NEW YORK – Dennis Farina, a onetime Chicago police officer who as a popular character actor played a TV cop on “Law & Order” during his wide-ranging career, has died.
Death came Monday morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after Farina suffered a blood clot in his lung, according to his publicist, Lori De Waal. He was 69.
For three decades, Farina was a character actor who displayed remarkable dexterity, charm and toughness, making effective use of his craggy face, husky frame, ivory smile and ample mustache. He could be as dapper as Fred Astaire and as full of threat as Clint Eastwood. His gift has been described as wry, tough-guy panache, and audiences loved him for it.
“Sometimes you can take those dramatic roles and maybe interject a little humor into them, and I think the reverse also works,” Farina said in 2007. “One of the funny things in life to me is a guy who takes himself very seriously.”
Farina’s many films include “Saving Private Ryan,” (1998), “Out Of Sight” (1998), “Midnight Run” (1988), “Manhunter” (1986), and his breakout and perhaps most beloved film, “Get Shorty” (1995), a comedic romp where he played a Miami mob boss.
He recently completed a comedy film, “Lucky Stiff.”
Among his numerous TV roles was Detective Joe Fontana on “Law & Order” during the 2004-06 seasons, replacing longtime cast member Jerry Orbach in the ensemble. Also on TV, Farina was a regular in the star-studded though short-lived 2011-12 HBO horse-track drama “Luck.”
His first film was the 1981 action drama “Thief,” directed by Michael Mann – a future collaborator on numerous projects as recently as “Luck” – whom he had met through a mutual friend.
He worked as a detective while taking occasional dramatic roles, and even starred in the 1980s cult favorite “Crime Story” before he made the full-time acting plunge.