Sir Peter Ustinov (pictured), the veteran stage actor, director and playwright as well as much-loved, all-around Renaissance man, died last night (28 March 2004) at a clinic near his home in Switzerland. He was 82.

Born to an immigrant family in London on 16 April 1921, Ustinov made his London stage debut in 1939 in a self-penned sketch. In his early career, he appeared in numerous revues as well as major productions of Crime and Punishment, Frenzy and Love in Albania.

He went on to appear in many of his own plays, including Romanoff and Juliet, for which he was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Actor and Best Play when it transferred to Broadway, and The Love of Four Colonels, which also transferred to Broadway, where Rex Harrison directed and starred in it.

Later in his career, Ustinov became better known for his films. He won two Oscars, for his roles in 1960’s Spartacus and 1965’s Topkapi. His many other screen credits included The Sundowners, The Comedians, Billy Budd (which he also wrote), Blackbeard’s Ghost, Logan’s Run, Jesus of Nazareth, Lorenzo’s Oil, Stiff Upper Lips and Luther. He is also remembered for his recurring role in films of Agatha Christie mysteries such as Death on the Nile and Evil Under the Sun.

In addition to his stage and film projects, Ustinov penned several books – novels, memoirs, short stories – including Dear Me, The Loser, Life is an Operetta, Add a Dash of Pity and Old Man and Mr Smith and was a long-serving goodwill ambassador for the charity Unicef.

Peter Ustinov was knighted in 1990.

- by Terri Paddock