Dennis Farina, one of the great modern tough guy character actors with the unmistakable mustache and Chicago accent, has passed away at the age of 69 at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona. The cause of death was a blood clot in his lung.
Farina was born on February 29, 1944 to Sicilian immigrant parents in Chicago, Illinois. From 1967 to 1985 he worked as a detective in the burglary division in the Chicago Police Department. It was through his work as a cop that Farina met director Michael Mann, who would cast Farina in a small role as a hood in his 1981 feature directorial debut Thief. Following his retirement from the Chicago Police in 1985 Farina began pursuing an acting career with some local theater work in Chicago and a small role in the Chuck Norris action film Code of Silence. Mann cast him as a mob boss on a episode of Miami Vice, and in 1986 Farina became the first actor to portray F.B.I. Agent Jack Crawford in Manhunter, an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel Red Dragon directed by Mann that is best known as featuring the first appearance of Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. The role was played in subsequent films by Scott Glenn (The Silence of the Lambs) and Harvey Keitel (2002’s Red Dragon, directed by Brett Ratner) and on television in the recent hit NBC series Hannibal by Laurence Fishburne.
The year that Manhunter opened Farina became the star of his own television series when the 1960s-set Crime Story, executive produced by Mann and co-created by Farina’s former Chicago Police colleague Chuck Adamson, premiered on NBC. The show received great reviews and ratings were initially strong, but after a schedule change that pitted it against the popular ABC series Moonlighting the ratings for Crime Story went into the toilet. The series was cancelled at the end of its second season.
Farina has kept busy over the years as one of the most in-demand character actors on film and television, usually playing hard-nosed cops or gangsters. Some of his best movies include Midnight Run, Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Saving Private Ryan, and Snatch. For two seasons beginning in 2004 Farina played New York City police detective Joe Fontana on NBC’s Law & Order. He had also had a major role in the short-lived HBO series Luck, which was again executive produced by Michael Mann. Most recently Farina had been appearing in commercials for Comcast’s internet television series Xfinity.
A valuable asset in great movies and often a saving grace in bad ones, Dennis Farina was an irreplaceable acting talent. Things just won’t be the same without him around to brighten up the mood with a crooked smile and a profanity-laced tirade. Needless to say, Farina will be sorely missed.
R.I.P. Dennis Farina
February 29, 1944 – July 22, 2013
[Source: Chiacgo Tribune]