Philip Baker Hall, 'Seinfeld' and 'Modern Family' Actor, Dies at 90
Philip Baker Hall, the craggy-faced character actor whose iconic portrayal of over-the-top library cop Bookman on a 1991 episode of "Seinfeld" is often cited as the show's greatest guest spot, died June 12 of emphysema at his Glendale, California, home.
He was 90.
Hall was born September 10, 1931, in Toledo, Ohio. He made his film debut in "Cowards" (1970), later recut with softcore sex scenes as "Love-in '72" (1972), and his first TV appearance on "Good Times" (1976).
Over the years, the gruff actor graced countless shows, including hits like "M*A*S*H" (1977), "The Waltons" (1980), "Miami Vice" (1987), "Cheers" (1993), and "Madam Secretary" (2015). He recurred on everything from "Family Ties" (1988) to "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2004 & 2009), and one of his more recent big impressions was made via three episodes of "Modern Family" (2011-2012), on which he played neighbor Walt Kleezak, an unlikely friend of young Luke Dunphy's.
But while he was also highly praised for his performances in features including "Secret Honor" (1984) and the Paul Thomas Anderson films "Hard Eight" (1996), "Boogie Nights" (1997), and "Magnolia" (1999), it was his intense Bookman — who Jerry Seinfeld's character noted was "one tough monkey" — that most stuck with him.
"What's my problem?" Bookman aggressively asks Jerry in the episode, "Punks like you — that's my problem. And you better not screw up again, Seinfeld, because if you do, I'll be all over you like a pitbull on a poodle."
His work as Bookman was so fine it became one of the last times he had to audition for a part. "So many doors opened up after I did the show," he recalled to Rolling Stone in 2014.
"It's been over 20 years since we shot that episode," he told the outlet, "and I still can't go out in public for very long before someone says, 'My God, it's Bookman!' Or: 'Are you Bookman? I returned that library book, I swear!' It's not just in New York or L.A.; it's happened in a mall in the Midwest or even other countries where they air the show. [Bookman] made an impression."
The official "Seinfeld" social media accounts paused to honor Hall, posting, "The great Philip Baker Hall will forever be remembered by 'Seinfeld' fans as the hard-nosed library detective, Mr. Bookman. Hall had a long and impressive career as one of Hollywood's top character actors. His talent will be cherished."
Hall was married and divorced twice, and is survived by his wife of 40 years, Holly, his four daughters, four grandchildren and his brother.