Bernard Hill, ‘Titanic’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ Actor, Dies at 79

Bernard Hill, known to audiences at Titanic’s Captain Edward Smith in James Cameron’s 1997 film and King Théoden in the Lord of the Rings, has died. He was 79.

Hill died in the early hours of Sunday morning, a statement from his family said. No cause was given. His fiancée Alison and his son Gabriel were at his side.

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Hill’s breakout role occurred on the BBC miniseries Boys From the Blackstuff, in which he portrayed Yosser Hughes, a man struggling with unemployment in Liverpool whose “gizza job” catchphrase was known across England. The show aired in 1983 and won a BAFTA for best drama series that year.

Hill appeared consistently in television and film, with roles in 1976’s I, Claudius, 1982’s Gandhi, 1999’s Clint Eastwood film True Crime, 1999’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2002’s The Scorpion King and 2008’s Tom Cruise film Valkyrie.

In 1997, Hill gained fans as the soft-spoken Captain Smith in Titanic, which won 11 Oscars. And in 2002, he joined Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise as King Théoden for the second film, The Two Towers, later returning for The Return of the King, which also picked up 11 Oscars. As such, Hill held roles in two of the three films with the most Academy Awards of all time (Ben-Hur ties the list).

In 2015, he played Duke of Norfolk, an uncle of Anne Boleyn and an enemy of Cardinal Wolsey, in the BBC drama series Wolf Hall, which won several BAFTAs and a Golden Globe.

Hill was born on Dec. 17, 1944, in Manchester. He was supposed to appear at a comic-book event in Liverpool on Saturday but canceled last minute per a statement from the convention.

“We’re heartbroken to hear the news of Bernard Hill’s passing,” the note read. “A great loss. Thinking of his family at this very sad time and wishing them a lot of strength.”

Most recently, Hill worked alongside Martin Freeman on the police drama The Responder, which will begin airing its second season on BBC One this weekend. Director Lindsay Salt paid tribute to him on Sunday, writing, “Bernard Hill blazed a trail across the screen, and his long-lasting career filled with iconic and remarkable roles is a testament to his incredible talent.”

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