RIP Philip Baker Hall, prolific character actor

Advertisement

RIP Philip Baker Hall, prolific character actor

Phillip Baker Hall

Phillip Baker Hall
photo: Toby Canham (Getty Images)

Legendary character actor Phillip Baker HallKnown for his regular appearances in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s early work and as the dogged library cop Lt. Joe Bookman onward His field, died. Hall’s wife, Holly Wolfle, confirmed the actor’s death early Monday, who said he died surrounded by loved ones Sunday night at his home in Glendale, California. He was 90.

hall’s neighbor, Los Angeles Times Reporter Sam Farmer reported the death on twitter. Farmer wrote: “My neighbor, friend and one of the smartest, most talented and kindest people I have ever met, Philip Baker Hall, passed away peacefully last night. He was surrounded by loved ones. The world has an empty space within it.”

Born September 10, 1931 in Toledo, Ohio, Hall grew up during the early years of the Depression “in the slums of north Toledo.” The son of a factory worker with a fifth-grade education, Hall developed a love of acting at the University of Toledo before serving as an army translator in Germany and later becoming a teacher.

Hall’s first film role came in 1970, although the actor wasn’t as popular with Hollywood agents. When he first arrived in Los Angeles, an agent told him, “I already have too many middle-aged actors. They’re all starving.” Luckily, Hall persevered and landed roles on hit TV shows like MASH*, Good timesand The Waltons. He has also appeared on stage in more than 100 roles – always off-Broadway. It was the loss of the Great White Way. Hall’s co-star William H. Macy said that “Philip owned the stage” when the two appeared in a revival of David Mamet American buffalo.

The ’80s would see a turning point in Hall’s career, landing parts in hit comedies such as Say something and midnight run. He would also portray President Richard Nixon in director Robert Altmans secret honora particularly tricky role considering Hall is the only actor in the film.

But it was Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld who gave Hall his big break. As the infamous New York Public Library detective Lt. Bookman in a classic 1991 episode His fieldHall trains the comedian on proper hosting etiquette, like keeping instant coffee in the closet (“You buy a jar of Folger crystals, you put it in the closet, you forget it”) and US history (“Hippies burn library cards; Abbie Hoffman tells everyone to steal books”).

Hall’s performance in 1991 is an excellent example of the comedic world that Seinfeld and David created, as inhabited by an actor so committed to the role that he creates an unshakable logic for something utterly ridiculous. Of course the library has detectives. How else would they hunt stolen books? Bookman was one of the first to be canonized His field Supporting characters, evidenced by his appearance in the final episode of the series testifying against the main cast. He set the standard for future guest stars.

“Philip made me laugh more than any other actor I’ve worked with,” said David.

Two years later, Hall’s career would take another happy turn. Appearance in a short film by Aspiring Filmmaker named Paul Thomas Anderson, Hall played the character Sydney in Anderson’s 1993 project Cigarettes & Coffee. Anderson loved Hall in Robert Altmans secret honor and met the actor on the set of a PBS film. “He appeared to be about sixteen.” Hall tells esquire. Despite this, the young director and the veteran actor formed a friendship.

Coffee & Cigarettes would be the basis for Anderson’s first feature film, Sydneylater renamed hard eight. While it was a grueling experience for the director, who would essentially abandon the project after extensive edits in the studio, hard eight cemented a partnership between Anderson and Hall. Anderson would write Hall in the director’s breakout features boogie nights and magnolia.

Roles in Anderson’s films made Hall a classic “that guy” celebrity, a standout character actor that audiences know, trust and like, but not necessarily someone to name. However, this reputation did not slow down Hall’s career. Instead, it opened up roles for him in film and television, and performing modern family, Curb your enthusiasmand BoJack Horsemanand in movies like Bruce Almighty, rush hour, The Insiderand zodiac.

Hall’s stern voice and weather-beaten appearance made him a welcome presence throughout his career, as he infused even the most ridiculous of situations with a world-weary sincerity. On the topic of the “allegedly humorless characters” that make up Hall’s resume, the actor told dem AV club:

I’ve also done so many comical roles over the years that I’ve balanced it. So it’s ok. Also, these guys are often pretty interesting to play with because they often have their own weird little sides to explore and fun to work with. So yeah, I’m cool with anything that comes my way. I’m just glad I’m still working and have been for so long. It’s a privilege.

You May Also Like