Ustinov, Sir Peter (Alexander) (yōsˈtənôf) [key], 1921–2004, English writer, director, and actor, b. London. A witty, charming, and cosmopolitan man, he debuted on the London stage at 18 and subsequently moved easily between English, French, and American film and theater. He wrote more than two dozen plays, among them Romanoff and Juliet (1956; film, 1960), The Unknown Soldier and His Wife (1967), and Who's Who in Hell (1974). His works of fiction include volumes of short stories, e.g., Add a Dash of Pity (1959), and such novels as The Loser (1960) and Krumnagel (1971). Ustinov appeared in a variety of films, including Quo Vadis (1951), Spartacus (1960; Academy Award), Billy Budd (1961), and Lady L (1966), the latter two of which he scripted and directed as well. His other films include Topkapi (1964; Academy Award) and Lorenzo's Oil (1992), and he also acted in his own plays. Beginning with Death on the Nile (1978), he played Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot in a number of theatrical and television films. Ustinov was the winner of three television Emmy awards and one Grammy for his recorded narration of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. He was knighted in 1990.
See his autobiography, Dear Me (1977); studies by T. Thomas (1971) and V. L. Stewart (1988).