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:
So long, Dennis Farina. What a run, from Manhunter to Midnight Run to Out of Sight to Snatch. Let's take a knee.
— Nick Offerman (@Nick_Offerman) July 22, 2013
Lost one of the true greats today. RIP Dennis Farina. Thanks for making 'character actor' a compliment. http://t.co/WzzHr7IuPD
— Seth Green (@SethGreen) July 22, 2013
You can't play a role better than Dennis Farina as the gangster in "Midnight Run." If you haven't seen it, do tonight in his honor. #RIP
— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) July 22, 2013
In shock about the loss of Dennis Farina. RIP to the man with the most awesome head of hair. Great man!
— Lamorne Morris (@LamorneMorris) July 22, 2013