Dennis Farina, the former Chicago cop turned movie and TV tough guy has died in Arizona, according to his publicist. He was 69. The cause of death was not released. Best known for his co-starring role as Det Joe Fontana onNBC’s Law & Order, Executive producer Dick Wolf issued this statement:
“I was stunned and saddened to hear about Dennis’ unexpected passing this morning. The Law & Order family extends sympathy and condolences to his family. He was a great guy.”
Farina starred in at least 75 movies or television series but did not start acting until he was 37 years old. He served on the Chicago Police Department for 18 years before coming to Hollywood’s attention as a police consultant for Michael Mann.
Farina proceeded to moonlight among the Chicago theater scene until Mann used him to portray a memorable mobster inMiami Vice. From there, Mann chose Farina to star in the high-profile but short-lived Vegas period series Crime Story and again as an FBI agent in Mann’s Hannibal Lecter feature film Manhunter.
From then on, the character actor with the husky voice and craggy looks would play primarily mobsters, cops, feds, or very strict and scary fathers. He was equally comfortable in drama (Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and HBO’s Luck directed by Mann) as comedy (Midnight Run, and opposite Bette Midler in That Old Feeling and a recurring role on the Fox sitcom New Girl).