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Philip Baker Hall

Philip Baker Hall, recognized by many as Bookman, the library cop from Seinfeld – has spent much of his career playing cops and kingpins, presidents and bureaucrats. Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Hall did some acting in his teens and thought of making a career of it, but after graduating from the University of Toledo he entered the army instead. When he returned home, he began a master's degree in literature, but the theater beckoned and he left for New York.

Relocating to California in the early '80s, Hall helped to develop a stage production at the Los Angeles Theater Center that would forever alter the course of his career. The play was Secret Honor, a one-man show about former president Richard Nixon. Set in the office of Nixon's Saddle River, New Jersey, home, where he lived after his resignation from office, the piece was a boozy, bilious rant against, among others, Castro, Kissinger, and the Kennedys. At one early performance, director Robert Altman was in the audience and came backstage to tell Hall he wanted to take the play to New York and make it into a movie.

Released in 1983, the film version of Secret Honor captured a tour de force performance by Hall; though it never achieved mainstream success, it put him on the Hollywood map. Things ratcheted up even more following his appearance in a 1991 episode of Seinfeld. As Lt. Bookman, Hall stepped into the realm of mass-audience pop culture, and the impact was huge. After spending decades as a well-kept secret known primarily to theater hounds in New York and L.A., Hall became a familiar face thanks to Seinfeld and, more recently, Paul Thomas Anderson.

Hall formed a friendship with the young, audacious filmmaker in 1992 while he was doing a film for PBS. Anderson was a volunteer production assistant who approached Hall with a script for a half-hour film. Blown away by the quality of the script, Hall signed up for the project. The short, Cigarettes and Coffee, made it to the Sundance Film Festival and earned Anderson plenty of attention – as well as the funding for his debut feature, Hard Eight. Hall was cast as an aging gambler who befriends a younger gambler, played by John C. Reilly, in seedy Reno, Nevada. The film, which co-starred Gwyneth Paltrow, was critically praised, and helped Anderson set up his 1997 porn-world epic Boogie Nights. Hall joined the cast as Floyd Gondoli, a businessman who tries to warn Burt Reynolds' Jack Horner of the impending video revolution.

Hall went on to do more work the following year in such films as Air Force One, The Truman Show, Rush Hour, and Psycho. In 1999 alone, Hall appeared in The Insider, Cradle Will Rock, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and in Anderson's ensemble piece Magnolia. More recently he has appeared in the box office hit Bruce Almighty, The Amityville Horror, Zodiac and Rush Hour 3. Hall's upcoming films include The Lodger, Wonderful World and All Good Things.

In addition to being kept busy by a full work schedule, he and his third wife, Holly, are parents of a daughter, Anna Ruth. He also has two adult daughters and four grandchildren.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2009.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Philip Baker Hall Facts

BirthdaySeptember 10, 1931 (92)
BirthplaceToledo, Ohio, USA

Selected Filmography

The Truman Show
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Kid
King Kong
Clear History
Rush Hour
Fired Up!
Bruce Almighty
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