Character actor Philip Baker Hall, who starred in movies like Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Dogville, and Rush Hour, has died at age 90. Beloved character actor Philip Baker Hall has died at age 90. Hall was best known for his work in director Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, starring in the filmmaker’s debut Hard Eight and later in both Boogie Nights and Magnolia, which put the actor on Hollywood’s go to list for character actors. The actor also appeared in a number of well-known features in supporting roles, such as Rush Hour, Dogville, Air Force One, and Zodiac, among many others.
Hall didn’t begin acting until age 30, starting off predominantly in one-off TV roles, appearing in dozens of prominent shows throughout his career, including MAS*H, Good Times, T.J. Hooker, L.A. Law, Murder, She Wrote, Miami Vice and Seinfeld as Lt. Joe Bookman. He would later gain momentum as a character actor, often playing a police detective, gangster, or government official of some sort, appearing in movies like Three O’Clock High, Midnight Run, Say Anything, Kiss of Death, The Rock, and Ghostbusters II, before gaining wider acclaim for his work in Anderson’s first three films.
LA Times reporter Sam Farmer revealed that Hall had passed away at the age of 90, leaving behind a lasting Hollywood legacy in film and television credits. Farmer, a friend and neighbor to Hall, described the actor as “one of the wisest, most talented and kindest” people he’d ever met, noting that Hall was surrounded by loved ones when he died peacefully. Hall is survived by his wife, Holly Wolfle, and two daughters, Adella and Anna. A cause of death was not released, but the actor had suffered from emphysema in recent years.
Hall’s last credit was Netflix’s Messiah series in 2020, but his roles in Anderson’s early works will no doubt continue to be a staple of his filmography. Hall’s performance as quiz show host Jimmy Gator in 1999 is often lauded as the best of his career, helping to secure him additional prominence in the years that followed. His TV work picked up after Magnolia as well, appearing in series like Everwood, The West Wing, Boston Legal, Big Love, Psych, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Modern Family, and Second Chance, creating a full body of work that will be long remembered. It’s always tragic to lose a beloved character actor like Philip Baker Hall, as his presence was always a welcome one in any project he turned up in. Character actors are every bit as essential as leads, bringing the same kind of gravitas and energy to their roles that help audiences invest in them as much as they do the stars. Hall was one of the best and most memorable character actors of the last five decades and his work will continue to resonate as such. His deep, gravelly voice, deep-set eyes, and memorable face will echo through his contributions, having made such a lasting and vast impression on his craft, hopefully inspiring the next generation of character actors to follow in his footsteps.
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