Dennis Farina Biography

(Best Known for His Role as ‘Joe Fontana’ in the TV Series ‘Law & Order’)

Birthday: February 29, 1944 (Pisces)

Born In: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Dennis Farina was a film and television actor from America best known for his role in the film ‘Midnight Run.’ Prior to joining the show business, he had served for three years in the United States Army and 18 years in the Chicago Police Department. Considered one of the greatest character actors of his time, Farina grew up in a working-class, mixed-race neighbourhood. After graduating from high school, he joined the US Army and spent the next three years fighting in the Vietnam War. He then entered the police force of the city in which he was born and raised. He was working in the burglary division when he was introduced to director Michael Mann who hired him as a guide to understand the Chicago underworld. Mann later gave him an acting job in his 1981 film, ‘Thief’. Farina made his small screen debut two years later in the television film ‘Through Naked Eyes. In the ensuing years, he garnered a reputation for effortlessly evoking the grittiness of a life beyond the gloss and glamour of the tinsel town in his characters. He often played suave, assertive characters who were powerful members of the community. Some of his memorable roles are Ray “Bones” Barboni in ‘Get Shorty’, Jack Crawford in ‘Manhunter’, Lt Mike Torello in ‘Crime Story’, Jimmy Serrano in ‘Midnight Run’, and Cousin Avi in ‘Snatch’. Farina received the Commitment to Chicago Award at the 2011 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards. He passed away in 2013 at 69 years of age.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 69


Spouse/Ex-: Patricia Farina (m. 1970–1980)

