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Peter Ustinov celebrates 80th birthday

Ustinov surrounds himself with books at his home in Bursins, Geneva Keystone

The British actor, Sir Peter Ustinov, has been celebrating his 80th birthday at his home in Geneva. The world-renowned playwright, novelist, director, actor and raconteur, says he has no intention of slowing down, and has just finished a television project.

This content was published on April 17, 2001 - 08:06

“Why should one slow down? I don’t quite understand it,” Ustinov says, professing to be flattered but unmoved by all the attention over his 80th birthday. He describes the event as “a frontier in the sea” which he expects will pass like any other.

Most recently, he has finished a television project called “On the trail of Mark Twain with Peter Ustinov”, in which he re-traces Twain’s trip around the world in the late 1890s, and compares notes with the writer’s book “Following the Equator”.

Ustinov was born in 1921 to Russian and French parents, and his career started when he was 17 and appeared as an old man in the stage production of ”The Wood Demon”. He had his first stage play, “The House of Regrets” presented in London in 1940, when he was just 19.

During his career, he has made around 80 films, directed eight, written more than 20 plays and eight screenplays, and directed operas and written novels.

Ustinov won two Academy Awards for supporting roles, “Spartacus” in 1960 and “Topkapi” in 1964. In 1990, he was knighted.

Ustinov is a linguist, speaking six languages fluently. He believes that knowing people is the best way of getting rid of prejudices. “When I was young, I was brought up in an atmosphere which was just loaded with prejudice,” he says.

He has used his celebrity to promote children’s issues for the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

Ustinov settled in Switzerland in 1971 and says that he plans to stay. He lives with his third wife, Helene, to whom he has been married for 30 years.

swissinfo with agencies

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