Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools Day Blogathon: Phillip Baker Hall

Television watching gave me a wealth of ideas last week. Here's the first: last Wednesday Modern Family had an episode that involved the youngest Dunphy child, Luke, becoming friends with an elderly neighbor who everyone was afraid of. Well, said elderly neighbor was played by none other than character actor extraordinaire Phillip Baker Hall. I have to say, I'm not sure what a tried and true maxim this is, but becoming a famous character actor has got to be almost as lucrative as being a leading man, if not more so, because it seems like you can just keep on working. Now, this has got to be true for Phillip Baker Hall. He stuck in my head because not only did I see him pop up on Modern Family, but I happened to be doing something and had Midnight Run on the background, and there he was a few days before as Sidney, Dennis Farina's mob boss' lawyer. I counted down his roles in both television and films since the late sixties/early seventies, and he has been about 159 different roles and/or TV shows or movies. Thats nuts, and he still seems to be working pretty steadily so maybe my maxim is true.

Seriously, here he  is in M*A*S*H*

Now, people might say that his career really kicked off playing Richard Nixon in the early eighties in Robert Altman's Secret Honor. Which might be true, it was a one man show with only him on the screen.

There's a whole host of places you might know him from. Such as playing Bookman, the library detective on Seinfeld.

This was probably his best scene (embedding disabled, sorry.)

Bookman 1

Bookman 2

He has a lot of authority figures under his belt such as:

The Police Commissioner in Ghostbusters II

The Attorney General in The Rock

In the nineties, he really hit his stride becoming one of the Paul Thomas Anderson players first with a more lead rule than usual
As Sidney(again) alongside John C. Reilly in Hard Eight.

Jimmy Gator in Magnolia

Floyd Gondolli in Boogie Nights

It's hard to find pictures of his stuff, but looking again through his IMDB page, its pretty amazing the amount of people he has worked with. He was in The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Contender, Zodiac, all 3 Rush Hour movies as well as:
Cradle Will Rock 

and The Insider.

I guess it goes without saying but I find he is always a welcome addition to anything I am watching.


1 comment:

  1. Good stuff. Regardless of how many films and shows he's been in, this guy will always be Bookman to me.

    I agree with your idea that it must be pretty sweet to be a character actor. I'm sure they do well financially and never have the burdens that all the big stars have in terms of paparazzi and being accosted by fans all the time. I'm sure they get some of it, but nowhere near as bad as the lead actors.