Bernard Hill

Last updated
Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill2 (cropped).jpg
Hill in 2007
Born (1944-12-17) 17 December 1944 (age 76)
Blackley, Manchester, England
Education Xaverian College
Alma mater Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama
Years active1975–present
Spouse(s)Marianne 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 adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall . He is also known for roles in 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]


In 1976, Hill was seen as Police Constable Cluff in the Granada Television series Crown Court , the episode entitled "The Jolly Swagmen"

Boys from the Blackstuff

Hill first came to prominence as Yosser Hughes, a working-class Liverpudlian man ultimately driven to the edge by an uncaring system, in Alan Bleasdale's BBC Play for Today programme, The Black Stuff , and its 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]

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 for him 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 David Hawthorne. Hill then went down with the ship when he played Captain Edward J. Smith in 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.

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]

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 . [5]

Hill appears as Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk in the 2015 six-part BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's novels, Wolf Hall. [6]

Personal life

He is married to Marianne, with whom he has a son named Gabriel. He lives in Suffolk. [2] He is a longtime supporter of Manchester United FC. In 2019 he received an honorary degree from the University of East Anglia. [7]

Selected stage and screen credits


Hill at a Lord of the Rings convention in Bonn, Germany, October 2004 Bernard Hill.jpg
Hill at a Lord of the Rings convention in Bonn, Germany, October 2004
1974John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert John Lennon Lyric Theatre, London
1978 Twelfth Night Toby Belch Young Vic, London
1983Short ListHoward 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
1990GaspingSir Chiffley Lockheart Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London
1995 A View from the Bridge Eddie Carbone Strand Theatre, London


1975It Could Happen to YouSyphFilm also known as Intimate Teenage Secrets
1976 Trial by Combat Blind FreddieFilm also known as Dirty Knights Work
1978 The Sailor's Return Carter
1978 The Spongers Sullivan
1982 Gandhi Sergeant Putnam
1983Squaring the Circle Narrator Documentary
Runners Trevor Field
1984 The Bounty Cole
1985 Restless Natives Will's father
The Chain Nick
Samson and DelilahWillie Naknervis
1986Milwr BychanOfficerFilm 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 David Livingston
1991The Law LordMartin Allport
1992The Name of the GameIgnatius "Iggy" SmithFilm also known as Run Rabbit Run and Double X
1993Shepherd on the RockTam Ferrier
1994 Skallagrigg John
Drug Taking and the ArtsPresenter and narratorDocumentary
1995 Madagascar Skin Flint
1996 The Ghost and the Darkness David Hawthorne
1997 The Wind in the Willows Engine driverFilm 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
1999The Titanic ChroniclesCaptain 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
2000Blessed Art ThouFrederick
EinsteinVoice of StalinFilm also known as The Furnace
Going Off Big TimeMurray
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 DealVictor Short film
2005 The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse King William
2006 Joy Division Dennis
Save Angel HopeOscar Kurz
2007 Exodus N/AFilm made for television. Broadcast on Channel 4
2008 Valkyrie Unnamed German General in the desert
2008 Franklyn Peter
2011The WraithThe NarratorShort Film
2012 ParaNorman The JudgeVoice only
2016 Golden Years Arthur Goode

Information taken from, [8], [9]


YearProgrammeRoleEpisodesBroadcasting NetworkNotes
1973 Hard Labour Edward ThornleyN/A BBC
1976 I, Claudius Gratus 2BBC
1978Pickersgill PeopleN/A1BBC
1979Telford's ChangeJack Burton1BBC
The Black Stuff Yosser Hughes 1BBC
1980 Fox Vin Fox11 ITV
1982 Boys from the Black Stuff Yosser Hughes5BBC Broadcasting Press Guild Awards for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
1983 Henry VI, Part 1 Duke of York 1BBCPart of the BBC Television Shakespeare series
Henry VI, Part 2 Duke of York1BBCPart of the BBC Television Shakespeare series
Henry VI, Part 3 Duke of York1BBCPart of the BBC Television Shakespeare series
Richard III First Murderer1BBCPart of the BBC Television Shakespeare series
1984 Antigone Messenger1BBC
1985The Burston Rebellion Tom Higdon 1BBC
1993Olly's PrisonMike1BBC
1993 Telltale Det. Sgt. Gavin Douglas3ITV
1993 Lipstick on Your Collar Uncle FredChannel 4
1994Once Upon a Time in the NorthLen TollitN/ABBC
1995 The Gambling Man Frank NickleallTyne Tees TV
1999 Great Expectations Abel Magwitch2BBC
1999The Titanic ChroniclesCaptain Stanley Lord N/A
2002 Timewatch Narrator1BBC
2004 Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief Himself1BBC
2005A Very Social Secretary David Blunkett 1Channel 4Nominated – BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
Nominated – International Emmy Award for Best Performance by an Actor
2006 Ocean Odyssey Narrator2Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated
2007 Egomania Narrator1Channel 4
2007Bombay RailwayNarrator2BBC Series
2008 Sunshine Granddad Crosby3BBC
2008 Wild China Narrator6BBCA BBC/CTV/Travel Channel co-production in association with Canal+
2009 Folk America Narrator3BBC
2009Ice PatrolNarrator4National Geographic
2010Old Trafford 100 YearsNarrator and Presenter1MUTV
2010Five DaysGerard Hopkirk5BBC
2010Indian Hill RailwaysNarrator [10] 3BBC
2010Canoe Man John Darwin 1BBC
2012 Falcón Ramón Salgado2 Sky Episode "The Blind Man of Seville"
2014 From There to Here Samuel Cotton3 BBC
2014Hope And WireLen Russell3 TV3 New Zealand mini-series
2015 Wolf Hall Duke of Norfolk 6 BBC
2015 Unforgotten Father Robert Greaves6 ITV

Video games

YearVideo gameRoleNotes
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 21 August 2011.
  3. "Out of work – and this time it won't just be Yosser who will feel the pain | News". 17 December 2008. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  4. "Behind The Voice Actors – Bernard Hill". Behind The Voice Actors.
  5. "Stellar cast assemble for Peter Bowker's new BBC One drama, From There To Here". BBC Media Centre. BBC. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  6. "Norfolk". BBC. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  7. "A Titanic actor, climate change trailblazer and banking boss: Meet UEA's newest honorary graduates". Eastern Daily Press. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  8. "Bernard Hill Biography (1944–)". Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  9. "Bernard Hill Filmography, Bernard Hill, movies, Pics, Photos, Filmography". Archived from the original on 12 December 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
  10. Unit, Commercial Development. "Indian Hill Railway". ABC Shop. Retrieved 4 March 2017.

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