Actor Philip Baker Hall, known for films such as Magnolia and Boogie Nights, has died at the age of 90.
The news was initially shared by his neighbour and Los Angeles Times writer Sam Farmer on Twitter. “My neighbor, friend, and one of the wisest, most talented and kindest people I’ve ever met, Philip Baker Hall, died peacefully last night,” he wrote. “He was surrounded by loved ones. The world has an empty space in it.”
His wife Holly Wolfle Hall later confirmed the news to Associated Press. She said he had been well until relatively recently and spent his final days reflecting on his life in warm spirits. “His voice at the end was still just as powerful,” she said.
Defined as a storied character actor, Hall started out on stage in New York before embarking on a Hollywood career in the 1970s with small roles in Coma and on TV shows such as M*A*S*H and Good Times. “When I first came out here, I was totally naive. I didn’t know where to start,” Hall said to the Washington Post. “Television really had no meaning for me. We never had a television. I didn’t see myself doing a movie. Ever. It didn’t seem possible or likely.”
But Hall continued to find work throughout the 80s with roles in Ghostbusters II, Midnight Run and Say Anything and in the 90s with Air Force One, The Rock and The Truman Show.
He became friends with Paul Thomas Anderson when the young director was working as a production assistant on a PBS movie. Anderson then gave him roles in Hard Eight, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, which led to even more work for Hall in the following decades.
Philip Baker Hall in Magnolia. Photograph: Cinetext Collection/Sportsphoto/Allstar
Larry David also used him in both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. “Philip has made me laugh harder than any actor I’ve worked with,” David once said.
In 2012, Hall said that his Seinfeld character, library cop Joe Bookman, was arguably his best known with most people. “Bookman is the one that everyone remembers,” he said. “People will say forever, at the supermarket or wherever, it doesn’t matter where, ‘Oh, you’re Bookman, right? I really loved that Bookman. Now, I know you’ve done a lot of other things, but I loved that Bookman character.’ When they say, ‘I know you’ve done a lot of other things,’ it’s like, ‘You don’t know the half of it!’ But Bookman? Bookman hits a response button. And I’m not ungrateful for that.”
Hall’s big-screen credits also included Dogville, The Insider, Zodiac, Argo, Bruce Almighty and The Amityville Horror while on the small screen he was also seen in The Newsroom and Modern Family and his voice was heard in Bojack Horseman.