Bernard Hill

Bernard Hill

Bernard Hill in September 2007
Born (1944-12-17) 17 December 1944
Blackley, Manchester, England
Nationality British
Education Xaverian College
Alma mater Manchester Metropolitan University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1975–present
Spouse(s) Marianne Hill (? – present)
Children Gabriel Hill

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.

Early life

Hill was born in Blackley, Manchester. He was brought up in a Catholic family of miners.[1] 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.[2]


Boys from the Blackstuff

Bernard Hill as Yosser Hughes

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.[2] His character's much-repeated phrase Gizza job ("Give us a job")[2] became popular with protesters against Margaret Thatcher's government, because of the high unemployment of the time.[3]

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".

Later roles

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

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.

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 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).[4]

Due to his affinity and links to the region, along with his extensive CV in film, Hill was announced as a new patron and judge of the Norwich Film Festival,[5] that was held on March 2012.

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.[6]

Hill appears as the Duke of Norfolk in the 2015 six-part BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's novels, Wolf Hall.[7]

Personal life

Hill currently lives in Suffolk. He is married to Marianne Hill, and has a son named Gabriel.[2]

Selected stage and screen credits


Hill at a Lord of the Rings convention in Bonn, Germany, October 2004
Year Play Role Theatre
1974 John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert John Lennon Lyric Theatre, London
1978 Twelfth Night Toby Belch Young Vic, London
1983 Short List Howard Hampstead Theatre, London
1984 The Plough and the Stars Fluther Good Royal Exchange, Manchester
1986 Macbeth Macbeth Haymarket Theatre, Leicester
1989 The Cherry Orchard Lopakhin Aldwych Theatre, London
1990 Gasping Sir Chiffley Lockheart Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London
1995 A View from the Bridge Eddie Carbone Strand Theatre, London


Year Film Role Notes
1975 It Could Happen to You Syph Film also known as Intimate Teenage Secrets
1976 Trial by Combat Blind Freddie Film also known as Dirty Knights Work
1978 The Sailor's Return Carter
1978 The Spongers Sullivan
1982 Gandhi Sergeant Putnam
1983 Squaring the Circle Narrator Documentary
Runners Trevor Field
1984 The Bounty Cole
1985 Restless Natives Will's father
The Chain Nick
Samson and Delilah Willie Naknervis
1986 Milwr Bychan Officer Film also known as Boy Soldier
New World John Billington
No Surrender Bernard
1987 Bellman and True Hiller
1988 Drowning by Numbers Henry Madgett
1989 Shirley Valentine Joe Bradshaw
1990 Mountains of the Moon Dr. David Livingston
1991 The Law Lord Martin Allport
1992 The Name of the Game Ignatius "Iggy" Smith Film also known as Run Rabbit Run and Double X
1993 Shepherd on the Rock Tam Ferrier
1994 Skallagrigg John
Drug Taking and the Arts Presenter and narrator Documentary
1995 Madagascar Skin Flint
1996 The Ghost and the Darkness Dr. Hawthorne
1997 The Wind in the Willows Engine driver Film also known as Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Titanic 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 Edwards Tulliver
1999 The Titanic Chronicles Captain S. Lord
The Criminal Walker
True Crime Lunther Plunkitt
A Midsummer Night's Dream Egeus Film also known as Sogno di una notte di mezza estate
The Loss of Sexual Innocence Susan's father
2000 Blessed Art Thou Frederick
Einstein Voice of Stalin Film also known as The Furnace
Going Off Big Time Murray
2002 The Scorpion King Philos
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers King Théoden 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
2003 The Boys from County Clare John Joe
Gothika Phil Parsons
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King King Théoden 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
2004 Wimbledon Edward Colt
The Deal Victor Short film
2005 The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse King William
2006 Joy Division Dennis
Save Angel Hope Oscar Kurz
2007 Exodus N/A Film made for television. Broadcast on Channel 4
2008 Valkyrie Unnamed German General in the desert
2008 Franklyn Peter
2011 The Wraith The Narrator Short Film
2012 ParaNorman The Judge Voice only
2016 Golden Years Arthur Goode

Information taken from,[8],[9]


Year Programme Role Episodes Broadcasting Network Notes
1973 Hard Labour Edward, Mrs Thornley's son N/A BBC
1976 I, Claudius Gratus 2 BBC
1978 Pickersgill People N/A 1 BBC
1979 Telford's Change Jack Burton 1 BBC
The Black Stuff Yosser Hughes 5 BBC
1980 Fox Vin Fox 11 ITV
1982 Boys from the Black Stuff Yosser Hughes 5 BBC Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
Henry VI Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York 1 BBC
1984 Antigone Messenger 1 BBC
1985 The Burston Rebellion Tom Higdon 1 BBC
1993 Olly's Prison Mike 1 BBC
1993 Telltale Det. Sgt. Gavin Douglas 3 ITV
1993 Lipstick on Your Collar Uncle Fred Channel 4
1994 Once Upon a Time in the North Len Tollit N/A BBC
1999 Great Expectations Abel Magwitch 2 BBC
2001 Horizon Narrator 9 BBC
2002 Timewatch Narrator 1 BBC
2004 Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief Himself 1 BBC
2005 A Very Social Secretary David Blunkett 1 Channel 4 Nominated – BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
Nominated – International Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actor
2007 Egomania Narrator 1 Channel 4
2007 Bombay Railway Narrator 2 BBC Series
2008 Sunshine Granddad Crosby 3 BBC
2008 Wild China Narrator 6 BBC A BBC/CTV/Travel Channel co-production in association with Canal+
2009 Folk America Narrator 3 BBC
2009 Ice Patrol Narrator 4 National Geographic
2010 Old Trafford 100 Years Narrator and Presenter 1 MUTV
2010 Five Days Gerard Hopkirk 5 BBC
2010 Indian Hill Railways Narrator[10] 3 BBC
2010 Canoe Man John Darwin 1 BBC
2012 Falcón Ramón Salgado 2 Sky Episode "The Blind Man of Seville"
2014 From There to Here Samuel Cotton 3 BBC
2014 Hope And Wire Len Russell 3 TV3 New Zealand mini-series
2015 Wolf Hall Duke of Norfolk 6 BBC
2015 Unforgotten Father Robert Greaves 6 ITV

Video games

Year Video game Role Notes
2008 World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Highlord Tirion Fordring
2010 Fable III Sir Walter Beck

References and notes

  1. "The OxStu talks Titanic, Daniel Day-Lewis and more with film star Bernard Hill". The Oxford Student.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Manchester Films – Bernard Hill – a biography". BBC. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  3. "Out of work – and this time it won't just be Yosser who will feel the pain | News". 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  4. "Behind The Voice Actors - Bernard Hill". Behind The Voice Actors.
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 February 2012. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  6. "Stellar cast assemble for Peter Bowker's new BBC One drama, From There To Here". BBC Media Centre. BBC. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  7. "Norfolk". BBC. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  8. "Bernard Hill Biography (1944–)". Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  9. "Bernard Hill Filmography, Bernard Hill, movies, Pics, Photos, Filmography". Retrieved 2011-08-21.

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