Bernard Hill in September 2007
17 December 1944
Blackley, Manchester, England
|Manchester Metropolitan University
|Marianne Hill (? – present)
Bernard Hill (born 17 December 1944) is an English film, stage and television actor. 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 and, more recently, as the Duke of Norfolk in the BBC adaption of Dame Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. He is also known for roles in blockbuster films, including Captain Edward Smith in Titanic, King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and Luther Plunkitt, the Warden of San Quentin Prison in the Clint Eastwood film True Crime.
Hill was born in Blackley, Manchester. He was brought up in a Catholic family of miners. Hill attended Xaverian College, and then Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama at the same time as Richard Griffiths. He graduated with a diploma in theatre in 1970.
Boys from the Blackstuff
Hill first came to prominence as Yosser Hughes, a Liverpool working class man ultimately driven to the edge by an uncaring system, in Alan Bleasdale's BBC Play for Today programme, The Black Stuff, and its more famous series sequel, 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".
Hill then appeared as Sergeant Putnam in Gandhi (1982), directed by Richard Attenborough. Though Hill did not 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 Television Shakespeare 1982 productions of Shakespeare's Henry VI plays.
In 1985, he played the lead role in a TV dramatisation 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 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 came 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 portrayed the role of Dr. Hawthorne. Hill then went down with the ship when he played Captain Edward 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 then biggest grossing film of all time attracted attention to his career, as Hill became more sought-after for more prominent parts.
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.
Hill is one of the few actors who have acted in three films that went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. He did this with Gandhi (1982), Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
He plays Samuel Cotton, who runs a sweet factory with his son in the 2014 three-part BBC drama series about Manchester From There To Here.
Hill currently lives in Suffolk. He is married to Marianne Hill, and has a son named Gabriel.
Selected stage and screen credits
|John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert
|Lyric Theatre, London
|Young Vic, London
|Hampstead Theatre, London
|The Plough and the Stars
|Royal Exchange, Manchester
|Haymarket Theatre, Leicester
|The Cherry Orchard
|Aldwych Theatre, London
|Sir Chiffley Lockheart
|Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London
|A View from the Bridge
|Strand Theatre, London
|It Could Happen to You
|Film also known as Intimate Teenage Secrets
|Trial by Combat
|Film also known as Dirty Knights Work
|The Sailor's Return
|Squaring the Circle
|Samson and Delilah
|Film also known as Boy Soldier
|Bellman and True
|Drowning by Numbers
|Mountains of the Moon
|Dr. David Livingston
|The Law Lord
|The Name of the Game
|Ignatius "Iggy" Smith
|Film also known as Run Rabbit Run and Double X
|Shepherd on the Rock
|Drug Taking and the Arts
|Presenter and narrator
|The Ghost and the Darkness
|The Wind in the Willows
|Film also known as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
|Captain Edward J. Smith
| Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
One of two films in which Hill stars that have won 11 Oscars.
|The Mill on the Floss
|The Titanic Chronicles
|Captain S. Lord
|A Midsummer Night's Dream
|Film also known as Sogno di una notte di mezza estate
|The Loss of Sexual Innocence
|Blessed Art Thou
|Voice of Stalin
|Film also known as The Furnace
|Going Off Big Time
|The Scorpion King
|The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
|Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Nominated – DVD Exclusive Awards for Best Audio Commentary
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
|The Boys from County Clare
|The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
|Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated – Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
The second film in which Hill starred, that won 11 Oscars
|The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse
|Save Angel Hope
|Film made for television. Broadcast on Channel 4
|Unnamed German General in the desert
|Edward, Mrs Thornley's son
|The Black Stuff
|Boys from the Black Stuff
|Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
|Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
|The Burston Rebellion
|Det. Sgt. Gavin Douglas
|Lipstick on Your Collar
|Once Upon a Time in the North
|Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief
|A Very Social Secretary
|Nominated – BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
Nominated – International Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actor
|A BBC/CTV/Travel Channel co-production in association with Canal+
|Old Trafford 100 Years
|Narrator and Presenter
|Indian Hill Railways
|Episode "The Blind Man of Seville"
|From There to Here
|Hope And Wire
|New Zealand mini-series
|Duke of Norfolk
|Father Robert Greaves
|World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
|Highlord Tirion Fordring
|Sir Walter Beck
References and notes
- "The OxStu talks Titanic, Daniel Day-Lewis and more with film star Bernard Hill". The Oxford Student.
- "Manchester Films – Bernard Hill – a biography". BBC. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- "Out of work – and this time it won't just be Yosser who will feel the pain | News". Thisislondon.co.uk. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- "Behind The Voice Actors - Bernard Hill". Behind The Voice Actors.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
- "Stellar cast assemble for Peter Bowker's new BBC One drama, From There To Here". BBC Media Centre. BBC. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- "Norfolk". BBC. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
- "Bernard Hill Biography (1944–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- "Bernard Hill Filmography, Bernard Hill, movies, Pics, Photos, Filmography". Netglimse.com. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bernard Hill.
- Bernard Hill at the Internet Movie Database
- Bernard Hill at the TCM Movie Database
- Bernard Hill at AllMovie
- Interview with BBC Suffolk