Bernard Hill
Biographical information
Full name: Bernard Hill
Nationality: British
Birthdate: December 17, 1944
Birthplace: Manchester, England, U.K.
Age: 75
Occupation: Actor
Years active: 1975–present
Marital status: Marianne Hill
Significant other(s): Actor
Family: Gabriel Hill (son)

Bernard Hill (born 17 December 1944) is a British actor of film, stage and television. In a career spanning fourty years now, he is known for playing Yosser Hughes, the troubled 'hard man' whose life is falling apart in Alan Bleasdale's groundbreaking 1980s TV drama, Boys from the Blackstuff. He is also known for a number of iconic roles in blockbuster films, including Captain Edward John Smith in Titanic, King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and as the Warden of San Quentin Prison in the Clint Eastwood film, True Crime.

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Hill was born in Blackley, Manchester, England. He attended Xaverian College although at the time it was known as "Xaverian School", and then Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama at the same time as Richard Griffiths. He graduated with a diploma in theatre in 1970.

Career[edit | edit source]

Boys From The BlackStuff[edit | edit source]

Bernard Hill in 1979.

Hill first came to prominence in Britain through his Yosser Hughes, a Liverpool working class man ultimately driven to the edge by an uncaring system, in Alan Bleasdale's BBC Play for Today, The Black Stuff and its more famous series sequel (also by Bleasdale), Boys from the Blackstuff. His character's much-repeated phrase Gizza job ("Give us a job") became popular with protesters against Margaret Thatcher's government, because of the high unemployment of the time.

With his bemused brood of kids never let out of his sight, Bernard Hill's powerful depiction of a man crumbling before the audience's eyes brought him numerous awards but, as he later revealed, almost "drove him to the edge of insanity".

Other Works[edit | edit source]

Hill then appeared as Sergeant Putnam in Gandhi (1982), directed by Richard Attenborough. Though Hill didn't figure prominently in the cast, he benefited from being part of an Oscar-winning film. Next up for Hill was Roger Donaldson’s The Bounty (1984), a fourth dramatisation of the famed mutiny on HMS Bounty.

He had previously taken smaller parts in a number of British television dramas, appearing in the acclaimed I, Claudius in 1976 as Gratus, the no-nonsense soldier of Caligula's bodyguard who drew Claudius from his hiding-place in the palace, and presented him as the proper heir to the empire, and also as Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York in the BBC's 1982 productions of Shakespeare's Henry VI plays. In 1985, he played the lead role in a TV dramatization of John Lennon's life, A Journey in the Life. In addition to TV roles, Hill appeared on stage in The Cherry Orchard, and the title roles in Macbeth and A View from the Bridge.

Hill starred alongside acting greats, including Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier and Daniel Day-Lewis, as well as Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson. Hill then received critical acclaim for his performance as Joe Bradshaw in Shirley Valentine (1989), about a Liverpool housewife (Pauline Collins) who was a former anti-establishment rebel and engages in an extramarital affair. Hill added more prominent films to his resume, including Mountains of the Moon (1990), Skallagrigg (1994) and Madagascar Skin (1995).

In the mid-1990s, Hill began appearing in films more regularly. His first major role in The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), starring Val Kilmer as a bridge-building engineer who must trust a big game hunter (Michael Douglas) despite their mutual animosity. Hill perhaps is best known for his role as Captain E.J. Smith on the ill-fated Titanic (1997), by James Cameron, with whom Hill got along quite well - an experience not shared by most working on the film. Being in the biggest grossing film of all time attracted attention to his career, as Hill became more sought-after for more prominent parts.

Hill played Philos in The Scorpion King (2002), starring The Rock, Michael Clarke Duncan and Kelly Hu.

Bernard Hill in 2004

Hill became known to a worldwide audience when he was cast in the role of King Théoden of Rohan in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy based on Tolkien's novel of the same name. Before casting him as King Théoden, director Peter Jackson considered Hill for the part of Gandalf. When he was due to leave the set at the end of production, Jackson gave Hill two gifts, Théoden's helmet and sword Herugrim.

At the 2006 BAFTA TV Awards and International Emmy Award, Hill was nominated for his portrayal of David Blunkett in the one-off satirical drama, A Very Social Secretary.

More recently, he held a minor role in the 2008 film Valkyrie, as the commanding general of the German Afrika Korp X Panzer Division, and as a voice actor for Sir Walter Beck in Fable III (2010).

Hill has been the narrator in many television documentaries.

Due to his affinity and links to the region, along with his extensive CV in film, Hill was recently announced as a new patron and judge of the Norwich Film Festival, due to be held in March 2012.

Personal Life[edit | edit source]

Hill currently lives in Suffolk, England. He is married, and has a son named Gabriel.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The fact that Hill played both Edward Smith, captain of the Titanic itself (in 1997), and King Théoden (from 2002-2003) is somewhat ironic, considering that actor Philip Stone, who previously played Arthur Rostron (captain of the RMS Carpathia, the ship responsible for rescuing the Titanic survivors) in the 1979 film S.O.S. Titanic, had also provided the voice of Théoden in an animated version of The Lord of the Rings in 1978.
  • He is the only actor to have appeared in two films which won 11 Academy Awards (the highest number of Academy Awards ever won by a film), specifically Titanic itself and the 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. The only other film to have achieved this feat is the 1959 film Ben-Hur.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia articles (view authors). Wikipedia logo.png
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.