A former Chicago policeman who parlayed his gruff but gentle charm into a long and respected film and TV career, Dennis Farina passed away on July 22 in Scottsdale, Ariz., at age 69, from a blood clot in his lung.
Farina performed on stage in Chicago before landing his first film, the 1981 Michael Mann drama Thief. ”I remember going to the set that day and being intrigued by the whole thing,” Farina said in a 2004 interview with the Associated Press. ”Everybody was extremely nice to me. If the people were rude and didn’t treat me right, things could have gone the other way.” He went on to play a variety of heavies in movies (”No one can say the F-word like Dennis,” gushed Get Shorty director Barry Sonnenfeld to EW in 1995), but his most high-profile work was on the small screen. Farina’s tough-guy persona — not to mention that craggy face and snowy hair — made him the perfect cop on shows like Crime Story, Miami Vice, and Law & Order, where he costarred as Det. Joe Fontana for two years. ”I was stunned and saddened to hear about Dennis’ unexpected passing,” said L&O creator Dick Wolf in a statement. ”He was a great guy.”
Most recently, Farina played Dustin Hoffman’s right-hand man on HBO’s Luck and the con-man dad of Jake Johnson’s Nick on Fox’s New Girl. ”I feel very honored to have had the chance to meet, talk the Chicago Bears, and act with Dennis Farina,” said Johnson. ”I am sad for his family, friends, and his fans. We all will miss out.”