Bernard Hill was 'a natural' for Blackstuff part

Bernard Hill as Yosser Hughes
"Gizza a job" became a national catchphrase [BBC]

The man who gave actor Bernard Hill his big TV break said he was a "natural" for the part.

Alan Bleasdale, who wrote BBC One's Bafta award-winning Boys From The Blackstuff, said Hill's performance as Yosser Hughes was "everything you could wish for".

Hill, also known for roles in Titanic and Lord of the Rings, has died aged 79.

Bleasdale said he and his family were "stunned and devastated" by his death.

The Liverpudlian screenwriter said his children were "heartbroken" as they had played the actor's onscreen offspring in the 80s drama.

"He was a big soft kid in many ways - very easy and very gentle with children," he said.

"That was reflected in the performance in Blackstuff of our children who were not actors but were at ease with him.

"He was like their second dad - they loved him, they adored him.

"He lived around the corner and, when he wasn't working, he was always at ours."

'Gizza job'

The drama about the disintegrating lives of unemployed Liverpool construction workers made Hill a household name with Yosser Hughes' despairing cry of "gizza job" becoming a national catchphrase.

"I knew what was happening and I knew it would bring him the success he deserved," Bleasdale said.

He first saw the Mancunian performing at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre in Willy Russell's John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert.

Bleasdale said: "He was a sensational John Lennon and, later, an astonishing Macbeth at the Everyman.

"I was desperate to work with him and, as I was writing Boys From The Blackstuff, I knew the part had to be an extraordinary character who had to be mesmeric and dangerous.

"I could only think of one person - it was always Bernard Hill."

Alan Bleasdale
Alan Bleasdale said he was devastated by Hill's death [BBC]

The pair wanted to meet but kept missing each other on their daily runs around Newsham Park in Liverpool.

"I ran round his route and he ran round mine and we kept missing each other," the screenwriter recalled.

Hill went on to star in movies such as Gandhi, Titanic and Lord Of The Rings.

He also appeared in Bleasdale's only big screen offering, playing the tacticturn club bouncer and former Foreign Legionnaire Bernard in the dark comedy No Surrender.

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Lord of the Rings actor Bernard Hill dies aged 79