Dennis Farina, a former Chicago policeman turned tough-guy actor, died in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Monday, the actor’s publicist said. He was 69.
Farina, best known as detective Joe Fontana on the long-running TV series ‘Law & Order’, suffered a blood clot in his lung, publicist Lori De Waal said.
“I was stunned and saddened to hear about Dennis’ unexpected passing,” Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of ‘Law & Order’, said in a written statement. “The ‘Law & Order’ family extends sympathy and condolences to his family. He was a great guy.”
Farina was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Sicilian-American parents Iolanda, a homemaker, and Joseph Farina, a Sicilian immigrant doctor. He was raised in a large family and had three brothers and three sisters.
He is survived by three sons, six grandchildren and his partner of 35 years, Marianne Cahill.
Cop to actor
Before becoming an actor, Farina served for 18 years in the Chicago Police Department’s burglary division, from 1967 to 1985.
Farina began his work in show business working for director Michael Mann as a police consultant, which subsequently led to an interest in acting when Mann cast him in a small role in the 1981 film ‘Thief’. Farina went on to moonlight as an actor in the Chicago theatre scene before Mann chose him to play in his ‘Crime Story’ series. Farina played the mobster Albert Lombard in Michael Mann’s other television show ‘Miami Vice’.
Two of his most well-known movie characters were Jimmy Serrano, the mob boss from ‘Midnight Run’, and Ray “Bones” Barboni, a rival criminal of Chili Palmer’s in ‘Get Shorty’. He also played FBI Agent Jack Crawford in the first Hannibal Lecter crime film, Michael Mann’s ‘Manhunter’.
Other movies in Farina’s filmography include Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (as Army Lieutenant Colonel Walter Anderson), ‘Striking Distance’, ‘Another Stakeout’, ‘Little Big League’, ‘Snatch’, ‘The Mod Squad’ and ‘Out of Sight’. He co-starred with Bette Midler in the romantic comedy ‘That Old Feeling’.
Farina demonstrated a flair for comedy. He won an American Comedy Award for his performance in ‘Get Shorty’ and starred in a television sitcom ‘In-Laws’, from 2002-03. He had a comic role opposite Ed Harris and Helen Hunt in the HBO production of ‘Empire Fall’s in 2005 and with Alan Rickman in 2008’s ‘Bottle Shock’.
In early 2005, Farina provided the voice of aging boxer-turned-superhero Wildcat on ‘Justice League Unlimited’.
Watching the detectives
The producers of the long-running television series ‘Law & Order’ hired Farina as Detective Joe Fontana after the retirement of Jerry Orbach, who played Lennie Briscoe. Farina stayed with the show for two years, but was not as popular with viewers as Orbach’s character had been. As a result, in May 2006, it was announced that Farina was leaving ‘Law & Order’ to pursue other projects, including 2007’s ‘You Kill Me’ opposite Ben Kingsley and 2008’s ‘What Happens in Vegas’ with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher.
His role of Detective Lt. Mike Torello on Crime Story was as a Chicago police officer, who was later seconded to the US Justice Department. In ‘Law & Order’ the back story for his character, Joe Fontana, was that he had worked for the Chicago police department’s homicide division before his transfer to the NYPD.
As is common on ‘Law & Order’, Fontana shared a number of other characteristics with the actor who plays him: they hail from the same Chicago neighborhood, attended the same parochial school, and have the same tastes in both clothes and music.
In October 2008, Farina became the new host of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ when it returned to television with a new five-season, 175-episode run on Spike TV. Farina replaced Robert Stack, who had hosted the series for its entire original 15-year run before his death in 2003. The series would include re-edited segments from previous incarnations on NBC, CBS, and Lifetime (all originally hosted by Stack) as well as several new original stories.
Farina played the title role in a 2011 independent film, ‘The Last Rites of Joe May’, written and directed by Joe Maggio, shot on location in Chicago.
He co-starred in the 2012 HBO horse-race gambling series ‘Luck’, with Dustin Hoffman, directed by Michael Mann. He also had a recurring guest role in 2013 in the television comedy series ‘New Girl’.
- 1Orthodox Jew ‘repeats’ Jerusalem Gay Pride stabbing attack
- 2Ukraine: Civilians killed in shelling amid fragile truce
- 3Migrant crisis becomes hot political issue in Britain and France
- 4Palestinian toddler killed in ‘terrorist’ arson attack, says Israel
- 5Greek PM suggests party referendum to overcome split in Syriza
- 1euronews live TV - News | euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 2Russia unveils ‘straight’ flag, internet responds
- 3Seven reasons why Yanis Varoufakis is now a political legend
- 4Greek crisis: ‘Agreement reached’ after marathon talks
- 5International news | euronews, latest international news
- 6Nasa announces the discovery of an earth-like planet
- 7Is Saudi Arabia outlawing rainbows for being gay?
- 8Pluto: New Horizons space probe provides closest-ever pictures
- 9French actor Gérard Depardieu ‘a threat to Ukraine national security’
- 10Latest News Bulletin
- 11BREAKING: Formal nuclear deal reached with Iran, says diplomat
- 12International breaking news | euronews online world breaking news in video
- 13Greece votes ‘No’ in overwhelming rejection of bailout proposals
- 14Berlusconi linked with a shock return to government – in Russia!
- 15At least 10 dead in explosion in Turkish town close to border with Syria
- 16Greece clinches deal with eurogroup after marathon talks
- 17‘Imposed’ bailout deal must be implemented, says Greek PM
- 18Israel angry as Iran and West talk up nuclear deal
- 19Varoufakis resigns after Greek referendum
- 20European Union News | euronews: latest breaking news and headlines about European Union
Striking photos of the ‘not at all blue’ moon
UAE petrol prices start riding high
David Cameron moves to protect children from online porn
And also… Porn on parliament computers; crowdfunding for historic space suit; and drunk badger sleeps it off on beach
Explainer: why the blue moon will not be blue
Wires > News
- 20:11 CET Kurdish militia in Syria accuses Turkey of ‘provocative’ attacks
- 18:19 CET Egypt extends for six months military mandate in Gulf, Red Sea
- 18:03 CET Iran’s parliament has no power over nuclear deal, top negotiator…
- 17:29 CET Merkel to run for 4th term in 2017 – Der Spiegel
- 17:17 CET Dutch activists call for Caribbean Netherlands to adopt gay rights
- 17:09 CET Iraq’s Barzani condemns Turkish bombing he says killed civilians
- 16:34 CET Myanmar leader goes to disaster zones as floods batter countryside
- 16:21 CET Airplane debris arrives in France for Malaysia crash investigation