MORE favourite dead not-American actors: an Advent Calendar

Day 2: Peter Ustinov

To call Peter Ustinov simply an actor is to do him a great disservice: few people can genuinely be called polymath, but he’s one of them. Writer (his first full film script, The Way Ahead, was written at 23), director/producer at 25, (School for Secrets), set designer, opera director, raconteur, multi-linguist, UNICEF ambassador, and of course, the voice of Prince John in Disney’s Robin Hood

For all that, he is a delight as an actor. There’s an aura of self-mockery about him that never descends into hamminess or knowingness. He’s an innocent abroad, a petulant child, a harmless dope; except he’s the cleverest man in the room, the sneakiest thief, the craftiest opponent. He is - and this is not something you can say of everyone - a joy to watch. And he has great hair. 

Favourite Role: Jules in We’re No Angels (1958) which is a joy of a film, with a great cast (Bogie, Baz, etc) and Jules is the most adorable safecracker you will ever see. 

Another good place to start: Hot Millions (1968) which is a corker of a film, Ustinov and Maggie Smith taking on the old school tie system and winning. They are both the most adorable people ever and it’s a little gem. And it would be rude not to rec a Poirot, so I would go for Death on the Nile (1978) because it’s probably the best of his, he’s back with David Niven 30-odd years after he was his batman during the writing/filming of The Way Ahead, and you get Angela Lansbury doing the best drunk acting on film possibly ever


[Script excerpt taken from a recitation by Steven Moffat during a rehearsal which may be seen here].