Philip Baker Hall, the prolific character actor known for his roles in films like Boogie Nights and Magnolia and shows such as Seinfeld and Modern Family, has died. He was 90.
Hall’s wife of nearly 40 years, Holly Wolfle Hall, confirmed the news to Associated Press, saying he died on Sunday June 12 in Glendale, California surrounded by loved ones.
Hall had an impressive career of over six decades, holding roles in some of the most beloved movies and television of the modern era.
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His most memorable turns in film include playing the IRS Boss in Say Anything, Sydney in Hard Eight, Floyd Gondolli in Boogie Nights, Jimmy Gator in Magnolia, Jack Baylor in Bruce Almighty, Sherwood Morrill in Zodiac and a CIA director in Argo.
When it came to TV, Hall gave over 200 guest performances, including as library cop Joe Bookman on Seinfeld, Senator Matt Hunt on The West Wing, Dr. Morrison on Curb Your Enthusiasm and Walt Kleezak on Modern Family. Watch Hall with his on-screen pal, Nolan Gould‘s Luke Dunphy, above, as well as his iconic lashing of Jerry Seinfeld.
Born in Toledo, Ohio on September 10, 1931, Hall began his career as a United States Army translator in Germany and a high school teacher before pursuing acting as he entered his 40s.
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His film debut came in 1970 with Cowards, about the Vietnam War draft evasion, which screened at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. His first TV guest roles came in the ’70s on Good Times (1976), M*A*S*H (1977) and Man From Atlantis (1977).
Film work picked up for Hall during the ’80s, when he starred as Richard Nixon in Secret Honor (1984) and held supporting roles in movies like Garry Marshall’s Nothing in Common (1986), Midnight Run (1988) starring Robert De Niro, John Hughes’ classic rom-com Say Anything (1989) and Ghostbusters II (1989), in which he played the police commissioner.
Hall kicked off the ’90s by appearing on Seinfeld as Joe Bookman, a detective searching for a library book that was long overdue, a role that became so iconic he would reprise it in the show’s series finale. Watch above.
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Hall also began working with Paul Thomas Anderson during the decade, starring in his short film Cigarettes & Coffee in 1993, which then led to his directorial debut Hard Eight (1996) in which Hall stars alongside John C. Reilly.
Hall later appeared in Anderson’s films Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999), playing an adult theatre magnate and a children’s game show host, respectively. Hall’s career in film continued to grow in the ’90s and 2000s with films such as The Truman Show (1998), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), The Insider (1999), Dogville (2003), Bruce Almighty (2003), Zodiac (2007) and Argo (2012).
More recently, Hall played Walt Kleezak, neighbour to the Dunphy family, in three episodes of Modern Family from 2011 to 2012. His last feature film was 2017’s The Last Word, starring Amanda Seyfried, and his last television appearance was in the 2020 series Messiah.
Hall is survived by his wife, his brother, four daughters and four grandchildren.
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