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Dennis Farina, Best Cop/Mobster Actor in History, Dead at 69

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Dennis Farina died today in Scottsdale, Arizona, of a blood clot in his lung. He was 69 years old.

Farina was an 18 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department (1967-1985) before finding fame in Hollywood. A job as a police consultant for director Michael Mann in 1981 sparked an interest in acting, and Farina took his first small role in Mann’s 1981 film, Thief. Thereafter, Farina returned to Chicago, taking stage acting gigs while continuing his law enforcement career.

Farina then got called to big league, being cast in Mann’s TV series Crime Story and Miami Vice. Farina came to life in roles involving the criminal world. In addition to Crime Story and Miami Vice, Farina had a two-year stint on Law & Order, where he played Det. Joe Fontana, replacing Jerry Orbach’s Lenny Briscoe. On the big screen, Farina likewise gravitated to crime films, appearing in Midnight Run (1988), Get Shorty (1995), Out of Sight (1998), and Snatch (2000)—each film featuring Farina’s character enforcing or defying the law. He was set to appear in two upcoming films, Authors Anonymous and Lucky Stiff, each set for release later this year.

His 2008 arrest always seemed a propos in light of his career. On May 11, 2008, Farina was picked up for having carried a .22 pistol through security at Los Angeles International Airport. After police determined the weapon was unregistered, Farina’s bail jumped from $25,000 to $35,000. The actor claimed all along that he’d forgotten he had it with him and was sentenced to two years probation. On July 17, 2009, a judge dismissed the charges and expunged them from Farina’s record.

Despite the hubbub, likely no one was ever in danger: Farina once told an interviewer that during his time on the force he was such a bad shot that he was nicknamed “The Great Wounder.”

And now for a few tweets on the matter, a 21st Century 21 gun salute:

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Dennis Farina, Best Cop/Mobster Actor in History, Dead at 69
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  • Jack

    RIP, Mr. Farina. So good in Miami Vice and Out of Sight.

  • Kate

    As much as I and many others are sorry Dennis Farina has passed away so suddenly and too soon; this title is ridiculous and he would be the first to say so. If you just came to earth and focused only on his films and tv and never really did your homework about American cinema – or any other country’s film and tv history you may be allowed that mistake. Because creating a title like that says you don’t know Jack about American film. He will be missed. Dennis Farina was a fine actor. Not the “best cop/mobster actor ever.”

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