Seinfeld And Modern Family Actor Philip Baker Hall Is Dead At 90

Lt. Bookman talking to Jerry in Seinfeld
(Image credit: Netflix)

With an acting career that started up in earnest back in 1970 with the X-rated Love-in '72, Philip Baker Hall proved himself to be a stellar addition to any on-screen project, no matter the genre or format. Sadly, the Seinfeld, Modern Family, and Boogie Nights actor has passed away at the age of 90, leaving behind a massive list of memorable roles for fans to revisit in his memory.

Philip Baker Hall died on the evening of Sunday, June 12, as revealed by friend and neighbor Sam Farmer, the celebrated and award-winning sportswriter. Farmer shared the following on Twitter:

My neighbor, friend, and one of the wisest, most talented and kindest people I’ve ever met, Philip Baker Hall, died peacefully last night. He was surrounded by loved ones. The world has an empty space in it.

At the time of this writing, no other details regarding Hall's death have been reported. It does sound like things went as positively as could be, given the circumstances, which was hopefully a comfort to everyone who was present.

Philip Baker Hall is arguably best known among TV viewers for playing the library investigator Lt. Bookman in the Season 3 episode "The Library." Such is the power of that sitcom's popularity that Hall was brought back among other fan-favorite guest stars for Seinfeld's series finale in 1998. 

Larry David wound up reteaming with Hall for his HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, where he played Dr. Morrison. To the surprise of no one, Hall's character had uncomfortable experiences with Larry across two episodes in Season 4 and Season 7. 

That said, Hall was in far more TV shows and episodes than just that, with his possibly final starring role coming in Netflix's mildly controversial drama Messiah in 2020. But to go back closer to the beginning of his ascent, Philip Baker Hall amassed credits in such classic shows as M*A*S*H, Cagney & Lacey, Family Ties, Falcon Crest, Murder, She Wrote, L.A. Law, Cheers, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and The Practice. Which isn't an exhaustive list, and only goes through the '90s. 

In the past 22 years, Philip Baker Hall has made similarly memorable appearances in shows such as Monk, The West Wing, The Loop, The Newsroom, BoJack Horseman, Childrens Hospital, and Modern Family, where he portrayed the Dunphys' fear-inducing neighbor Walt Kleezak. 

And those are just the tips of the icebergs by way of Hall's TV efforts, which were balanced by a steady number of roles in a slew of popular movies over the past 50+ years. One of his biggest early roles on the big screen was as Richard Nixon for Robert Altman's Secret Honor in 1984, and that was followed by roles in hit movies such as Ghostbusters II. But it was in the 1990s and beyond when things really took off, following his work as part of the Air Force One cast

Philip Baker Hall went on to show up in Boogie Nights, The Truman Show, Rush Hour, Enemy of the State, Magnolia, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Rules of Engagement, The Sum of All Fears, Bruce Almighty, The Amityville Horror, Zodiac, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Argo and Bad Words. Again, to name only a few. His final film role to date was in 2017's The Last Word opposite Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried.

Also worth noting is that before he took on the role in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Philip Baker Hall worked again with Seinfeld co-creator Larry David in the 1998 film Sour Grapes. And they teamed up again for David's 2013 HBO movie Clear History

Seinfeld has come up more often than one would hope when it comes to celebrity deaths. Estelle Harris, known for playing Mrs. Costanza, passed away on April 2, while Mrs. Seinfeld actress Liz Sheridan died on April 15

We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of Philip Baker Hall during their time of mourning. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.