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Now and Then: Peter Ustinov (1968)


Main image of Now and Then: Peter Ustinov (1968)
14 June 1968
16mm, colour, 31 mins
Production CompanyAdanac Productions
ProducersBernard Braden
 Barbara Kelly
PhotographyRichard Bayley

Bernard Braden interviews the actor, writer, director, raconteur and all-round Renaissance man.

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Considered something of a 20th Century Renaissance man, Peter Ustinov made his mark on many aspects of the performing arts, winning a best supporting actor Oscar for Spartacus (US, 1960) as well as several Emmys, a Grammy and two Tony nominations. Latterly famous on British television as raconteur, he was also highly respected as an international ambassador, particularly through his work with UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund). The diversity of his international and political authority - as clearly displayed in this interview - no doubt stems from his background: British by birth, Ustinov boasted Russian, German, Spanish, Italian, French and Ethiopian blood. His father, a German journalist, reputedly worked for MI5 during the Nazi regime.

Bernard Braden interviewed Ustinov just a week after the assassination of Robert Kennedy, an event itself proceeded by the May '68 uprisings and the killing of Martin Luther King in the preceding April. In line with the by now well-established principles of Braden's unbroadcast Now and Then interviews, all three events are alluded to in detail. Despite referencing the world of theatre to make his points, Ustinov is erudite and opinionated in a wide range of topics. His historical awareness and political intelligence makes him a choice interviewee. It was these talents - honed through a combination of TV chat shows and one-man performances of endless anecdotes - with which he developed a prolonged television career in later life.

At the end of the 1960s, Ustinov became a Swiss citizen, chiefly; it seems, to avoid the British tax system. His acting career took second place to increasing ambassadorial activity, though he did find further cinematic popularity in the 1970s and '80s as Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot. He was knighted in 1990.

Dylan Cave

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Video Clips
Complete unedited interview (30:51)
Ustinov, Peter (1921-2004)
Now and Then (1967-68)