Bernard Hill (born 17 December 1944) is a British actor of film, stage and television. Widely recognised in his home country through a career of more than thirty years, he has been seen worldwide in two roles: as the captain of the Titanic (1997 version), and as King Théoden in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. These are among the most popular and award-winning films of all time.
Previously, he had taken smaller parts in a number of British television dramas, notably appearing as the no-nonsense Roman soldier Gratus in I, Claudius (1976). He also played the Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York in the BBC's 1982 productions of Shakespeare's Henry VI plays. Also on TV, he played the part of Tom Higdon in The Burston Rebellion (1985) and Mike in Edward Bond's Olly's Prison (1993). Hill was also a character in the movie Scorpion King , in which he was a scientist and inventor. He has also played a small role in the film the Ghost and the darkness he played the dr.
In addition to TV roles, Hill appeared on stage in both The Cherry Orchard (Aldwych Theatre) and in the title role in Macbeth (Leicester Haymarket Theatre, 1986). He played the coroner Madgett in Peter Greenaway's film Drowning by Numbers (1988).
He played the RMS Titanic's Captain Edward J. Smith in James Cameron's 1997 movie blockbuster Titanic. He appeared as Egeus in the 1999 film version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', this version being set in 19th Century Tuscany, alongside such celebrities as Kevin Kline, Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Michelle Pfeiffer and others. He has been in three different versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Hill was cast in the role of King Théoden of Rohan in the second and third of Peter Jackson's movies based on Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). Before casting him as King Théoden, director Peter Jackson considered Hill for the part of Gandalf. When he was due to leave the set at the end of production, Peter Jackson gave Hill two gifts, Théoden's helmet and sword Herugrim.
Bernard Hill is the only actor to appear in more than one of the most Oscar-awarded movies of all times, namely Titanic and The Return of the King, both of which were awarded 11 Oscars — Ben-Hur in 1959 being the only other film to win 11 Oscars. Through these two movies, Hill was also the first actor to have been in two movies earning more than one billion US dollars at the box office worldwide (the only other being Orlando Bloom, his Rings co-star). His birthdate coincides with The Return of the King's release date.
Hill was also nominated for the award of 'best actor' at the 2006 BAFTA Television Awards for his portrayal of David Blunkett in the one-off satirical drama A Very Social Secretary (2005). However, Mark Rylance won the award for his role in The Government Inspector. In 2004 Hill read famous quotations about religion and atheism in the documentary Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, written by Jonathan Miller.