'Titanic' and 'Lord of the Rings' Actor Bernard Hill Had a Legendary Career

Although he was best known for major blockbusters, the role that launched Bernard Hill's career was on British TV.


May 6 2024, Published 9:56 a.m. ET

Bernard Hill attends Manchester Comic Con at Bowlers Exhibition Centre on July 30, 2022
Source: Getty Images

Although he's best known to American audiences for his central role in two major blockbusters, Bernard Hill had a long and varied career as an actor. Following the news of his death at the age of 79 on May 5, 2024, many are looking back not just at his roles in Titanic and the Lord of the Rings franchise, but also at some of his performances that are less well known.

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Even as fans look back on Bernard's storied career, though, some are also wondering what the actor's cause of death was. Here's what we know about the circumstances surrounding Bernard's death.

Bernard Hill in 'Titanic.'
Source: Paramount Pictures
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What was Bernard Hill's cause of death?

Bernard's death was announced by a representative of Lou Coulson Associates, which is a British talent agency. The statement didn't include any mention of where Bernard had died or what his cause of death was.

It isn't clear whether or not more information will be made available. Despite Bernard's major role in two huge movies, his personal life was relatively private, and it's possible that his family wanted his death to be as well.

Bernard Hill is a movie icon.

Although you may not have even realized it until someone told you, the fact that Bernard is in both Titanic and Lord of the Rings meant that he was the first person to be in two separate movies that earned over $1 billion at the global box office. On top of that, he's in two of the three films that earned a record 11 Oscars at the Academy Awards.

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In Titanic, Bernard played the ship's captain, a man on his final voyage who works along with his crew to save as many of his passengers as possible before the ship sinks.

Bernard's final moments in the film, in which he walks in a daze to the helm and stands there as water bursts through the windows, ensuring that he'll go down with the ship, are some of the most chilling in the movie.

Source: Twitter/@elijahwood
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Bernard's role in The Lord of the Rings franchise might be even more crucial. He played King Theoden, a man who slowly awakens to the need to fight Saruman and amasses the armies of Rohan for the task. He returned in the film's final installment when Rohan aided the kingdom of Gondor in their own battle against the forces of evil.

In addition to those two signature roles, Bernard worked for decades in British theater and television. He claimed that his role as Yosser Hughes on British TV in the 1980s was the one that actually changed his life. Bernard first played the role in the TV movie The Black Stuff, and later reprised the role in a miniseries.

Given the dramatic feats that most Americans associate Bernard with, it may be surprising to learn that this early work was primarily comedic. It wasn't until later in his career that he began to flex his more dramatic muscles, and when he finally started doing so, it was to great effect.

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