Hill, Bernard

Bernard Hill plays Théoden, the King of Rohan.
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Biographical Info:

Bernard Hill was born on the 17th December, 1944, in a Catholic, working-class family in Manchester, England. He studied at Manchester Polytechnic, gaining a Diploma in Theatre in 1970.

He worked in theatre and television through the 1970s, and had roles in the television series “I, Claudius” and the film “Gandhi”. His first major television role was as Yosser Hughes in the early 1980s series “The Boys from the Blackstuff”, Alan Bleasdale’s gritty drama about unemployment and depression in working-class Northern England. The realism of the experience left Bernard emotionally scarred, and he refuses to talk much about the series even today. However, his portrayal of Yosser Hughes did win him his first award, the Press Guild’s award for Achievement of the Decade. He also won critical acclaim for his stage and screen performances in a number of Shakespeare plays, and took roles in a number of cult English films such as “Bellman and True” and “Squaring the Circle”.

He started taking major international roles in the 1990s, with his most memorable performance before Théoden being as Captain Smith in “Titanic”. In 1994, he received a British Academy award for his starring role in Skallagrigg.

Bernard was originally auditioned for Gandalf, but was not deemed suitable for the role. However, Peter Jackson kept pursuing him, and in autumn 1999, while directing a UK production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, he borrowed a camera and a Rohan-esque barn from a friend and taped himself in a Théoden scene using lines supplied by Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh. When Peter Jackson saw the tape, he immediately offered Bernard the role of the Rohan king.

The Lord of the Rings

Bernard had first read “The Lord of the Rings” in 1977, when he received a copy for his birthday. However, it doesn’t seem that he was over-enamoured with the book initially: “I can’t own up to having read it all, it is a bit of a heavy read, but I read the second and third books when I heard that we were going to do this.” However, from those meagre readings he managed to get a good idea of Tolkien’s Théoden: “I was leaning towards a kind of old Celtic king, an Irish king. The idea of Henry V came to me as well. I wanted him to be somebody who led from the front. Not a general who stood on a hill directing troops, but someone who went out with a sharpened sword and put life and limb on the line.”

Bernard became good friends with both Viggo Mortensen and Peter Jackson during the long filming in New Zealand. When his son came to stay with him for a while, the two of them spent a good deal of time with Peter Jackson and his son Billy. He loved the country, and spent some of his leisure time skiing and bungee jumping. Bernard also joined in the cast injuries list, cracking his sternum while shooting a fight scene.

Personal life

Bernard has a young son, Gabriel, and a daughter, Jay, from a previous relationship. He is married to a film editor. He lives now in the Waveney valley on the Suffolk-Norfolk border in the east of England, in a 16th century farmhouse.

He loves horses, and has spent time with Monty Roberts out in America learning his training methods. He also wants to get involved in Monty Roberts’ work for children through his International Learning Centre.

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Wimbledon (2004) .... Edward Colt
"The Grid" (2004) (mini) TV Series .... MI5 Agent Derek Jennings

More: Bernard Hill on IMDb