Veteran actor Philip Baker Hall, who lent his gravitas to everything from “Seinfeld” to numerous Paul Thomas Anderson films including “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights,” has died at age 90, his neighbor Sam Farmer said Monday.
“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,” Farmer, a sportswriter for the Los Angeles Times tweeted.
Although Hall’s cause of death wasn’t announced, he suffered from emphysema and has been reliant on an oxygen tank, The Washington Post reported in 2017.
Hall’s collaboration with Anderson began with the 1993 short film “Coffee and Cigarettes,” which became Anderson’s 1996 feature directorial debut, “Hard Eight.” The role earned Hall an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Male Lead.
Hall, who was born in Toledo, Ohio, on September 10, 1931, made his film debut in the 1970 film “Cowards,” about Vietnam War draft evasion.
His many films also include “The Rock,” “The Insider,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Zodiac,” “Argo,” “Air Force One” and “Dogville.”
Hall, whose first TV appearance was on an episode of “Good Times,” also played a doctor on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and a grumpy neighbor on “Modern Family.” And years later, he was still recognized for his role as library cop Bookman on an episode of “Seinfeld” (which he reprised in the 1998 series finale).
His final TV role was as Zelman Katz on Netflix’s 2020 series “Messiah.”
He received glowing notices and a Drama Desk award for his one-man role as disgraced former president Richard Nixon in the 1984 play “Secret Honor,” a role he reprised in Robert Altman’s film of the name. His performance was a revelation to critic Roger Ebert, who wrote, “Nixon is portrayed by Philip Baker Hall, an actor previously unknown to me, with such savage intensity, such passion, such venom, such scandal, that we cannot turn away.”
Vincent Canby of The New York Times raved “Mr. Hall’s immense performance, which is as astonishing and risky … as that of the Oscar-winning F. Murray Abraham in ‘Amadeus’.”
The actor often played authority figures such as military officers and judges, including Judge Julius Hoffman in 2011’s “The Chicago 8.” “The judges were driving me crazy. I didn’t want to do any more of them,” Hall told The Washington Post. “You never get to walk around. You’re sitting up there behind the desk, like you’re a god.”
Hall was married to Dianne Lewis, with whom he had two children, from 1973 to 1976, and wed Holly Wolfle in 1981, with whom he had daughters Adella and Anna.