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What Happened to Bernard Hill While Shooting ‘The Lord of the Rings?’ His Painful Encounters, Explained


Peter Jackson’s beloved The Lord of the Rings trilogy was quite dangerous for the cast and crew, who suffered multiple accidents during filming. Bernard Hill, for instance, sustained two injuries while playing Théoden, the King of Rohan.

Appearing for the first time in The Lords of the Rings: The Two Towers, Théoden is the King of Rohan, the land of the horserider warriors of Middle-earth. In the movie, the King is under the evil influence of Saruman (Christopher Lee) until Gandalf (Ian McKellen) breaks his curse. Under the White Wizard’s invasion threat, King Théoden leads his people to the Helm’s Deep, a fortress that uses the mountains as protection. 

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is one of the most memorable moments in the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy and arguably surpasses the Gondor’s Siege in The Lords of the Rings: Return of the King. The lengthy and gritty medieval war is a cinema feat like no other. However, Hill literally spilled his blood for the battle to be captured in film.

Bernard Hill’s The Lord of the Rings injuries, explained

Bernard Hill as King Theoden in The Lord of the Rings
Image via New Line Cinema

Despite being released over two decades ago, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is still visually impressive. The whole trilogy aged so well because Jackson and his crew used practical effects and had all the main actors learn to fight with swords. It was the same for Hill, who fought with a blade in his hands during the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

While the action set pieces of The Lord of the Rings are nothing less than extraordinary, there’s some danger in emulating such ferocious duels. In the Extended Edition DVD, which came with commentary tracks and interviews, Hill revealed that, during the filming of The Two Towers, he fractured his sternum, the vertical bone located in front of the ribcage. Ouch!

But this wasn’t the only injury he sustained.

After he recovered and got back on set, he then accidentally slashed his ear with a sword. Sadly, that is as far as Hill goes with his accident descriptions, and we don’t know exactly how he got hurt. That means we cannot do the same with Hill’s Théodhen as with Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn, pausing The Two Towers to show other people exactly when he broke his toe.

Théoden is Hill’s most beloved character, whose speeches move the audience whenever the wise king tries to inspire his people. The behind-the-scenes trivia only makes things more interesting, as we realize that the late Bernard Hill was so committed to the role that he even put himself at risk for Théoden to shine.


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