Prolific ‘Seinfeld’ Actor Philip Baker Hall Dies At 90
You may not immediately recognize the name Philip Baker Hall. While the prolific character actor of stage and screen didn’t become a household name, he had a long and successful career playing very recognizable and at times hilarious characters.
One very memorable character that he portrayed was on the series “Seinfeld.” Hall played a library investigator named Lt. Joe Bookman who tracked Seinfeld down about a book called “Tropic of Cancer” that he had failed to return to the library. “Seinfeld” creator Larry David later said Hall made him laugh more than any other actor.
Besides playing Bookman, Hall also had parts in movies and TV shows including “The Truman Show,” “Argo,” “Modern Family,” “Say Anything,” “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.”
According to the actor’s wife of almost 40 years, Holly Wolfle, Hall was in good health until a few weeks ago. In more recent days, he reflected on his life. He died on Sunday July 12, 2022, surrounded by family and friends. He was 90 years old.
Wolfle said her husband never retired as an actor. She added, “His voice at the end was still just as powerful.”
Watch the video below to hear more about Hall’s life and to see a clip from the “Seinfeld” episode where he played Bookman.
Hall was born in Toledo, Ohio. He moved to Los Angeles and focused on theater at first. His career took a turn from stage to screen when he met Paul Thomas Anderson while filming a PBS program in 1992.
At the time, Anderson was in his 20’s and working as a production assistant. He had a script he wanted Hall to look at, and Hall was blown away that it had been written by such a young man. He explained, “I mean, it was just so brilliant, resonating with nuance all over the place, like a playwright. Certainly, as a film, I’d never really seen anything like it. It was staggering.”
Hall agreed to act in the short film which ended up making it to the Sundance Film Festival. Then Anderson turned it into a feature called “Hard Eight.” Hall’s role in the film helped launch his acting career.
In 2017, Hall explained to the Washington Post that the characters he portrayed in his career were mainly “Men who are highly stressed, older men, who are at the limit of their tolerance for suffering and stress and pain. I had an affinity for playing those roles.”
Hall’s last role was in the series “Messiah” in 2020. He is survived by his wife and three daughters.