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Bernard Hill, 1944 – 2024

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Bernard Hill, the celebrated English actor known for his roles in Titanic and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has died aged 79. Hill passed away on the morning of Sunday, 5 May 2024, with his fiancée, Alison, and son, Gabriel, by his side.

Hill was born on 17 December 1944 in Blackley, Manchester, and raised in a Catholic family of miners. He studied at Xaverian College and later graduated with a diploma in theatre from Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama in 1970.

Early Television Career in the 1970s

Hill’s early career was marked by a string of notable television roles in the 1970s. In 1973, he appeared in Mike Leigh’s TV drama Hard Labour, playing the son of a working-class woman enduring a life of domestic drudgery. This was followed by a stage debut in Willy Russell’s musical John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Bert in 1974, where he played John Lennon.

In 1975, Hill landed a role in the BBC anthology series Play for Today, marking the beginning of a prolific career in television. He then made his feature film debut in the docudrama It Could Happen to You in the same year.

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In 1976, Hill appeared as Police Constable Cluff in an episode of the Granada Television series Crown Court, titled “The Jolly Swagmen”. The following year, he took on the role of Gratus in the acclaimed miniseries I, Claudius, which followed the rise of the Roman Emperor Claudius.

Later Television Work and Cinematic Success

Hill rose to prominence in the early 1980s with his portrayal of Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale’s BBC series Boys from the Blackstuff. The series explored the lives of unemployed Liverpool men during a time of high unemployment under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government. Hill’s character, a working-class man driven to the edge by an uncaring welfare system, became an emblem of the era, with his catchphrase “Gizza job” resonating with protesters. The series earned Hill a BAFTA nomination for Best Television Actor.

In the mid-1980s, Hill appeared in several notable films, including Gandhi (1982), The Bounty (1984), and a TV dramatisation of John Lennon’s life, A Journey in the Life (1985). He also continued to take on television roles, appearing in series such as I, Claudius, Crown Court, and Rooms.

In the 1990s, Hill added several high profile films to his résumé, including Shirley Valentine (1989), where he played the husband of the titular character, and The Scorpion King (2002), starring alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He also appeared in Gandhi (1982), a multi-Oscar-winning epic, and Drowning by Numbers (1988), a black comedy ensemble.

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Hill’s career reached new heights with his role as Captain Edward Smith in James Cameron’s Titanic (1997). The film broke box office records and became one of the most awarded films in Academy Awards history, winning 11 Oscars.

In the 2000s, Hill joined the Lord of the Rings franchise, playing Théoden, King of Rohan, in The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003). Both films won 11 Oscars each, making Hill the first actor to star in more than one film that grossed over $1 billion.

Hill’s later career included notable roles in television dramas such as Wolf Hall (2015), where he played the Duke of Norfolk, and Unforgotten, where he portrayed a priest and murder suspect.

With his passing, Bernard Hill leaves behind a rich legacy in British film and television, his memorable performances forever etched in the minds of audiences worldwide.

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Bernard Hill died on 5 May 2024, aged 79.


I'm Noah Masire, I look after UK TV News at Memorable TV. From the gripping crime of Happy Valley to the feel good storytelling of All Creatures Great & Small, I bring you the latest news about what's what and who's who in the world of iconic British TV shows. Stay tuned!

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