Actor From Two Iconic Movies Passes Away

Bernard Hill, renowned for his roles in Titanic and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has passed away at the age of 79. His agent confirmed that the actor, who portrayed Captain Edward Smith in the 1997 Oscar-winning film Titanic, died in the early hours of the morning.

Born in Manchester, Hill’s distinguished career spanned decades and genres. He became widely known to a generation of fans for his role as King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. During his illustrious career, he starred in two films, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, each of which won 11 Oscars and surpassed $1 billion at the box office.

Hill first became familiar to many in the UK for his portrayal of the embattled Yosser Hughes in the 1980s drama Boys from the Blackstuff. His compelling performance as a man grappling with unemployment brought him acclaim and Hollywood’s attention. The phrase “gizza job” (meaning “give us a job”), coined by his character, became a rallying cry among protesters in Thatcher-era Britain. The sequel to The Black Stuff, Boys from the Blackstuff, won the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 1983 and was later listed as the seventh-best TV show on the British Film Institute’s 2000 list.

His passing comes just hours before he was set to return to TV in The Responder, a Martin Freeman drama airing on BBC One. Tributes have poured in for Hill, with many praising his immense talent and memorable career. Lindsay Salt, Director of BBC Drama, said, “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. 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.”

Actress and musician Barbara Dickson, who worked with Hill in a Beatles-inspired musical, also paid tribute, describing him as a “marvellous actor.” She wrote, “It’s with great sadness that I note the death of Bernard Hill. We worked together in John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert (by Willy Russell), a marvellous show in 1974-1975. A really marvellous actor. It was a privilege to have crossed paths with him.”

Hill had a varied screen career, starting in smaller, grounded dramas before moving on to star in films that grossed billions worldwide. He attended acting school with Richard Griffiths before making his mark in television. He was cast as Yosser Hughes after smaller roles in Hard Labour and the now-acclaimed I, Claudius.

The 1982 BBC drama Boys from the Blackstuff served as a turning point in his career, leading to significant roles such as Sergeant Putnam in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning Gandhi and the Duke of York in the BBC’s Henry VI adaptation. Hill later portrayed Captain Edward Smith in James Cameron’s Titanic, marking the start of a late-career renaissance.

His portrayal of King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings trilogy was widely praised, with the actor expertly capturing the embattled monarch’s valiant efforts to protect his people. He also appeared in The Scorpion King, Gothika, Wimbledon, and the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, where he played the Duke of Norfolk.

Hill was due to return to TV screens with a role in The Responder, which airs tonight on BBC One. He lived in Suffolk and is survived by his wife Marianna Hill and their son Gabriel.

May he rest in peace.