Oscar-winner Peter Ustinov dies

posted 2004-03-29 08:04:51 by doug

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) -- Sir Peter Ustinov, an Oscar-winning actor who later earned a reputation for his humanitarian work, has died. He was 82.

A close friend, speaking on condition on anonymity, said Ustinov died Sunday night in Switzerland, where the British-born actor had lived for decades.

A person who answered the telephone at Ustinov's home in a mountain village overlooking Lake Geneva confirmed he had died but declined to give further details.

Born in London on April 16, 1921, the only son of a Russian artist mother and a journalist father, Ustinov claimed also to have Swiss, Ethiopian, Italian and French blood -- everything except English.

Ustinov was educated at the prestigious Westminster School, but hated it and left at 16. He appeared in his first revue and had his first stage play presented in London in 1940, when he was 19.

In a career lasting some 60 years, Ustinov appeared in roles ranging from Emperor Nero to Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. He won Academy Awards for supporting actor in the films Spartacus and Topkapi in the 1960s.

More recently he was the voice of Babar the Elephant, played the role of a doctor in the film Lorenzo's Oil, and in 1999 appeared as the Walrus to Pete Postlethwaite's Carpenter in a multimillion-dollar TV movie version of Alice in Wonderland.

Ustinov faced criticism in the early 1990s for his controversial views on the emergence of Russia from Communist rule, and for his unstinting support for Mikhail Gorbachev, but his long service as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF led U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to joke that Ustinov was the man to take over from him.

No immediate details funeral arrangements were available.

From cnn.com