Philip Baker Hall, an actor who starred in Paul Thomas Anderson’s first movies and appeared in the TV show Seinfeld, has died. He was 90 years old.

The actor’s wife, Holly Wolfle Hall, stated Tuesday that Hall had passed away surrounded by loved ones in Glendale, California, on Sunday. She said Hall was healthy until a few weeks ago when he began to deteriorate rapidly.

“His voice at the end was still just as strong,” Wolfle Hall added. Her spouse, she stated, has never stopped acting.

Hall was a familiar hangdog visage with a doleful, weary appearance that might cover up the ebullience and humility of his characters. His range was broad, but Hall, who had an innate authority, frequently played men in suits, trench coats, and lab coats.

“Men who are highly stressed, older men, who are at the limit of their tolerance for suffering and stress and pain,” Hall told The Washington Post in 2017. “I had an affinity for playing those roles.”

Hall was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and began to devote more time to theater after relocating there in 1975. Hall collaborated with the L.A. Actor Theatre while working on little parts in Hollywood (one of his first jobs was a role on Good Times). In the one-act play Secret Honor, he acted as Richard Nixon, a role he reprised in Robert Altman’s 1984 film version. Hall “draws on his lack of a star presence and on an actor’s fears of his own mediocrity in a way that seems to parallel Nixon’s feelings.” according to Pauline Kael.

Paul Thomas Anderson was one of Hall’s frequent collaborators.

In 1988’s Midnight Run, for example, he had a tiny role. But outside of theater, Hall was mostly appearing in television guest spots. That changed when he was filming a PBS program in 1992. When he returned to the set between takes, Paul Thomas Anderson met him again. The two would hang out smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee between scenes while watching a script that Anderson had written for a 20-minute short film titled Cigarettes & Coffee. According to Hall, “I liked it so much I thought about quitting acting.”

“I’m reading this script, and I truly had trouble believing that that kid wrote this script,” Hall told the AV Club in 2012. “I mean, it was just so brilliant, resonating with nuance all over the place, like a playwright. Certainly, as a film, I’d never really seen anything like it. It was staggering.”

The low-budget feature, which was made for $20,000 and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997, grew into his first studio film, Hard Eight (1997), which boosted Hall’s profile. Sydney is a wise and courteous itinerate gambler who teaches a young drifter (John C. Reilly) about the trade in this film. Hoffman’s first collaboration with Anderson has him chastising Hall as “old-timer” in one unforgettable scene.

After Boogie Nights, Anderson cast Hall as adult film theater magnate Floyd Gondolli in Leaving Las Vegas, who warns Burt Reynolds’ producer about the industry’s future. In Magnolia, Hall was Jimmy Gator, the host of a kids game show.

“I have a particular fascination with character actors, with wanting to turn them into lead actors,” Anderson told the Los Angeles Times in 1998. “I see Philip Baker Hall, he’s just … an actor that I love. There’s no one else with a face like that, or a voice like that.”

For many, Hall is memorable for one of the most memorably funny guest appearances on Seinfeld: in the 22nd episode of the series, he played Lt. Joe Bookman, the library investigator who pursues Seinfeld for a decade-overdue copy of Tropic of Cancer. Hall played him as a hardboiled noir detective, declaring to Seinfeld, “Well, I got a flash for ya, Joy-boy: Party time is over.”

Larry David revived his character for the Seinfeld series finale, and he also used him on Curb Your Enthusiasm. According to David, no other actor made him laugh as much as Hall.

Other films in which he worked include Michael Mann’s The Insider, as 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt, and Lars von Trier’s Dogville. Hall appeared in Say Anything, The Truman Show, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Zodiac, Argo, and Rush Hour among many other movies. On Modern Family, his character Walt Kleezak was the neighbor. His last film appearance was in the 2020 television series Messiah.

Philip Baker Hall was married to Dianne Lewis for three years in the early 1970s before they divorced. His wife, four daughters, four grandchildren, and his brother survive him.