Boys from the Blackstuff
British actor of film, television and stage Bernard Hill gained widespread attention thanks to his portrayal of a road worker, Yosser Hughes, on Alan Bleasdale's groundbreaking television drama, “Boys from the Blackstuff” (1980), where he also took home a Broadcasting Press Guild Award and a BAFTA TV nomination for her performance. He received further notice for playing iconic roles in blockbuster films like Captain Edward John Smith in “Titanic” (1997) and King Théoden in the last two films of “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy. Along with Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, Hill becomes the only three actors to have appeared in more than one films grossing over $1 billion in the box office, thanks to his work on “Titanic” (1997) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003). He has appeared in three films that have won Best Picture at Oscars: “Gandhi” (1982), “Titanic” and “The Return of the King.” More recently, Hill was put back on the TV spotlight with his acclaimed portrayal of David Blunkett in the BBC TV film “A Very Social Secretary” (2005), from which he picked up a BAFTA nomination and an International Emmy nomination.
Hill is married, and the father of one son. He is a longtime supporter of Manchester United FC. He has a purple belt in karate and is a skilled horseback rider.
Childhood and Family:
Bernard Hill was born on December 17, 1944, in Manchester, England. He attended Xaverian College (then known as Xaverian School) and then Manchester Polytechnic School of Drama, where he was schoolmates with Richard Griffiths. He received a diploma in Theatre in 1970.
Mr. Hill is married, and has a son named Gabriel. He now resides in Suffolk.
The Return of the King
Bernard Hill made his first television appearance as Edward in “Hard Labour” (1973), a television film directed by Mike Leigh and produced by Tony Garnett that aired as part of the BBC anthology series “Play for Today.” In the following year, he debuted on stage in Willy Russell's “John, Paul, George, Ringo... and Bert” at London's Lyric Theatre. There he played the role of John Lennon. He went on to break the cinematic industry with a supporting role as Syph in “ It Could Happen To You,” a 1975 British movie directed by Stanley A. Long and starring Eric Deacon, Victoria Williams and Martin Skinner.
In 1976, Hill was cast as Gratus in the successful BBC television adaptation of Robert Graves's “I, Claudius” and “Claudius the God,” “I, Claudius,” starring Derek Jacobi as Claudius. The same year, he also appeared as 'Blind' Freddie in the action film “A Dirty Knight's Work,” directed by Kevin Connor and starring John Mills and Donald Pleasence. Hill next played Mr. Morton in six episodes of “Rooms” (1977), had a small part in the film adaptation of David Garnett's “The Sailor's Return” (1978), which was directed by Jack Gold and starred Tom Bell, and appeared on stage in a production of Shakespeare's “Twelfth Night” (1978) at London's Young Vic, where he played Toby Belch. He also guest starred in several British series during this period, including “Premiere” (1977), “Pickersgill People” (1978) and “Telford's Change” (1979).
In late 1970s, Hill filmed the starring role of the troubled 'hard man' whose life is falling apart, Yosser Hughes, in the television play “The Black Stuff,” which was originally written by Alan Bleasdale for the British anthology series “Play for Today” in 1978. The production, however, was shelved until it was broadcast on January 2, 1980. The critical acclaim that the show earned on its eventual transmission led to the creation of the sequel serial, “Boys from the Blackstuff,” which aired on BBC2 from October 10 to November 7 1982. Hill reprised his role as Yosser Hughes on the more famous sequel, and received a Broadcasting Press Guild for Best actor and a BAFTA TV nomination in the same category for his performance. Prior to his success on “Boys from the Blackstuff,” Hill played the title role on the ITV series “Fox” (1980), opposite Derrick O'Connor and Larry Lamb.
Next up for Hill, he was cast as Sergeant Putnam in the biopic “Gandhi” (1982), based on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who led the peaceful resistance movement against British colonial rule in India during the first half of the 20th century. Directed and produced by Richard Attenborough and starring by Ben Kingsley, the film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won eight awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. It grossed over $52.7 million at the box office against a budget of $22 million. He also played roles in television films such as “Henry the Sixth” (1983, as Duke of York), “The Tragedy of Richard III” (1983, as Sir William Brandon), “Squaring the Circle” (1984, as Lech Walesa), “Theban Plays: Antigone” (1984) and “John Lennon: A Journey in the Life” (1985, as John Lennon). After appearing in the British drama film “Runners” (1983), Hill supported Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Olivier in Roger Donaldson's “The Bounty” (1984), was cast in Jack Gold's “The Chain” (1984), played the father of Vincent Friell in the comedy film “Restless Native” (1985), directed by Michael Hoffman, and portrayed Bernard in the black comedy “No Surrender” (1985), written by Alan Bleasdale. The remaining of the decade saw roles in such films as “New World” (1986, TV), “Milwr Bychan” (1986), “The Great White Mountain” (1986, TV), Richard Loncraine's “Bellman and True” (1987), in which he portrayed a computer systems analyst and hero, “Drowning by Numbers” (1988), “The Fremantle Conspiracy” (1988, TV) and Lewis Gilbert's “Shirley Valentine” (1989), in which he was cast a loutish husband. Meanwhile, on stage, Hill played Howard in “Short List” (1983) at the Hampstead Theatre, Machbeth in a Haymarket Theatre production of “Macbeth” (1986) and Lopakhin in “The Cherry Orchard” (1989) at the Aldwych Theatre.
