Oscar-Winning Actor Peter Ustinov Dies

03/29/2004 AT 10:26 AM EST

British screen giant Peter Ustinov, 82, who won Oscars for his roles in "Spartacus" and "Topkapi," died over the weekend in Switzerland from heart failure, Reuters reports.

The London-born actor with Russian parents, recognized throughout the world for his humor and stories, had entertained audiences for more than 60 years. Ustinov also was an author, director, playwright and a goodwill ambassador. He wrote his first play at age 19, and by the time he was 25 had appeared in his first feature film.

The talented entertainer spoke six languages and had earlier been knighted by Queen Elizabeth, though he did not like the title "Sir Peter," The New York Times reports.

In addition, he wrote novels and directed his own plays, and was able to assume other people's characters seemingly without effort. "I don't rehearse the faces at all," he once said. "I just feel like the people."

But it was perhaps Ustinov's sunny outlook that will be missed the most. "I shall remember him for always seeing the bright side of everything," his London agent Steve Kenis, told Reuters.

Ustinov himself remarked that he was addicted to laughter. "I was irrevocably betrothed to laughter, the sound of which has always seemed to me to be the most civilized music in the world."

Once, when asked what should appear on his headstone, Ustinov suggested: "Keep off the grass."

He was not without his serious side, however. The University of Vienna recently launched the Ustinov Institute, which studies the history of prejudice. "This was something that inspired him a lot," his son Igor Ustinov told The Times. "He wanted his ideas for the future to become a reality."

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