Bernard Hill death: Lord of the Rings and Titanic actor dies aged 79

Bernard Hill death: Lord of the Rings and Titanic actor dies aged 79

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

Hill played Theoden, King of Rohan, in the Oscar-winning fantasy films based on the novels by JRR Tolkien, and the part of Captain Edward Smith in James Cameron’s hit disaster movie.

The news was confirmed to the BBC by the actor’s agent Lou Coulson, who said that he had died in the early hours of Sunday morning (5 May). A statement from Hill’s family is expected shortly.

The actor was also known for his iconic role as Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale’s seminal British drama Boys from the Blackstuff.

Between Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), Hill was the only actor in history to have appeared in more than one film that won 11 or more Oscars.

He had been set to appear at Liverpool Comic Con this week. The event issued a statement on Twitter/X, saying: “We’re heartbroken to hear the news of Bernard Hill’s passing. A great loss. Thinking of his family at this very sad time, and wishing them a lot of strength,” read the post.

Folk musician Barbara Dickson also shared the news on Twitter/X, writing: “It’s with great sadness that I note the death of Bernard Hill. We worked together in John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, Willy Russell marvellous show 1974-1975.

Actor Bernard Hill photographed in 2012 (Getty)
Actor Bernard Hill photographed in 2012 (Getty)

“A really marvellous actor. It was a privilege to have crossed paths with him. RIP Benny x”.

Born in Blackley, Manchester on 17 December 1944, Hill was raised in a Catholic family of miners, and studied at what is now the Manchester School of Theatre.

After small parts in the BBC’s I, Claudius and Hard Labour, Hill’s breakthrough role came in 1979, when he played a working-class Scouse man pushed to the brink by the brutality of the British welfare state in The Black Stuff. He then reprised the role three years later in the serialised sequel, Boys from the Black Stuff.

Hill as King Theoden in ‘Lord of the Rings’ (New Line)
Hill as King Theoden in ‘Lord of the Rings’ (New Line)

His character’s catchphrase, “Gizza job”, became widely recognised among the British viewing public.

Film parts followed, including roles in Gandhi (1982), Mountains of the Moon (1990), Skallagrigg (1994) and Madagascar Skin (1995).

In the 1990s, Hill’s profile in Hollywood continued to grow, with major parts in films such as The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) opposite Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas.

In Titanic, Hill played the captain of the doomed vessel that sinks in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Hill as Yosser Hughes in ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ (PA)
Hill as Yosser Hughes in ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ (PA)

In 1999, Hill starred in the Clint Eastwood film True Crime. He later described the experience as “great fun”, commenting: “[Eastwood is] a considerate director; he knows how actors think, and he’s massively quiet on the set, and he’s got a gentle way in which he approaches the directing.”

Hill’s character was introduced in the second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers. In the film, Theoden is a king who leads the people of Rohan. Hill reprised the role in the trilogy-capper Return of the King.

Asked about his fondest memory, Hill later reflected: “I loved every minute of every day that I was on Lord of the Rings.”

The actor’s other noteworthy roles include Philos in the Dwayne Johnson-starring supernatural thriller The Scorpion King, and Thomas Howard in the BBC’s six-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.

Hill’s most recent role comes in the Martin Freeman police drama The Responder, which begins on BBC One this Sunday.