Martin Freeman describes ‘privilege’ of sharing Bernard Hill’s last performance

Martin Freeman said working with Bernard Hill on The Responder was a “fantastic treat”, following the death of the actor aged 79.

Hill, who died in the early hours of Sunday morning, can currently be seen in his final performance opposite Freeman in the second series of the BBC drama.

Freeman plays Chris Carson, a police response officer, while Hill stars as his estranged father Tom Carson.

The Responder
Martin Freeman plays a police response officer in The Responder (Rekha Garton/Dancing Ledge/BBC)

“Working with Bernard on The Responder was such a fantastic treat for all of us,” Freeman said in a statement given to the PA news agency.

“He was unassuming, funny and, of course, ridiculously talented.

“A Mancunian lad who was Liverpool royalty, it was a privilege for us all to have shared in his last brilliant performance.”

During his career, Hill played King Theoden in the Oscar-winning fantasy franchise Lord Of The Rings directed by Sir Peter Jackson, opposite Elijah Wood’s Frodo Baggins.

He was also well known for playing Captain Edward Smith in the box-office juggernaut Titanic, as well as roles in Boys From The Blackstuff and Wolf Hall.

US star Wood shared a photo of Hill taken by their co-star Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn, and wrote: “So long to our friend, our king, Bernard Hill. We will never forget you.”

He also shared a quote from JRR Tolkien’s novel, on which the films are based, writing: “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.”

Dominic Monaghan, who played Merry Brandybuck in Lord Of The Rings, shared the same photo of Hill, taken by Mortensen.

He wrote: “The Broken king has passed to the grey havens but he will always be remembered. #ripbernard.”

Hill joined the Lord Of The Rings cast for the second film in the trilogy, 2002’s The Two Towers, which won two Academy Awards for best sound editing and best visual effects.

He returned to the franchise for 2003’s The Return Of The King, which picked up 11 Oscars, including best picture and best director for Sir Peter.

Hill first made a name for himself as Yosser Hughes in Alan Bleasdale’s BBC drama series Boys From The Blackstuff, about five unemployed men, which aired in 1982.

The role earned him a Bafta TV nomination in 1983, the same year the show picked up the Bafta for best drama series.

He went on to play Captain Smith in the Oscar-winning 1997 epic romance Titanic, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

In the 2015 BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall, about the court of Henry VIII, he played the Duke of Norfolk, uncle to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

Bernard Hill pictured in 2006
Hill earned a Bafta TV nomination in 1983 for his role in Boys From The Blackstuff (Ian West/PA)

The BBC described him as an “incredible talent” who “blazed a trail across the screen” during his career.

Lindsay Salt, director of BBC Drama, said: “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.

“From Boys From The Blackstuff, to Wolf Hall, The Responder, and many more, we feel truly honoured to have worked with Bernard at the BBC.

“Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this sad time.”

His other credits included Clint Eastwood’s film True Crime, 1989 rom-com Shirley Valentine, the 1999 film adaptation of Great Expectations and 2002’s The Scorpion King starring Dwayne Johnson.

Actress and singer Barbara Dickson, who starred with him in a musical based on the Beatles, was among those paying tribute, describing him as a “marvellous actor”.

Alongside a photo of them together, she wrote: “It’s with great sadness that I note the death of Bernard Hill.

“We worked together in John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, (by) Willy Russell marvellous show 1974-1975.

“A really marvellous actor. It was a privilege to have crossed paths with him. RIP Benny x

Hill was due to attend Comic Con in Liverpool on Saturday but the event announced on the day that he had to withdraw at the last minute because of his partner becoming “very ill”.

The post on X added: “He sends his sincere apologies and thanks you all for you understanding.

“He sends his love to all of you and will see you all again soon at another Monopoly event.”

The event said they were “heartbroken” and that they would be thinking of his family at this “very sad time”.

Footage from the event shows Hill’s co-star paying tribute to him on stage, with Sean Astin, who played Samwise Gamgee, saying: “He was intrepid, he was gruff, he was irrascible.”

Billy Boyd, who played Peregrin “Pippin” Took, said: “We were watching the movies and I said to Dom, I don’t think anyone spoke Tolkien’s words as great as Bernard did.”