- Birth name:
- Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov
- Date of Birth:
- 28 March 1921 London, England, UK
- 5' 11" (1.80 m)
Peter Ustinov was two times Academy Award-winning film actor, director, writer, journalist, and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions.He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London, England. Ustinov was of Russian, German, French, Italian and Ethiopian descent, with ancestral connections to Russian nobility as well as the Ethiopian Royal Family. His grandmother, Magdalena, was daughter of a Swiss military engineer and Ethiopian princess. His father, Iona von Ustinov, also known as "Klop" in Russian and Yiddish, was a pilot in Luftwaffe during the First World War. In 1919 he joined his mother and sister in St. Petersburg, Russia. There he met artist Nadia Benois who worked for the Imperial Mariinsky Ballet and Opera House in St. Petersburg. In 1920, in a modest and discrete ceremony at a Russian-German Church in St. Petersburg, Ustinov's father married Nadia Benois. Later, when she was 7 months pregnant with Peter Ustinov, the couple emigrated from Russia in 1921, in the aftermath of the Communist Revolution.Young Peter Ustinov was brought up in a multi-lingual family, he was fluent in Russian, French, Italian, and German, and also was a native English speaker. He attended the Westminster College in 1934-37, took the drama and acting class under Michel St. Denis at the London Theatre Studio, 1937-39, and made his stage debut in 1938, in a theatre in Surrey. In 1939, he made his London stage debut in a revue sketch, then had regular performances with Aylesbury Repertory Company. In 1940 he made his film debut in Hullo Fame (1940).From 1942-46 Ustinov served as a private soldier with the British Army's Royal Sussex Regiment, during the Second World War. He was batman for David Niven and the two became life-long friends. Ustinoiv spent most of his service with the Army Cinema Unit, where he worked on recruitment films, wrote plays, and appeared in three films. At that time he wrote and directed his film, The Way Ahead (1944) (aka.. The Immortal Battalion).Eventually, Ustinov made a stellar film career, appearing in more than 100 film and television productions. He was awarded two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, one for his role in Spartacus (1960) and one for his role in Topkapi (1964); and received two more Oscar nominations as an actor and writer. During the 1970s he had a slowdown in his career, before making a comeback as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978) by director John Guillermin. In the 1980s, Ustinov reprized the Poirot role in several subsequent television movies and theatrical films, such as Evil Under the Sun (1982) and Appointment with Death (1988). Later he appeared as a sympathetic doctor in the disease thriller Lorenzo's Oil (1992).Ustinov's effortless expertise in dialectal and physical comedy made him a regular guest of numerous talk shows and late night comedians. His witty and multi-dimensional humor was legendary, and he later published a collection of his jokes and quotations, summarizing his wide popularity as a raconteur. He was also an internationally acclaimed TV journalist. For one of his projects Ustinov covered over 100,000 thousand miles and visited more than 30 Russian cities during the making of his well-received BBC television series 'Peter Ustinov's Russia'.In his autobiographical books, such as 'Dear Me' (1977) and 'My Russia' (1996), Ustinov revealed a wealth of thoughtful and deep observations about how his life and career was formed by his rich multi-cultural and multi-ethnic background. Ustinov wrote and directed numerous stage plays, having success with presenting his plays in several countries, such as his 'Photofinish' had acclaimed stagings in New York, London, and St. Petersburg, Russia.Outside of his film and acting professions, Ustinov served as a roving ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund. He was knighted Sir Peter Ustinov in 1990. From 1971 to his death in 2004, Ustinov lived in his Chateau in the village of Bursins, Vaud, Switzerland, He died of a heart failure on March 28, 2004, in Genolier, Vaud, Switzerland. His funeral service was held at Geneva's historic cathedral of St. Pierre, and he was laid to rest in the village cemetery of Bursins, Switzerland. He was survived by three daughters, Tamara, Pavla, and Andrea, and son, Igor Ustinov."I am an international citizen conceived in Russia, born in England, working in Hollywood, living in Switzerland, and touring the World" said Peter Ustinov.