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Bernard Hill: Titanic and Lord of the Rings actor dies

Bernard Hill: Titanic and Lord of the Rings actor dies
  • Written by Paul Gribbin and Nour Nanji
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Actor Bernard Hill, best known for his roles in Titanic and The Lord of the Rings, has died at the age of 79.

He played Captain Edward Smith in the 1997 Academy Award-winning film and King Theoden in The Lord of the Rings.

His breakout role was in the 1982 BBC television drama Boys from the Blackstuff, in which he portrayed Yossar Hughes, a character who struggled – and often failed – to overcome unemployment in Liverpool.

His agent, Lou Colson, confirmed that he died early Sunday morning.

His fiancée, Alison, and his son, Gabriel, were with him at the time.

Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, the actors who played the hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, paid tribute to their co-star at Comic Con in Liverpool.

“We loved him,” Astin began. “He was fearless, he was funny, he was tough, he was quick to anger, and he was beautiful.”

Boyd recounted watching the trilogy with Monaghan, saying: “I don’t think anyone spoke Tolkien’s words as beautifully as Bernard did. He will break my heart. We will just miss him.”

Alan Bleasdale, who wrote The Blackstaff Boys, said Hill’s death was “a great loss and also a great surprise”.

He added: “I was desperate to work with him. Everything he did, his whole working process, the way he worked and his performance was everything you could ever hope for.”

“You always felt that Bernard would live forever. He was very strong physically and personally.”

Comment on the photo, In full flow like King Theoden in The Lord of the Rings

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Like Captain Edward James Smith in Titanic

Hill, who was from Manchester and lives in Suffolk, was due to return to television screens in the second series of The Responder, a BBC drama starring Martin Freeman, which begins broadcasting on Sunday.

Lindsay Salt, Director of BBC Drama, paid tribute to him, saying: “Bernard Hill has blazed a trail across the screen, and his long-lasting career full of distinctive and brilliant roles is testament to his astonishing talent.”

“From Boys from the Blackstuff, to Wolf Hall, The Responder, and many more, we feel truly proud to be working with Bernard at the BBC. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this sad time.”

In Boys from the Blackstuff, Hill received praise for his bold portrayal of Yossar Hughes, the powerful character who begged for “giza [give us a] Job” while he was looking for work.

The series won the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 1983, and in 2000 it was ranked seventh on the British Film Institute’s list of the best TV shows of all time.

Comment on the photo, Josser Hughes, played by Bernard Hill, was one of the most memorable characters in the 1982 film Boys From The Blackstuff.

In Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Hill joined the cast of the sequel, The Two Towers, in 2002, then returned to the franchise in 2003’s The Return Of The King, which won 11 Oscars.

Other roles in Hill’s decades-long career included the 1976 BBC television series I, Claudius, appearances in 1982’s Gandhi, 1989’s Shirley Valentine, 2002’s The Scorpion King, and the 2008 Tom Cruise film Valkyrie.

He was supposed to be at Comic Con Liverpool on Saturday, but had to cancel at the last minute, the convention said in a post on X’s website. As news of his death spread, organizers said on stage they were “saddened” by Hill’s passing, and wished his family “a lot of strength”.

Scottish musician Barbara Dixon too X was honoredSaying he was “a really great actor”.

She added: “It was an honor to meet him. Rest in peace Penny X.”