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Peter Ustinov
Academy Award-Winning Actor, Dies at 82
The New York Times; 29 March 2004

LONDON -- Oscar-winning British actor Peter Ustinov, renowned as being one of the world's most entertaining raconteurs and mimics, has died at the age of 82.

"He died last night in Switzerland," his London agent, Steve Kenis, said on Monday. "I shall remember him for always seeing the bright side of everything."

Just 18 months ago, Ustinov told Reuters in an interview he was happy to work until he dropped "as long as I can be guaranteed that I won't know in advance when it's going to happen."

Ustinov, who spoke more than half a dozen languages, won Oscars for his roles in the films "Spartacus" and "Topkapi."

But he led a richly varied life as a playwright, novelist, film director and goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Children's Fund.

Born in London of Russian parentage, Ustinov was a London revue star as a teenager and wrote his first play at 19. He made his first feature film at 25.

He starred in, produced and directed his own plays in London, New York, Berlin, Paris and Rome. He wrote novels to fill in time whilst hanging around on Hollywood film sets.

He interviewed a string of world leaders, was garlanded with international honors and ranked as one of the finest mimics in the business.

On stages across Europe, the United States and Australia, he captured by caricature an international Who's Who of characters, insisting: "I don't rehearse the faces at all. I just feel like the people."

Ustinov was the first to admit that laughter had been a life-long drug, confessing: "I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world."

He was once asked what would be his ideal epitaph.

With a familiar twinkle in his eye, he swiftly decided on the perfect inscription for his tombstone: "Keep off the grass."

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