Beloved Actor Bernard Hill, Known for ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Titanic,’ Passes Away at 79: Was Set to Star Alongside Martin Freeman in BBC Drama Tonight

Bernard Hill, renowned for his roles in Titanic and Lord of the Rings, has passed away at 79.

The actor, famous for portraying Captain Edward Smith in the Oscar-winning 1997 film, passed away in the early hours of the morning, according to his agent.

A father-of-one, he gained recognition among audiences for his depiction of the embattled King Theoden in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Renowned for his roles in two iconic films, Titanic and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which collectively garnered 11 Oscars and surpassed $1 billion at the box office, Bernard Hill left an indelible mark on cinema.

Hill initially captured the hearts of many in the UK with his powerful portrayal of Yosser Hughes in the 1980s drama Boys from the Blackstuff, a performance that caught the attention of Hollywood.

Tragically, his passing occurred just hours before his anticipated return to television in the Martin Freeman drama The Responder, scheduled to air on BBC One tonight.

Tributes have poured in for the esteemed actor, lauding his remarkable talent and the enduring legacy he leaves behind on screen. Lindsay Salt, Director of BBC Drama, reflected on Hill’s illustrious career, stating, “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 shared the stage with Bernard Hill in a musical based on the Beatles, joined the chorus of tributes, praising him as a “marvellous actor.”

Accompanied by a photo of their time together, she penned a heartfelt tribute: “It’s with great sadness that I note the passing of Bernard Hill. We collaborated in John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, (by) Willy Russell, a marvellous show from 1974-1975. A truly exceptional actor. It was an honor to have worked alongside him. RIP Benny x.”

Hailing from Manchester, Hill’s on-screen journey was diverse, initially making his mark in gritty, realistic dramas before achieving global recognition in blockbuster films.

Born into a family of coal miners in Blackley, he attended acting school alongside Richard Griffiths before venturing into television. After notable appearances in productions like Hard Labour and the initially poorly received but now revered I, Claudius, Hill secured his breakthrough role in the early 1980s.

Portraying Yosser Hughes, a working-class Liverpudlian, in The Black Stuff and its sequel, Boys from the Blackstuff, in 1982, he captivated audiences with his portrayal of a man grappling with unemployment. The character’s iconic phrase, “gizza job,” resonated deeply in the socio-political landscape of Thatcherite Britain.

Boasting a BAFTA win for Best Drama Series in 1983, Boys from the Blackstuff later garnered acclaim, earning a spot on the British Film Institute’s list of the top ten TV shows ever made in 2000.

Hill’s career continued to ascend with notable roles, including Sergeant Putnam in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning biopic Gandhi in 1982 and the Duke of York in the BBC’s 1983 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry VI.

He later secured a pivotal role as Captain Edward Smith in James Cameron’s monumental film, Titanic.

In the 1997 epic, Hill portrayed the captain of the ill-fated vessel on its inaugural and final voyage across the Atlantic, bravely remaining at the helm as disaster struck and the ship succumbed to an iceberg.

This marked a significant turning point in Hill’s career, leading to his portrayal of King Theoden in Peter Jackson’s iconic Lord of the Rings trilogy.

His performance as the valiant King of Rohan earned widespread acclaim, cementing his status as a respected figure in Hollywood.

Continuing his Hollywood journey, Hill appeared in various films including The Scorpion King alongside Dwayne Johnson, the horror thriller Gothika starring Halle Berry, and the romantic comedy Wimbledon.

Simultaneously, he remained a familiar face on British television, notably appearing in the acclaimed BBC drama Wolf Hall in 2015. Adapting Hilary Mantel’s historical fiction centered on the ascent of Thomas Cromwell, Hill portrayed the Duke of Norfolk in the first series before passing the torch to Timothy Spall in the subsequent season.

Scheduled to grace our screens once again tonight, Hill was set to feature in Martin Freeman’s BBC production, The Responder.

Residing in Suffolk, he is survived by his wife Marianna Hill and their son Gabriel.

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