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

Updated May 5, 2024 at 2:34 PM ET

English actor Bernard Hill, best known for roles in Titanic and The Lord of the Rings, died on Sunday. He was 79.

Hill's agent, Lou Coulson, confirmed his death to NPR. Coulson said Hill was with his fiance and son at the time.

Hill's acting career spanned over 50 years both onscreen and on-stage. His latest role aired Sunday as the main character's father in the BBC show The Responder.

Lindsay Salt, the director of BBC drama, described Hill as a one-of-a-kind actor.

"His long-lasting career filled with iconic and remarkable roles is a testament to his incredible talent," Salt said in a statement.

One of Hill's most memorable performances was in the 1997 Oscar-winning film Titanic. Playing Captain Edward John Smith, Hill showcased a chilling combination of shock and guilt as water gushed into the ship's wheelhouse.

In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Hill showed his versatility as King Théoden of Rohan. In one scene, Hill's character is weak and decrepit. In another, he is leading a cavalry charge with the iconic words "Arise! Arise! Riders of Théoden!"

Hill, a native of Manchester, England, was also praised for his role as Yosser Hughes in Boys from the Blackstuff, a British show about a group of men navigating Liverpool during a time of high unemployment and a struggling economy.

Over the decades, Hill received several nominations and awards for his performances, including an award from the Screen Actors Guild for his role in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
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