This unrated actor appeared in two films that won Oscars

Bernard Hill Probably the most unpopular and underrated actor of our time, but he is the only one who has the privilege of playing two characters in two separate films with 11 Academy Awards. He had the honor of playing Captain Edward Smith in the James Cameron‘s Titanic, And the honorable King Theoden The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. While his name isn’t mentioned when talking about actors who have changed the game, or had a huge influence, this achievement is his hat and only his hat. This is not just luck, or it is just a coincidence. Hill manages to portray a humanism that creates both images in one text, one based on fiction and the other based on historical events.

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Who did Bernard Hill play in ‘Titanic’?

Bernard Hill as Captain Smith in Titanic (1997)
Image via Paramount Pictures

in Titanic, the entire plot of the film focuses on the love story of Jack and Rose, two star-crossed lovers destined to meet each other in the worst situation. While the film depicts the career transition of the highest-grossing star Leonardo DiCaprio And Kate Winslet, there are other factors that make it great. It is necessary to note that ‘Titanic’ image, garners most of its basis from the said ‘Titanic’.

Instead of just focusing on romance for the ages, it also evokes the sense of panic, fear, and dread of its unfortunate passengers. However, it excels in presenting the human condition of the captain, who based on the responsibility of the command, is ultimately responsible for all the proceedings on the ship, and the last moments of its journey. Hill’s character is a much needed shot of character actor gravitas, his performance helping the audience feel the guilt and true despair Captain Smith must have felt during the final events of the ship. Captain Smith is the representation of the fallibility of men.

For example, while he recognized early on that there were warnings about icebergs, he willingly rejected these ideas. He didn’t really understand that the ship was unsinkable, but he could have done something more to avoid the disaster. When the inevitable happened, you could sense a change in Hill’s demeanor. The inflections of his face are representative of a plethora of emotions, from terrified to acceptance.

In one of the most iconic sequences in the film, he expresses the old adage that a captain always goes down with the ship. When he realized that all hope was definitely lost, he walked back into the wheelchair and held his helmet, waiting for the pressure to come. The window finally breaks, and for a split second, the audience can imagine themselves in the shoe’s shoes. The captain is willing to correct his mistakes, no matter how futile his efforts. Captain Smith is a reminder of human folly from a bygone era, but Bernard Hill made it an enduring image, one that continues to resonate in popular culture.

Who did Bernard Hill play in ‘The Lord of the Rings’?

Bernard Hill as Theodan in Lord of the Rings
Image via New Line Cinema

Quite similar to the role he filled in the first of the two award-winning films, Hill was cast as the King of Rohan in Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Like Captain Smith, Theoden son of Thengel represents an important figure for men, in an age where hope is lost, and the light is slowly fading. His title may be that of king, but his land is considered second fiddle to Gondor. Men have a relationship with honor after all, and Theoden is an examination of what happens when there is a lack of it compared to your very present.

He suffered catastrophic losses. Theoden lost his only son Theodred to the evil forces of Mordor. He is on a constant mission to protect his people from impending doom, ending up at Helms Deep nearly wiping out their entire population. Here, he faces the task of riding out to defend Gondor, a city that has never received their help. However, as he understood that this was where the final battle for freedom would be held, he bravely gathered his army to defend not only Minas Tirith, but the entire race of men. In charge of the Pelennor Fields was the shaking of the bones, and his leadership led to a gathering that seemed uninfluenced until the Nazgul appeared. The end of King Theoden is near and is played perfectly by Hill in a sequence that evokes pure emotion.

The Witch King of Angmar, ordered his beast to pounce on the helpless king. Before its mouth reaches the king, we see Theoden’s face showing fear and disappointment and is later thrown to the ground in front of his niece, Eowyn. In what can be called a miracle, Eowyn kills The Witch King, but her uncle’s fate is already determined. With the last of his strength, he sends a farewell message and meets his creator. It’s a wonderful scene, one of the saddest of the trilogy. With his portrayal of the character, Hill drives home the point of Theoden’s character. He is flawed and may have failed his own people, but he has done so with love, intelligence, and the love of a leader who only wants the best for his kingdom.

How are these roles of Bernard Hill similar?

Bernard Hill as Theoden at Helm's Deep in 'The Lord of the Rings'
Image via New Line Cinema

Smith and Theoden, in more ways than one, are connected. Both are leaders with their own triumphs and failures but are truly selfless in the face of adversity. While neither of them may be the main show, or even the selling point of the two blockbusters, they are important pillars of their own narratives. In illustration, they represent what it means to be truly human, both in glory and in defeat.

Bernard Hill is not one to follow fame. Instead, he is the opposite, rarely appearing in the press or being bothered by the press. He continues to be the epitome of great character actors, who do not overshadow the performances of the leads but complement them in many ways. Maybe it’s because of his personality that people don’t give him as much credit as he deserves. However, he is still the only man who has starred in two films that have won 11 Academy Awards. Both of his characters may have died of food, but his remarkable achievement will be remembered in the history of cinema, at least until another actor enters this conversation. For now, Bernard Hill is the only one who can have that famous distinction.

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