Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” features almost the entire cast of his full cast, including Tom Cruise, with spotlight moments when they put on notable performances, but Philip Baker Hall earned several standout scenes throughout the 1999 film. Casting Jimmy Gator, the terminally ill and alcoholic children’s game show host, Hall is tasked with lifting a sluggish emotional weight – Jimmy wants to redeem his past mistakes, including the abuse of his daughter (Melora Walters) – and shoulders the burden with quiet desperation and determination.
Hall found fame late in life: although he appeared on television and in feature films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he did not enjoy widespread recognition until the end of the last decade, when he had a strong turn as Richard Nixon and a recurring role in Seinfeld. as Library Cop Lt. Bookman put him on many viewers’ radars. Shortly thereafter, he began working with Anderson, appearing in “Hard Eight” and “Boogie Nights”. His world-weary face and personality also attracted other filmmakers and led to appearances in 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 on June 12, 2022 at the age of 90 at his home in Glendale, California. Hall wasn’t the only one of Cruise’s “Magnolia” cast members to die: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jason Robards, Ricky Jay, Henry Gibson, and Danny Wells all died in the decades since its release.