Bernard Hill, Actor in ‘Titanic’ and ‘Lord of the Rings,’ Dies at 79

Bernard Hill, a British actor who incarnated a humble style of masculine leadership in three hugely successful Hollywood movies, “Titanic” and two films in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise, died on Sunday. He was 79.

His death was announced in a family statement sent by a representative of Lou Coulson Associates, a British talent agency. It did not say where he died or provide a cause.

Mr. Hill drew praise from critics for his work in serious TV dramas, small-budget films and theater. But he was best known for playing the ship’s captain in “Titanic” (1997) and the ruler of a horsemen’s kingdom in the second and third installments of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Two Towers” (2002) and “The Return of the King” (2003).

By appearing in “Titanic” and “The Return of the King,” Mr. Hill became the first actor to star in more than one film to gross over $1 billion and the only actor to appear in two of the three films to win a record 11 Oscars (the third is “Ben-Hur”), The Manchester Evening News reported in 2022.

In each film, his stout frame, bushy whiskers and weathered visage helped him embody men of authority who faced danger with reluctance, then acceptance and, finally, self-sacrificial stoicism.

In “Titanic,” he was Capt. Edward J. Smith. Early in the movie, he grasps the ship’s railing, looks out to sea and instructs one of his crew to increase the ship’s speed: “Let’s stretch her legs,” he declares. The movie ultimately suggests that the undue speed of the ship is a factor in its fatal collision with an iceberg.

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