'Magnolia' and 'Modern Family' Actor Philip Baker Hall Dead at 90

Philip Baker Hall's friend and neighbor, who announced his death, called the actor "one of the wisest, most talented and kindest people I've ever met"

Philip Baker Hall
Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Philip Baker Hall, an actor whose career spanned more than 50 years, has died. He was 90.

Los Angeles Times sports reporter Sam Farmer announced the news on Twitter Monday, writing, "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."

In a statement to PEOPLE, Hall's family says, "Our beloved Philip died quietly at home in Glendale, surrounded by his loving family."

Hall is known for movie roles in director Paul Thomas Anderson's 1999 film Magnolia and his 1997 film Boogie Nights, both of which earned Hall SAG Award nominations as part of the cast ensembles. On television, Hall had brief yet memorable parts on Seinfeld (he was Lt. Bookman in "The Library" episode) and Modern Family, as the Dunphy family's neighbor Walt Kleezak.

"It's always fun to have a good part on one of the best shows on TV. It's a great show, and I'm grateful for the time I got to be on there," he told A.V. Club back in 2012 of his Modern Family character.

The actor also appeared in the Rush Hour movies, 50/50, Zodiac, Bruce Almighty and the 1998 Psycho remake. Additionally, he played Richard Nixon in Robert Altman's 1984 movie Secret Honor.

Philip Baker Hall
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One of his final red carpet appearances was in March 2017 at the Hollywood premiere of The Last Word, posing for photos alongside Anne Heche, Thomas Sadoski, Shirley MacLaine, Ann'Jewel Lee and Amanda Seyfried.

In his 2012 A.V. Club interview, Hall spoke about being a frequent collaborator with writer/director Anderson, saying "somehow we were drawn together" when they met.

"We had coffee and cigarettes between the takes and got to know each other a little bit, and it was obvious to an experienced actor that he was unusual," he said at the time. "... There was something of the golden child about Paul, even when I had not seen one line of his writing. Just talking to him and listening to him talk and getting to know him a little bit on the set, it seemed like this was not your everyday person."

Philip Baker Hall
Philip Baker Hall in Paul Thomas Anderson's Hard Eight (1996). Mark Tillie/Rysher/Kobal/Shutterstock

Hall also recalled becoming a west coast working actor after building a "sizable" résumé in New York City.

"I don't know why I left New York. Looking back, I almost wish I hadn't left New York," he said, adding of his difficulty getting an agent in Los Angeles versus N.Y.C.: "But this is not quite true in L.A. Unless you look like Tom Cruise did at 23 or something. If you're just coming out there, and you're not in your early 20s and look like a Greek god, and you're out there without some representation or at least some central film in your bag, I would have to say that you almost don't have a chance. Or at least when I came out in the '70s you didn't."

Philip Baker Hall
L. Cohen/WireImage

He added, "I was about 40 years old then. There's a bottom line of money and career, and looking at me, they had to make decisions, and a lot of them said, 'Judging by this résumé, you're probably a skilled actor, I have no doubt, but there are a lot of people in line ahead of you.' I remember a couple of agents actually used that phrase: 'There's a lot of people your age in front of you who've been out here for 20 years, who actually know how this game is played, and who are very skilled in front of a camera.' And I must admit, I was not confident or skilled in front of a camera. I absolutely was not."

"In those first jobs, I was lacking in confidence, and I did feel there are things to be learned here, and I haven't learned them. And I wasn't even sure how to learn them. It was the kind of things that, especially at my age, after so many years of working in the theater, you can't study in the book or memorize or even ask somebody, 'How do you appear relaxed and casual and yet get the job done in front of the camera with a hundred crew people looking on?' " he recalled of moving into film and television. "Not to mention the other actors, many of whom when I first started were probably prominent or even stars. You've got to deliver the goods, but you're scared to death. Which I certainly was, at least in the beginning."

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