Second role in American cinema, Philip Baker Hall died on May 12 at the age of 90. It had been revealed by director Paul Thomas Anderson for whom he had shot “Cigarettes & Coffee”, “Hard Eight”, “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”.
American cinema has lost one of its “mouths”. Regular actor at Paul Thomas Anderson, Philip Baker Hall died, surrounded by his loved ones, in his Californian home in Glendale this Sunday, June 12. The actor was 90 years old, and leaves behind him a solid filmography between theater, cinema and television, over five decades.
Spotted by Robert Altman
Philip Baker Hall grew up in Ohio. At the University, he does not manage to take enough interest in his studies. He therefore decides to enlist in the army, before realizing that the theater attracts him. He then left to try his luck in New York, then in California, where he joined the Los Angeles Theater. He composes on stage a one man show on Richard Nixon, in Secret Honor. A decisive role for his career. Indeed, Robert Altman, who attended one of the performances, wants to adapt the play for the big screen. It does not matter that the film with the eponymous title was not a great success, the career of Philip Baker Hall is launched!
Meeting with Paul Thomas Anderson
In 1991, his face began to be known to the general public thanks to his role in the American series Seinfeld. But it’s thanks to Paul Thomas Anderson, that his film career is taking shape. After befriending this young filmmaker, Philip Baker Hall was given the lead role in his first feature film, Hard Eight in 1996. A year later, the two men met again for Boogie nights. The success of the film reveals to the general public the talents of the actor and the director, which are confirmed with Magnolia in 1999. Meanwhile, we can also see Philip Baker Hall as a sheriff in Gus Van Sant’s distressing Psycho, in police officer in the hilarious Rush Hour by Brett Ratner or as a journalist in the moving Truman Show by Peter Weir.
An eclectic career
Subsequently, we find him in some big calibrated productions like The Sum of All Fears in 2000, mainstream comedies like Bruce Almighty in 2003 or more demanding films like Dogville by Lars von Trier in 2002. does not neglect the small screen, appearing from time to time in a few television series. The year 2005 demonstrates the eclecticism of Baker Hall, which likes to do in diversity: we find it in a comedy (In good company with Scarlett Johansson), in a thriller (The Matador with Pierce Brosnan) and in a film of horror (Amityville, remake of a horror classic).
Two years later, he played a small role in Zodiac, the thriller orchestrated by David Fincher, then radically changed register with Mr. Popper and his penguins, a family comedy in which he played the role of Jim Carrey. His venerable age means that he is rather given the roles of grandfather (Playing It Cool), a watchmaker (Manhattan Stories) or a lawyer (People Like Us). In 2020, he plays Eva’s father (Michelle Monaghan) in the controversial Netflix series Messiah, which will remain his last role.
Philip Baker Hall in “Hard Eight”: