Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” gives away nearly all of its large ensemble cast, including Tom Cruise, with moments in the spotlight where they put on standout performances, but Philippe Baker room earns several notable scenes during the 1999 film. Played by Jimmy Gator, the alcoholic and terminally ill host of a children’s game show, Hall is tasked with lifting a heavy emotional weight – Jimmy wants to make up for his past failures, including understood the abuse of his daughter (Melora Walters) – and shoulders the burden with quiet desperation and determination.
Hall rose to fame late in life: although he appeared on television and in feature films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he did not achieve widespread acclaim until the end of the last decade, when a powerful turn as Richard Nixon and a recurring part on “Seinfeld” as library cop Lt. Bookman put it on many viewers’ radars. He began collaborating with Anderson soon after and appeared in “Hard Eight” and “Boogie Nights”. His world-weary face and personality also attracted other filmmakers and led to appearances on “The Rock,” “The Truman Show,” “Zodiac,” “Rush Hour,” and “Argo.”
Hall has also worked in television, appearing in “Modern Family,” “BoJack Horseman,” and “Messiah,” which turned out to be his final screen appearance. He died of emphysema at the age of 90 at his home in Glendale, Calif., on June 12, 2022. Hall wasn’t the only one of Cruise’s “Magnolia” costars to die: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, Ricky Jay, Henry Gibson and Danny Wells all died in the decades after its release.