Philip Baker Hall, Consummate Character Actor from ‘Boogie Nights’ to ‘Modern Family,’ Dies at 90

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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 family confirmed the news releasing a statement that said, Our beloved Philip died quietly at home in Glendale, [Calif] surrounded by his loving family.”

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Hall had an impressive career of over six decades, holding roles in some of the most beloved movies and television of the modern era. 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,” Sen. Matt Hunt on “The West Wing,” Dr. Morrison on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Walt Kleezak on “Modern Family.”

Born in Toledo, Ohio on Sept. 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. 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. 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 theater 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, neighbor 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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