Philip Baker Hall Biography

Philip Baker Hall photo

Born: September 10, 1931


Date of Birth: September 10, 1931

Recognized by many as Bookman, the library cop from Seinfeld, Philip Baker Hall 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, N.J., 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 NYC and make it into a movie.

Released in 1983, the film version of Secret Honor captured a tour de force performance by Hall, and 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, the one who confronts Jerry with the fact that he has had a copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer since 1971, 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-and 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. Though not a box-office success, 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 Reynold's 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. Work continues to come his way. In 1999 alone, Hall appeared in The Insider, Cradle Will Rock, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anderson's ensemble piece, Magnolia, Bruce Almighty (2003) and The Amityville Horror (2005). He appeared in Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011) alongside Jim Carrey, 50/50 (2011) with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen and People Like Us (2012) alongside Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pine. More recently, he starred in the 2014 film Bad Words alongside Jason Bateman.

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.

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