Obituaries

‘Titanic’ And ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Actor Bernard Hill Dies At Age 79

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  • On May 5, Bernard Hill passed away at the age of 79.
  • By time of writing, no official cause of death has been shared.
  • He played Captain Edward Smith in ‘Titanic’ and King Théoden in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films.

 

On May 5, Bernard Hill passed away. He was 79 years old when he died while with his fiancée Alison and his son Gabriel, according to his agent, Lou Coulson. By the time of writing, no official cause of death has been revealed.

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Hill was an actor of the stage, small screen, and big screen who famously played King Théoden in two Lord of the Rings films and Captain Edward Smith in Titanic. He could also be seen as Warden Luther Plunkitt in Clint Eastwood’s True Crime.

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Stars and fans alike pay tribute to Bernard Hill

After news broke of Hill’s passing, his former co-stars took to social media to pay tribute to his memory. Later that evening, Elijah Wood, who starred in all three Lord of the Rings films as Frodo Baggins, shared a photo taken by fellow co-star Viggo Mortensen.

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He captioned the post, “So long to our friend, our king, Bernard Hill,” before quoting the original Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien, “For he was a gentle heart and a great king and kept his oaths; and he rose out of the shadows to a last fair morning.”

The Twitter account for All The Right Movies, dedicated to classic films, noted that Hill is “the only actor to have starred in two films that won 11 Oscars.” Those were Titanic and Return of the King, the latter of which won in every category it was nominated for.

Fellow hobbit Sean Astin was attending Liverpool Comic Con when the news broke and said in tribute, “We love him. He was intrepid, he was funny, he was gruff, he was irascible, he was beautiful.”

Billy Boyd, who played Pippin, added, “I don’t think anyone spoke Tolkien’s words as great as Bernard did. He would break my heart. He will be sorely missed.”

True Crime actor Michael McKean called him “A gent, of course. Also funny, smart and flawless at the job.”

Unparalleled success over and over again

Captain Edward Smith / YouTube screenshot

Bernard Hill was born on December 17, 1944, in Blackley, Manchester, England, to a family of miners. He attended Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre, now known simply as Manchester School of Theatre, at the same time as Richard Griffiths, who famously played Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films. He rose to prominence in the BBC program Play for Today before famously appearing in 1982’s Gandhi, directed by Richard Attenborough. Hill then enjoyed the lead role in a dramatized television program about John Lennon entitled A Journey in the Life.

1996 gave Hill a fresh taste of a regular film schedule, starting with The Ghost and the Darkness, which put him alongside Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. The following year, he played the infamous captain of the Titanic in James Cameron’s epic disaster film of the same name. His performance earned Hill a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

The same year he first played Théoden, Hill also appeared in the Mummy franchise in 2002’s The Scorpion King. His line in Two Towers that “No parent should have to bury their child” was added in by Hill himself, after hearing of the very real grief of a parent who lost thier child.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: TWO TOWERS, Bernard Hill, 2002, (c) New Line/courtesy Everett Collection

Hill continued working from 1970 until his death. His last on-screen film credit came from 2023’s Forever Young. For television, the British police drama The Responder will be a posthumous credit. The Responder puts him alongside Martin Freeman, who played Bilbo Baggins in the prequel trilogy, The Hobbit.

Rest in peace beyond the gray rain curtain of this world, Bernard Hill.

Hill is survived by his son and his fiancée / Tom Lau/Loud & Clear Media/STAR MAX Inc. 2002 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

RELATED: Sir Ian Holm, Star Of ‘Lord Of The Rings’ And ‘Alien’ Dies At 88

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