Actor Bernard Hill, who starred in 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Titanic,' dies at 79

Bernard Hill, the British actor best known for his portrayal of embattled King Théoden in two of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy films and the stoic Capt. Edward Smith in “Titanic,” has died. He was 79.

Hill died early Sunday, his agent Lou Coulson confirmed to the BBC. No cause was given.

The actor’s breakout role was in the 1982 BBC series “Boys From the Blackstuff,” playing Yosser Hughes, a working-class man dealing with unemployment in Liverpool. The series aired during a time of high unemployment in England, and his character’s catchphrase “gizza job” (“give us a job”) became a popular buzzword across the country.

Hill had a long and prolific career, appearing in both critically acclaimed television, including the 1976 BBC series “I, Claudius,” and films, among them Richard Attenborough’s 1982 picture “Gandhi,” as well as the 2002 movie “The Scorpion King” and 2008’s “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise.

In 2015, Hill played the Duke of Norfolk in “Wolf Hall,” an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s book about the court of Henry VIII.

Most recently, Hill starred in the BBC police drama “The Responder.” Its second season is set to air Sunday.

Hill was born Dec. 17, 1944, in Manchester to a strict Catholic mining family. He expressed surprise that he had become a successful actor, telling Oxford University’s student paper: “From my social life, my peers, my family, there was no indication that this is where I should go.”

He attended Xaverian College in Manchester and the Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama. At drama school, he became entranced by David Warner’s performance of “Hamlet.” “I just wanted to do what he was doing,” he said.

Hill later worked with Warner, who played Billy Zane’s villainous henchman Spicer Lovejoy, in the blockbuster 1997 film “Titanic”

Alan Bleasdale, who wrote “Boys From the Blackstuff,” told the BBC that Hill’s death was “a great loss and also a great surprise.”

“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,” said Bleasdale. “You always felt that Bernard would live forever. He had a great strength, physically and of personality.”

Hill is survived by his wife, Marianna Hill, and their son, Gabriel.

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