. “It’s a very common style in England.”
His TV popularity has brought him many motion picture offers, which he will sort out between now and March, when the series will have concluded its second season of filming. “I’ll have about three months to make a picture—that is, if I’m not worn out from U.N.C.L.E.,” he said. “It is a very physical show, and I think my part is bigger this year because I don’t seem to have much spare time.”
Means to Movies
McCallum has a strangely indifferent attitude towards U.N.C.L.E., not particularly caring about its current success or its future. Like many video stars, he sees TV as a stepping stone to motion pictures.
“I’m not the least concerned about all the new shows that seem to be doing what we’re doing,” he said. “I still think we’re doing it—whatever it is—better than anyone else. But, if U.N.C.L.E., doesn’t come back next year, there is always somewhere else to turn.
“That’s one thing about TV: You can always say, ‘That’s enough,’ and turn it off. You cannot do that in the theater. You never can satisfy yourself on stage; you always want to do more.
“Theater is very revealing. Your smallest faults show up. You can see them, even if the audience cannot. It makes you humble.”
McCallum began working as an electrician in a British theater when he was only 14. Following that, he did about every kind of backstage job before he was allowed to act. “I was watching and learning all the time,” he said.
Plays Judas in Film
He moved into motion pictures, appearing in such features as “The Great Escape,” “Billy Budd,” “Freud” and “The Long, the Short and the Tall.” He came to the U.S. to play Judas in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” He immediately found work in television, picking up roles in Perry Mason, Profiles in Courage, Outer Limits and Travels of Jamie McPheeters, among others.
The actor is enjoying a reunion with his father, who arrived in this country two weeks ago to begin a concert tour with the Montovani Orchestra, of which he is concertmaster. The father is still disappointed that David abandoned his oboe studies.
McCallum is married to actress Jill Ireland. They recently moved into a Hollywood
home with their three young sons, aged 7, 3 and 2. They are not permitted to
watch Man From U.N.C.L.E. “They are much, much too young for it,”
said the father.