Martin Freeman's touching tribute to 'Liverpool royalty' Bernard Hill

Bernard Hill in The Responder
Bernard Hill in The Responder -Credit:BBC Pictures

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

Bernard, who died on Sunday, May 5, made his final TV performance opposite Martin in the second series of the BBC drama. He portrayed Tom Carson, the estranged father of protagonist Chris.

In a statement to PA News, Martin said: "Working with Bernard on The Responder was such a fantastic treat for all of us. 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.”

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During his career, Bernard 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.

Hill on Titanic in character
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 19: The movie "Titanic", written and directed by James Cameron. Seen here, Bernard Hill as Captain Edward James Smith. Initial USA theatrical wide release December 19, 1997. Screen capture. Paramount Pictures. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images) -Credit:CBS via Getty Images

Elijah Wood shared a photo of Bernard 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 Bernard, taken by Mortensen.

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

Bernard 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.

Bernard 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.

Bernard Hill as Yosser Hughes meets Graeme Souness in the TV drama Boys from the Blackstuff
Bernard Hill as Yosser Hughes meets Graeme Souness in the TV drama Boys from the Blackstuff -Credit:BBC Picture publicity

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.

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"

Bernard 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 Bernard’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 irascible.”

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.”

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