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David McCallum | Source: Getty Images
David McCallum | Source: Getty Images

The Late David McCallum Lost His 27-Year-Old Son Due to an Accident & Never Came to Terms with It

Daniella Segell
Sep 26, 2023
10:00 A.M.

The late David McCallum learned a lot about death from the movies and series he acted in, but also from a personal tragedy he once faced.

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After losing his son in 1989, David McCallum could not talk about it for over 20 years because he said, "The pain is very real." Now, McCallum has also passed away.

The actor died of natural causes at 90 and was surrounded by his loved ones at the time. In a statement, his son shared: “He was the kindest, coolest, most patient and loving father.”

David McCallum on "NCIS" in August 2022 | Source: Getty Images

David McCallum on "NCIS" in August 2022 | Source: Getty Images

His son, Peter, shared a sweet exchange he had with his mother following his father's death in which he asked if she was okay and she replied that she was, but she wished they'd had the chance to grow old together. McCallum's wife is 79. He is survived by his wife, children, and grandchildren.

About David McCallum

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David Keith McCallum Jr. was born on September 19, 1933, to the first violinist for the London Philharmonic, David McCallum Sr., and his cellist mother, Dorothy Dorman.

McCallum, who played the oboe, first pursued a career in music as he studied briefly at the Royal Academy of Music before leaving for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

He began his acting career in 1947 but became famous for his role as Illya Kuryakin, the secret agent in the series "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." in 1964.

Portrait of David McCallum from the series "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images

Portrait of David McCallum from the series "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images

He appeared in movies such as "Billy Budd" in 1962, "The Great Escape" in 1963, "The Greatest Story Ever Told" in 1965, and an episode of "Murder, She Wrote" in 1989, among others.

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The younger generation will recognize him for his role as Dr. Donald "Duckie" Mallard, the team's chief medical examiner, on the series "NCIS" since 2003.

Besides being an actor, McCallum had recorded four albums in the 1960s for Capitol Records with music producer David Axelrod. The albums were "Music...A Part of Me," "Music...A Bit More of Me," "Music...It's Happening Now!," and "McCallum."

Photo of David McCallum from the series "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

Photo of David McCallum from the series "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

In 2016, he became a published author when he released "Once a Crooked Man." The book published by Minotaur is a mystery thriller with light comedy.

On May 11, 1957, he married the actress Jill Ireland, and they adopted three sons: Paul, Jason, and Valentine. In 1967, Ireland left McCallum for Charles Bronson, whom he introduced to her.

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Seven months after their February 8, 1967 divorce, McCallum married Katherine Eaton Carpenter on September 16, 1967. Together they had a son, Peter, and a daughter, Sophie.

Photo of David McCallum from the series "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

Photo of David McCallum from the series "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

Losing a Son

On November 7, 1989, McCallum's son Jason was found dead at 27 in his Laurel Canyon home. Jason's body was found on the bathroom floor by his girlfriend, Tracy Medina. There were no apparent signs of trauma to the body and no signs of foul play, so the cause of death was unknown.

Jason had a history of abusing heroin, cocaine, morphine, and alcohol. After he was found, the Los Angeles County coroner said they would perform an autopsy, but the results of the toxicological tests would take at least a week to 10 days to be ready.

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David McCallum at the 2014 CBS Upfront after-party on May 14, 2014, in New York | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum at the 2014 CBS Upfront after-party on May 14, 2014, in New York | Photo: Getty Images

The Cause of Death

One week after Jason's body was found, the coroner's office disclosed that Jason's death was accidental. He had died of acute multiple drug intoxication, administered by ingestion and injection. Jason's adopted mother, Ireland, thought he had been clean.

In a book she wrote, "Life Lines," she documented her son's long battle with heroin addiction. They also turned Jason's story into a television movie called "Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story" in 1991. The film was based on Ireland's book and focused on Jason's battle with drug addiction.

David McCallum at the Television Critic Association's Summer Press Tour on July 29, 2013 in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum at the Television Critic Association's Summer Press Tour on July 29, 2013 in Beverly Hills | Photo: Getty Images

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David McCallum's Regrets About His Late Son

As a pathologist on the "NCIS" series, McCallum was familiar with death, but he revealed that he didn't take his studio life home. That way, he never got depressed after being confronted by stories of death.

However, the death of his son, Jason, was one death that continued to haunt him. He saw the loss as the worst event in his life and refused to talk about it.

David McCallum at the 2nd Annual S.E.T. Awards at Beverly Hills Hotel on November 15, 2012 | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum at the 2nd Annual S.E.T. Awards at Beverly Hills Hotel on November 15, 2012 | Photo: Getty Images

After 21 years, McCallum was able to open up, and he said he regretted not being there for Jason during the time leading up to his death. After his divorce from Ireland, he lost touch with his children and had no control over what was happening with them.

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He believed that Jason moved with the wrong people in the show business industry. Jason had been moving with people who were a part of the drug culture that killed him.

David McCallum at the Mark Harmon's Star unveiling on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on October 1, 2012 in Hollywood | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum at the Mark Harmon's Star unveiling on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on October 1, 2012 in Hollywood | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum's Heartache Over His Son's Death

After Jason died, McCallum found out that his son was an expectant father. He also revealed that Jason always had a special place in his heart even though he was adopted.

He went on to say that Jason was one of the most beautiful people you could ever hope to meet. They had fantastic times together, and Jason's legacy is his son, Tory.

Photo of David McCallum on the set of "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

Photo of David McCallum on the set of "NCIS" | Photo: Getty Images

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Tory became friends with McCallum's other sons, and he had hoped that Tory would turn out to be as fine a person as Jason. The actor who has learned a lot about death said,

"You never come to terms with the death of a child. The pain is very real, but it's like an ache that turns into anger."

He believed that even though there was pain, frustration over being unable to do something made it even worse. Even so, you had to accept it.

David McCallum and Jill Ireland at the 1966 Emmy Awards in Los Angeles | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum and Jill Ireland at the 1966 Emmy Awards in Los Angeles | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum's Family Life

McCallum's second wife, Carpenter, is a former actress and model and had worked with her husband on different philanthropic projects, including helping with the United States Marine Corps.

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When they met, Carpenter was 21, while McCallum was 11 years older than her. They were married in a small ceremony once McCallum's divorce from his first wife was finalized.

After over 50 years together, the couple's marriage was still going on strong, and McCallum believed he was living the best moments of his life.

David McCallum and wife Katherine Carpenter leaving Heathrow Airport for New York on January 18, 1968 | Photo: Getty Images

David McCallum and wife Katherine Carpenter leaving Heathrow Airport for New York on January 18, 1968 | Photo: Getty Images

From his first marriage, his son, Valentine, is now a guitar player, known for playing with artists like Jackson Browne. He has also released his first solo record, titled "At the End of the Day."

McCallum always kept his family out of the spotlight. Being a celebrity, very little is known about his other children as they also prefer to remain out of the spotlight.

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