Philip Baker Hall, Seinfeld’s Library Cop, Magnolia, & Boogie Nights actor dead at 90

Philip Baker Hall, Seinfeld, dead, Lt. Bookman

Philip Baker Hall, the character actor who played Lt. Bookman on a 1991 episode of Seinfeld, and was a favorite of Paul Thomas Anderson, has died. Hall was 90 when he passed away Sunday night, revealed Los Angeles Times sportswriter Sam Farmer, his friend and neighbor.

With a commanding voice, warm demeanor, and ability to slip into any role, Hall was known as a kind man who could always make people laugh. Hall had more than 100 television appearances throughout his five-decade career. Many remember him as Lt. Bookman from an episode of Seinfeld titled The Library.” In the episode, Jerry learns he has a library fine from 1971 for the ten-controversial book Tropic of Cancer. Overseeing Jerry’s case is Lt. Bookman (Hall), a fierce library cop who’s seen too much and continuously collects what’s owed. Hall is hilarious as Lt. Bookman, making him one of the most memorable side characters from the long-running show about nothing.

“You’d better not screw up again, Seinfeld, because if you do, I’ll be all over you like a pit bull on a poodle,” Bookman warns Jerry.

Hall played Richard Nixon in the one-person play Secret Honor, then reprised the part of the rubber-faced president for director Robert Altman in a 1984 feature version. Hall was also great friends with Paul Thomas Anderson and starred in two of the filmmaker’s most memorable films, Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Hall was a big fan of Anderson’s work, and the duo used to get together for coffee and cigarettes. Their talks were so influential that Anderson wrote a script based on their conversations. Anderson used that script to craft his 1993 short, Cigarettes & Coffee.

As Hall told Rolling Stone in 2014, “It’s been over 20 years since we shot that episode, 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. The guy made an impression.”

The performance also made an impression on Hollywood. “It’s funny, Lt. Bookman was one of the last roles I ever auditioned for, simply because so many doors opened up after I did the show,” Hall said.

“I remember that Jerry had a hard time keeping a straight face during the reading. Usually, when you read for things, no one lets on too much, even if they like you. But people were fighting to control their laughter, so when I called my wife afterward, I told her, ‘There’s no such thing as a sure thing … but I’m pretty sure I got this part.”

Other films in Hall’s prolific career include Ghostbusters IISay AnythingRush HourBruce AlmightyDogvilleAir Force OneThe Talented Mr. Ripley, and more.

We here at JoBlo wish Mr. Hall safe passage to the Great Hereafter and express our condolences to his family, friends, and fans. If you have any overdue library books, maybe it’s time to return them. Tell them Philip inspired you to come clean.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.