Lord of the Rings cast pay tribute to Bernard Hill, who has died aged 79

May 06, 2024
Bernard Hill in full flow as King Théoden in the Lord of the Rings
Bernard Hill in full flow as King Théoden in the Lord of the Rings

LONDON — The cast of The Lords of the Rings have paid tribute to their co-star Bernard Hill, who has died aged 79.

The actor -- who played King Théoden in Peter Jackson's trilogy -- passed away early on Sunday morning.

Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan and Sean Astin, who played the four hobbits in the films, said goodbye to their "funny, gruff, beautiful" friend.

They told Comic Con fans in Liverpool they had lost a "family member".

Hill had been due to appear at the Merseyside event but had pulled out.

His co-stars from the films, based on JRR Tolkien's classic fantasy novels, stood up together on stage to share their thoughts on his passing.

Astin, who played Frodo's faithful companion Samwise Gamgee in the trilogy, began by saying: "So we lost a member of our family this morning, Bernard Hill passed, King Théoden.

"So we want to take a moment before we walk off the stage to honor him.

"We love him. He was intrepid, he was funny, he was gruff, he was irascible, he was beautiful."

Boyd, who played Pippin, recounted watching the trilogy with Monaghan, saying: "I don't think anyone spoke Tolkien's words as great as Bernard did. The way he grounded those words in a realism.

"He would break my heart. He will be solely missed."

Hill's fiancee Alison and son Gabriel were with him when he died.

The Manchester-born actor joined the cast of The Lord of the Rings for the second film in the trilogy, 2002's The Two Towers, and returned to the franchise for 2003's The Return Of The King, which picked up 11 Oscars.

He was also well known for his role as Captain Edward Smith in Titanic.

But Hill's breakout role was in 1982 BBC TV drama Boys from the Blackstuff, where he portrayed Yosser Hughes, a character who struggled - and often failed - to cope with unemployment in Liverpool.

Alan Bleasdale, who wrote Boys from the Blackstuff, said Hill's death was "a great loss and also a great surprise".

"It was an astonishing, mesmeric performance - Bernard gave everything to that and you can see it in all the scenes. He became Yosser Hughes."

He added: "I was desperate to work with him. Everything he did - his whole procedure for working, the manner in which he worked and his performance was everything that you could ever wish for.

"You always felt that Bernard would live forever. He had a great strength, physically and of personality."

Hill was due to return to TV screens in series two of The Responder, a BBC drama starring Martin Freeman, which begins airing on Sunday.

Lindsay Salt, director of BBC Drama, paid tribute to him, saying: "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."

In Boys from the Blackstuff, Hill drew praise for his gritty portrayal of Yosser Hughes, an intense and memorable character who pleaded "Gizza [give us a] job" as he sought work.

That show won a Bafta for best drama series in 1983, and in 2000 it was ranked seventh on a British Film Institute list of the best TV shows ever made.

Another of Hill's memorable BBC TV performances came in the 2015 drama series Wolf Hall, adapted from Hilary Mantel's book about the court of Henry VIII. Hill portrayed the Duke of Norfolk - an uncle of Anne Boleyn and an enemy of Cardinal Wolsey.

Other roles in Hill's decades-long career included the 1976 BBC TV series I, Claudius, an appearance in 1982's Gandhi, Shirley Valentine in 1989, The Scorpion King in 2002 and 2008 Tom Cruise film Valkyrie.

He was meant to be at Comic Con Liverpool on Saturday, but had to cancel at the last minute, the convention said in a post on X. As news of his death broke, the organizers said on the platform they were "heartbroken" at Hill's death, and wished his family "a lot of strength".

Scottish musician Barbara Dickson also paid tribute on X, saying he had been "a really marvellous actor".

She added: "It was a privilege to have crossed paths with him. RIP Benny x." — BBC

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