Bernard Hill obituary


The actor Bernard Hill, who has died aged 79, starred in two of the one three movies to have received 11 Oscars. In Titanic (1997), he was the ship’s captain, Edward Smith, whereas in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003), he reprised the position of King Théoden from the earlier instalment, The Two Towers (2002). Each elements drew on his grave, peremptory air, and his capacity to be concurrently fallible and resolute.

It was his fearsome but pitiful efficiency because the jobless labourer and single father Yosser Hughes, in Alan Bleasdale’s tragicomic BBC collection Boys from the Blackstuff (1982), that made him a tv star. The position got here to outline not solely Hill however a whole period. Yosser’s plaintive, hectoring catchphrase – “Gizza job” – was parroted in every single place from the Kop to the nook store, the playground to the dole queue. An unofficial novelty report, Gis’ a Job, was launched by the Blackstuff Lads. The phrase was even used because the title of a 1984 instructional movie on job interview methods.

Yosser traipses the streets with a zombie-like remorselessness, looking for work as his woebegone offspring (performed by Bleasdale’s kids) path behind him. The Liverpool Echo referred to as the character “an emblem of the desperation bred by unemployment”.

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Bernard Hill, centre, as King Théoden, with Viggo Mortensen, proper, as Aragorn, in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 2002. {Photograph}: Moviestore/Shutterstock

The collection, watched by greater than 5 million viewers on its preliminary broadcast, was a spin-off from Bleasdale’s tv play The Black Stuff (written in 1978 however not screened till 1980). Following a bunch of out-of-work tarmac-layers, the collection was extensively seen as a howl of anger towards the iniquities of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative authorities, although 4 of its 5 episodes had been written earlier than the Tories got here to energy. Nonetheless, they encapsulated a temper of fury and frustration.

Bleasdale wrote the a part of Yosser specifically for Hill, which the actor discovered “a bit worrying” for the reason that character communicates largely by the medium of the head-butt. His goal is normally different folks: a police officer, a haughty foreman. Typically, pushed to smash his brow towards a wall or the within of the confessional (“I’m determined, Dan,” he tells the priest), it’s himself.

His bodily look – smudged Chaplinesque moustache, hollowed eyes, cadaverous complexion – got here to Hill whereas capturing The Black Stuff, by which Yosser was overtly misogynistic and fewer sympathetic. “Because the character developed, I made a decision he would solely put on black garments,” he mentioned. “I believed the white make-up ought to be actually exaggerated to carry out the distinction.”

He had problem leaving the character behind on set. “I discovered myself consuming a bit extra and laughing a bit louder,” he mentioned in 1983. “There weren’t many moments once I may loosen up … For those who’re taking part in any person who’s heading for madness, you may as effectively go there your self and see what it’s like.”

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Bernard Hill as Captain Edward Smith within the 1997 movie Titanic. {Photograph}: twentieth Century Fox/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

Even after capturing had completed, the position stayed with him. “I discovered taking part in the half opened the doorways on my feelings and allow them to out. However to some extent, the door caught. Everybody has a shut-off valve on their feelings. I believe mine was barely broken taking part in Yosser, and it’ll take time to heal.”

His affiliation with Bleasdale continued within the author’s prickly black comedy No Give up (1985), set at a dilapidated Liverpool social membership the place teams of Catholics and Protestants have been double-booked for a New 12 months’s Eve bash. Reunited with Michael Angelis from Boys from the Blackstuff, Hill was sublimely deadpan because the grim-faced bouncer with a rockabilly quiff.

He was born in Blackley, Manchester. His father served within the Royal Navy throughout the conflict earlier than turning into a miner, whereas his mom labored within the kitchens of the ICI plant in Blackley. He was educated at St John Bosco major college and Xaverian school. Whereas coaching to develop into a amount surveyor, he acted in an novice theatre group, then utilized to Rada in London.

After being rejected twice, he started coaching to be a trainer at De La Salle Faculty in Manchester. It was there that Hill met a part-time tutor, the writer-director Mike Leigh, who inspired him to throw in his lot with appearing. Leigh had beforehand seen him carry out in 1968 with the Salford Gamers: “He was sensible,” he mentioned. Following his recommendation, Hill studied theatre at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan College), the place his classmates included his future Boys from the Blackstuff co-star Julie Walters.

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Bernard Hill in 1979. {Photograph}: Ian Bradshaw/Shutterstock

Leigh solid him within the tv movie Arduous Labour (1973) as a mechanic dwelling on a dreary property along with his spouse, performed by Alison Steadman. Hill then spent two years on the Everyman theatre in Liverpool, the place his roles included John Lennon in 1974 in Willy Russell’s John, Paul, George, Ringo … and Bert, which advised the story of the Beatles as much as and together with a fictional reunion.

The musical comedy co-starred Trevor Eve as Paul McCartney and Antony Sher as Ringo Starr, whereas Barbara Dickson carried out a choice of Beatles songs. George Harrison was mentioned to have disliked it a lot that he withdrew permission for using Right here Comes the Solar. Hill went with the manufacturing when it transferred to London, the place it ran for a 12 months and received the Night Commonplace award for greatest musical.

He was the Roman soldier Gratus in two episodes of the hit BBC collection I, Claudius (1976). After filming Bleasdale’s collection, he went straight into taking part in the Duke of York in a 1983 BBC adaptation of the three elements of Henry VI, then returned as First Assassin in Richard III.

Different roles included a sergeant in Gandhi (1982), a elimination man within the comedy The Chain, the Solidarity chief Lech Wałęsa in Tom Stoppard’s TV movie Squaring the Circle (each 1984) and a coroner drawn right into a homicide plot in Peter Greenaway’s arthouse oddity Drowning By Numbers (1988).

Amongst his most interesting post-Yosser roles was one other washed-up, down-at-heel father, this time within the taut kidnapping thriller Bellman and True (1987).

Hill was sacked from the 1986 Madonna / Sean Penn flop Shanghai Shock after reportedly crossing swords with Penn. Within the 1989 movie of Russell’s play Shirley Valentine, he was a slovenly Liverpudlian whose spouse (Pauline Collins) takes off to Greece searching for romance and fulfilment.

He additionally starred in Dennis Potter’s six-part collection Lipstick on Your Collar (1993), the lion-hunting journey The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) with Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood’s thriller True Crime (1999), and The Scorpion King (2002), which was a part of the Mummy franchise.

Having been nominated for a Bafta for Boys from the Blackstuff, he obtained a second nomination for enjoying the previous residence secretary David Blunkett within the BBC drama A Very Social Secretary (2005), reverse Robert Lindsay as Tony Blair. He additionally performed the Duke of Norfolk within the TV model of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Corridor (2015), and might at present be seen as the daddy of Martin Freeman’s character within the second collection of the BBC crime drama The Responder.

Hill is survived by Gabriel, his son from his marriage to the actor Marianna Schwarzkopf, which led to divorce, in addition to by a daughter, Jay, from an earlier relationship with Sue Allen.


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