In 1990, Hill was featured as Dr. David Livingstone in “Mountains of the Moon,” a film depicting the 1857-58 journey of Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke in their expedition to central Africa, the project that culminated in Speke's discovery of the source of the Nile River. He played Ignatious 'Iggy' Smith in “Double X: The Name of the Game” (1992), a British thriller movie starring Norman Wisdom, William Katt and Gemma Craven, and had the starring role of Tam Ferrier
in Bob Keen's “Shepherd on the Rock” (1993). He was cast as Uncle Fred in the 1993 TV miniseries “Lipstick on Your Collar,” starred as Det. Sgt. Gavin Douglas in the thriller series “Telltale” (1993) and played Chief Constable Harmsworth in two episodes of “ Between the Lines” (1993). In 1994, he starred as Len Tollit in the BBC comedy series “Once Upon a Time in the North”as well as starred in the TV films “ Dirtysomething,” with Rachel Weisz, and “Skallagrigg,” as John, both were aired as part of “Screen Two” in 1994. 1995 found roles in the films “The Big Game” (TV, as Mr. Harper), “First Knight” and “Madagascar Skin” (as Flint) as well as in the TV miniseries “The Gambling Man” (as Frank Nickle).
Hill co-starred with Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas in “ The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996), an American adventure film directed by Stephen Hopkins and written by William Goldman, played The Engine Driver in the film adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's classic novel, “Mr. Toad's Wild Ride” (1996), helmed and scripted by Terry Jones, and appeared with Emily Watson, Cheryl Campbell and James Frain in the TV film “The Mill on the Floss” (1997) before landing the iconic role of Captain Edward James Smith in the James Cameron blockbuster movie “Titanic” (1997), opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The film grossed a total of $1,843,201,268 worldwide against a budget of $200 million, making it the highest grossing film in history for 12 years until “Avatar” (also directed and written by Cameron) surpassed it in 2010. “Titanic” gained mostly positive reviews from critics, and picked up 11 Oscars, including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Costume Design, to name a few. For his acting, Hill shared a 1998 Screen Actors Guild nomination in the category of Outstanding Performance by a Cast. Hill went on to appear in films like “The Titanic Chronicles” (1999, as Captain S. Lord), “The Criminal” (1999, as Det. Insp. Walker), Clint Eastwood's box office dud, “True Crime” (1999, as Warden Luther Plunkitt), “A Midsummer Night's Dream” (1999, as Egeus) and “The Loss of Sexual Innocence” (1999, as Susan's Father).
Entering the new millennium, Hill appeared in Tim Disney's “A Question of Faith” (2000, starred Naveen Andrews, Michael Cudlitz and Paul Guilfoyle), Jim Doyle's “Going Off Big Time” (2000) and Chuck Russell's “The Scorpion King” (2002), in which he portrayed Philos, before landing the role of King Theoden in Peter Jackson's “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002), the second film in “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy. The film received high critical acclaim and was an large success at the box office. With a budget of $94 million, the film collected over $925 million worldwide, and currently becomes the 17th highest grossing film of all time. It was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, and won two categories for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects. Hill jointly netted an Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast and a Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast as well as a DVD Exclusive nomination for Best Audio Commentary and a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Hill reprised his role as King Theoden on the last sequel “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003). The film garnered rave reviews, and notably won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Music, Original Score, Best Music, Original Song, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. It grossed $1,119,110,941, making it the highest grossing film of 2003 worldwide. For his efforts, Hill shared a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast, a National Board of Review Award for Best Cast, a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and a Phoenix Film Critics Society nomination for Best Cast.
Also in 2003, Hill portrayed Phil Parsons in the thrillrr movie “ Gothika,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Halle Berry, and John Joe in Joh Irvin's “The Boys & Girl from County Clare,” opposite Colm Meaney and Shaun Evans. He then appeared in the romance/comedy “ Wimbledon” (2004), starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, “Midsummer Dream” (2005, as Theseus (voice: English version)), Steve Bendelack's “The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse” (2005, as King William III), Reg Traviss's “Joy Division” (2006), “The Heart of the Earth” (2007), “ Exodus” (2007) and “Save Angel Hope” (2007). Around this time, Hill also worked in a string of television projects. He played Agent Derek Jennings in the 2004 miniseries “The Grid,” and David Blunkett in the 2005 TV film “ A Very Social Secretary,” from which he received a BAFTA TV nomination for Best Actor and an Emmy International for Best Performance by an Actor, as well as narrated the TV films “ Raphael: A Mortal God” (2004) and “Heatwave” (2005) and the TV series “ Surviving Disaster” (2006).
In 2008, Hill appeared as Grettongrat in an episode of the TV miniseries “Fairy Tales” called “Billy Goat,” and portrayed the dying grandfather, George Crosby, in the BBC drama series “Sunshine,” opposite Steve Coogan. The same year, he also appeared in two films, Gerald McMorrow's “Franklyn,” opposite Ryan Phillippe and Sam Riley, and Bryan Singer's “Valkyrie,” where he was cast as the commanding general of the German Afrika Korp X Panzer Division. Hill resurfaced on television in 2010 when he portrayed Gerard Hopkirk in the BBC series “Five Days” and John Darwin in the TV film “Canoe Man.” The same year, he also portaryed Uncle David in the drama film “The Kid,” directed by Nick Moran.
Recently, in 2011, Hill has completed filming two short films: “The Wraith” and “Analogue Love.” Hill will provide the voice of The Judge in the upcoming 3D stop-motion animated comedy thriller film “ParaNorman” (2012), directed by Sam Fell and Chris Butler. The film will also star the voices of Casey Affleck, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Alex Borstein and Jodelle Ferland.
Screen Actors Guild : Actor, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” 2004
Broadcast Film Critics Association: Critics Choice Award, Best Acting Ensemble, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” 2003
National Board of Review (NBR): Best Acting by an Ensemble, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” 2003
Online Film Critics Society (OFCS): Best Ensemble, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” 2003
Phoenix Film Critics Society (PFCS): Best Acting Ensemble, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” 2003
Broadcasting Press Guild: Best Actor, “Boys from the Blackstuff,” 1983