Remembering Bernard Hill

Remembering Bernard Hill

When I heard the news that the great actor Bernard Hill had died, aged 79, I felt sad. Partly because of his talent, still vibrant in Lord of the Rings, on stage and in the memory as ‘Gissa job’ Yosser in the 80s. But also because he provided me with one of the greatest fun interviews in my time at SHE magazine in London.

This was post-Boys from the Blackstuff and a long way pre-Lord of the Rings. Hill was in early middle age and a springy individual. We’d arranged to meet at Joe Allen’s in Covent Garden. He arrived on time, recognisable, with a big smile. Food and wine came and went and the conversation flowed easily.

He was funny, and a charmer. I was compiling his responses to our new 20 Questions questionnaire. One was How do you want to be remembered? As a good actor and decent guy, he said and I am paraphrasing. Another, saucier question was What would your sexual fantasy be? He didn’t hesitate, said ‘Fishnet stockings and suspenders and me wearing them; then roared with laughter. And I am not paraphrasing here.

His cv included the role of the stoical, misguided captain in James Cameron’s Titanic. Hill also had a great stage track record and loved Shakespeare. He told me the cast knew that Alan Bleasdale’s ground breaking comedy about a group of unemployed Scousers, Boys from the Blackstuff, was important and would be a hit. It was both. Hill was a union man, Labour to the core.

He’d trained alongside the equally great Richard Griffiths (another memorable interview) at Manchester Poly, having twice failed the RADA entrance exam, and both had a certain ability to play outsiders. Married to Norman Schwauzkopf’s cousin Marianna, he had two children, the actor Gabriel and a daughter from a previous relationship. The craic was so mighty and the actor so flamboyant, I did wonder whether he might be gay but only in the old sense.

Time passed rapidly and too soon I had to return to my Soho office to type up Bernard Hill. What a man. RIP.

Jane Hardy

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