father: Joseph

mother: Yolanda Farina

Partner: Marianne Cahill

Actors American Men

Height: 6'2" (188 cm), 6'2" Males

Died on: July 22, 2013

place of death: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States

City: Chicago, Illinois

Ancestry: Italian American

Cause of Death: Pulmonary Embolism

U.S. State: Illinois

Childhood & Early Life
Born in a leap year on February 29, 1944, in the Old Town neighbourhood of Chicago, Illinois, Dennis Farina was the youngest of the seven children of Joseph, a doctor originally from Villalba, Sicily, and Yolanda, a homemaker. The family lived a North Avenue home in Old Town. Their neighbours were working-class families hailing from different cultures. Among them, the Germans and the Italians were the most prominent.
Farina attended St Michael Central High School, graduating in 1962. After this, he enlisted in the US Army at the advent of the Vietnam War and subsequently served in that country for the next three years. After he returned home, he joined the Chicago Police Department, following the suggestion of one of his brothers, an attorney. He was part of the force for the next 18 years and at the time of his retirement, he had been serving as a detective.
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Film Career
Dennis Farina served in the police force from 1967 to 1985, predominantly in the burglary department. In 1978, he was hired by director Michael Mann to help him scout for locations for a crime film. Mann, who is a Chicago native himself, wanted to use the city as the backdrop for his first feature film.
Soon, a working relationship formed between the two, which would last for the next three decades. Mann even cast Farina in his debut film ‘Thief’ (1981). He played a character named Carl and worked alongside James Caan, James Belushi, and Tuesday Weld. *Farina’s second film was the Chuck Norris-starrer ‘Code of Silence’ (1985). In 1986, he was cast as Jack Crawford in ‘Manhunter’, the first film adaptation of the novel ‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris. This was his second film with Mann.
He made his small screen debut in 1983 in the telefilm ‘Through Naked Eyes’. He followed it up by appearing in another telefilm, ‘Hard Knox’ (1984). He worked with Mann in the latter’s show ‘Miami Vice’, which was also his first television series.
Farina’s portrayal of the frightening and comically foul-mouthed Jimmy Serrano, who serves as Robert De Niro’s (playing the character Jack Walsh) bête noire in the 1988 action comedy ‘Midnight Run’, earned him critical praise.
In 1990, he was cast in ‘Men of Respect’, a modern-day adaptation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. Farina portrayed Bankie Como, a character based on Banquo from the original play. He played an unaccredited role in Sydney Pollack’s drama film ‘Havana’ and a character named Mr Stunder in John Turturro’s Caméra d'Or award-winning drama ‘Mac’ (1992).
Farina landed his first starring role in the 1991 action-comedy ‘We're Talkin' Serious Money’. He played Sal, one part of a misfit duo. The other, Charlie, was played by Leo Rossi. Sal and Charlie get into trouble after they borrow $10,000 from the mafia. They flee to Los Angeles to get a fresh start but only end up in trouble again.
In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Farina appeared in a series of telefilms. They were ‘Six Against the Rock’ (1987), ‘Open Admissions’ (1988), ‘The Case of the Hillside Stranglers’ (1989), ‘Blind Faith’ (1990), ‘People Like Us’ (1990), ‘Perfect Crimes’ (1991), and ‘Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel’ (1992). Farina also appeared in the 1992 miniseries ‘Cruel Doubt’, which was based on the book of the same name by Joe McGinniss.
Farina starred opposite Bette Middler in the 1997 romantic-comedy ‘That Old Feeling’. Even in this film, which is about an estranged couple rekindling their romance in the midst of their daughter’s wedding, Farina maintained his usual approach to acting. He always kept his characters relatable without being too cerebral about his craft.
British director Guy Ritchie cast Farina in his crime comedy masterpiece ‘Snatch’ (2000) as Cousin Avi Denovitz, a New York-based jeweller. In 2007, he starred in the teen comedy ‘National Lampoon's Bag Boy’. Farina played Joe May in the 2011 drama film ‘The Last Rites of Joe May’. The musical comedy ‘Lucky Stiff’ was his final film. It was released posthumously in 2014.
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In 1998, he played the titular character in CBS’ short-lived crime drama series ‘Buddy Faro’. From 2002 to 2003, he appeared as Victor Pellet in NBC’s sitcom ‘In Laws’. Farina joined the cast of NBC’s long-running police procedural show ‘Law & Order’ as Det. Joe Fontana in 2004 and went on to appear in 46 episodes.
In early 2005, he lent his voice to Wildcat, the boxer turned superhero, in ‘Justice League Unlimited’. That year, he also appeared in the miniseries ‘Empire Falls’.
Farina replaced Robert Stack as the host and narrator of Spike TV’s ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ in 2008. Between 2011 and 2012, he starred alongside Dustin Hoffman in HBO’s drama series ‘Luck’. His last TV project was an episode of Fox’s animated series, ‘Family Guy’.
Major Works
Dennis Farina’s portrayal of Lt. Mike Torello in the show ’Crime Story’ (1986-88) is generally considered his finest hour on the screen. It was an NBC police drama that was revolutionary for its storytelling format. It presented a continuing storyline over the course of one season rather than being episodic, which was the norm in the 1980s.
In 1995, he was cast in the crime comedy ‘Get Shorty’ as Ray "Bones" Barboni, unarguably one of his most important roles. He played a Miami-based gangster who starts clashing with a loan shark named Chili Palmer (John Travolta) over a stolen coat. A critical and commercial success, ‘Get Shorty’ was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Farina won the American Comedy Award in 1996 for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his performance.
Personal Life
Dennis Farina married a woman named Patricia in 1970 and had three children with her: Dennis Jr., Michael, and Joseph. Furthermore, he had four grandsons: Michael, Tyler, Matthew and Eric, and two granddaughters: Brianna and Olivia. Joseph has followed his father’s footsteps into the entertainment industry as an actor and producer. Farina and Patricia divorced in 1980, after a decade of marriage. He spent the most of his later life with his long-time girlfriend Marianne Cahill in Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona.
On May 11, 2008, Farina was arrested after it was discovered that he had been carrying a loaded .22-caliber pistol through the Los Angeles International Airport security. After being transferred to the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division, he was charged with suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon. The initial bail was set at $25,000 but it was raised to $35,000 when the police found out that the gun was unregistered.
He kept saying that the gun was in his briefcase because he had just forgotten that it had been there and that he had no intention of taking it on a plane. Eventually, he agreed to a plea bargain with the prosecutors. Pleading no contest, Farina was given two years of probation on July 17, 2008.
On July 22, 2013, Farina died of a pulmonary embolism in a Scottsdale, Arizona hospital. He was buried in his hometown’s Mount Carmel Cemetery.
Farina was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.

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