Veteran Actor Bernard Hill Dies, Aged 79

Bernard Hill

by James White |
Published on

Bernard Hill, the actor whose memorable tones and rugged visage brought to life a variety of fantastic performances, has died. He was 79.

Born in Manchester in 1944, Hill quickly gravitated towards stage work before taking the chance to make the jump to film and TV. Yet his early career was marked by few standout roles, mostly relegated to brief appearances on the likes of I, Claudius and the BBC's Tom Stoppard adaptation Professional Foul.

Still, he found one of the first parts that would define his career in Alan Bleasdale's The Black Stuff, a one-off TV play in 1980 that the writer would expand into classic comedy drama Boys From The Blackstuff. Hill scored a BAFTA nomination for his performance as the tragic, yet dimly self-aware Yosser.

Other TV work included Dennis Potter adaptation Lipstick On Your Collar, a huge swathe of Shakespeare adaptations including Wolf Hall, disability drama Skallagrigg, Great Expectations and, most recently, playing Martin Freeman's problematic father in The Responder.

On the big screen, he had an uncredited role in Gandhi, and appeared in the likes of The Criminal, The Ghost and the Darkness, The Scorpion King, True Crime, Wimbledon and The League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse.

Yet two roles will always come up when he's discussed — that of Captain Smith in James Cameron's Titanic, the confident commander who tries to stay calm as his vessel sinks from under him, and the noble King Theoden in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, in which films co-writer Peter Jackson trusted him to pull off speeches such as this one, which he did to masterful effect.

"Bernard Hill blazed a trail across the screen, and his long-lasting career filled with iconic and remarkable roles is a testament to his incredible talent," says Lindsay Salt, director of BBC Drama. From Boys From The Blackstuff, to Wolf Hall, The Responder, and many more, we feel truly honoured to have worked with Bernard at the BBC. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this sad time."

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