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Philip Baker Hall, Legendary Character Actor, Dead at 90

Hall was known for his role as Lt. Bookman on "Seinfeld" and his frequent collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson.

Philip Baker Hall

Philip Baker Hall

Dennis Van Tine/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Philip Baker Hall, one of Hollywood’s most recognizable character actors, has died at the age of 90. He was best known today for his roles on “Seinfeld” and in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson. The news was first announced by Hall’s neighbor and friend, Los Angeles sports 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 was surrounded by loved ones. The world has an empty space in it,” Framer wrote on Twitter.

Hall was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1931 to Alice Birdene and William Alexander Hall. He attended the University of Toledo and served as a U.S. Army translator in Germany before launching his acting career in some small New York theater productions. Hall made his film debut in 1970’s “Cowards,” from director Simon Nuchtern. He began appearing on TV shows soon after, guest-starring in hundreds of episodes over the course of his career. Elsewhere in film, Hall earned notices for bringing gravitas to the role of Richard Nixon in Robert Altman’s “Secret Honor.”

Hall became known as a prolific, scene-stealing character actor, accumulating 185 acting credits during his five-decade Hollywood career. To many, his most iconic role came in an episode of “Seinfeld” when he played overzealous library cop Lt. Joe Bookman, a role he reprised in the series finale.

Hall also built a distinguished film resume that included three collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson, beginning with his role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s short film “Coffee and Cigarettes,” which became the basis for “Hard Eight.” He followed these films with supporting turns in Anderson’s next two features, 1997’s “Boogie Nights” and 1999’s “Magnolia.” Hall also notably played a network executive in “The Truman Show” and appeared in the “Rush Hour” films. After the turn of the century, Hall continued to frequently work in film and television, notably playing Sherwood Morrill in “Zodiac” and C.I.A Director Stansfield Turner in “Argo.”

Toward the end of his career, Hall continued to work with “Seinfeld” creator Larry David, playing the deadpan Doctor Morrison on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and appearing in David’s 2013 film “Clear History.” He had also appeared in episodes of “BoJack Horseman” and “Room 104” in recent years. His final role was in the 2020 Netflix series “Messiah,” in which he played Zelman Katz in six episodes.

Hall is survived by his wife, Holly Wolfe, and their two daughters, Adella and Anna.

Hall’s representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

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