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Dennis Farina, star of 'Law & Order,' dead at 69

By Frazier Moore

AP Television Writer

LAST UPDATED: 02:26 p.m. HST, Jul 22, 2013

NEW YORK » Dennis Farina, a onetime Chicago cop who as a popular character actor played a TV cop on "Law & Order" during his wide-ranging career, has died.

Death came this morning in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital after Farina suffered a blood clot in his lung, according to his publicist, Lori De Waal. He was 69.

For three decades, Farina was a character actor who displayed remarkable dexterity, charm and toughness, making effective use of his craggy face, husky frame, ivory smile and ample mustache. He could be as dapper as Fred Astaire and as full of threat as Clint Eastwood. His gift has been described as wry, tough-guy panache, and audiences loved him for it.

"Sometimes you can take those dramatic roles and maybe interject a little humor into them, and I think the reverse also works," Farina said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press. "One of the funny things in life to me is a guy who takes himself very seriously."

Farina's many films include "Saving Private Ryan," (1998), "Out Of Sight" (1998), "Midnight Run" (1988), "Manhunter" (1986), and his breakout and perhaps most beloved film, "Get Shorty" (1995), a comedic romp where he played a Miami mob boss.

He recently completed shooting a comedy film, "Lucky Stiff."

Among his numerous TV roles was Detective Joe Fontana on "Law & Order" during the 2004-06 seasons, replacing longtime cast member Jerry Orbach in the ensemble.

"Law & Order" executive producer Dick Wolf said he was "stunned and saddened to hear about Dennis' unexpected passing this morning. The 'Law & Order' family extends sympathy and condolences to his family."

Also on TV, Farina was a regular in the star-studded though short-lived 2011-12 HBO horse-track drama "Luck."

He starred in the 1980s cult favorite "Crime Story," and his stylish private-eye drama "Buddy Faro" (1998) was warmly received if little-watched. He followed that up with a 2002 sitcom flop, "The In-Laws."

Last season he guest-starred on the Fox comedy "New Girl."

A veteran of the Chicago theater, Farina appeared in Joseph Mantegna's "Bleacher Bums" and "Streamers," directed by Terry Kinney, among other productions.

Born Feb. 29, 1944, Farina was raised in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago, the seventh child of Italian immigrants.

After three years in the U.S. Army, he served with the Chicago Police Department for 18 years, both as a uniformed officer (he was there for the 1968 Chicago riots) and a burglary detective, before he found his way into acting as he neared his forties.

His first film was the 1981 action drama "Thief," directed by Michael Mann — a future collaborator on numerous projects as recently as "Luck" — whom he had met through a mutual friend.

In "Thief" he landed a small role as a criminal henchman, and, while not initially planning a career change, found the film world "very interesting," as he told the AP in 2004, and concluded it could be a great sideline. (At the time, he was supplementing his cop's salary by working as a security guard.)

"I remember going to the set that day and being intrigued by the whole thing. I liked it. And everybody was extremely nice to me," he recalled, while cautioning, "If the people were rude and didn't treat me right, things could have gone the other way."

He continued to work as a detective while taking occasional dramatic roles, and even took a leave of absence from the Chicago police to star in "Crime Story," before he made the full-time acting plunge.

"If I'm characterized as a character actor, that's fine with me," he said in 2007. "Whatever they want to call me is fine. In the kind of roles I do, you can do them and walk away from it and have a really nice time."

Farina is survived by three sons, six grandchildren and his longtime partner, Marianne Cahill.

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serious wrote:
I can never understand why they call these people "stars"!!!! They are actors and paid rather well. Same as the professional athletes. The real "stars" are the ones that are in uniform in the service to protect our freedom.
on July 22,2013 | 07:59AM
Larry01 wrote:
But the guy was a beat cop in Chicago before turning to acting - one of the reasons he got the Crime Story role. I'd consider him a "star."
on July 22,2013 | 08:41AM
lowtone123 wrote:
Okay...Let's try it again. A-hem...Dennis Farina, well paid actor of "Law & Order", dead at 69. Eh...doesn't have the same ring to it.
on July 22,2013 | 08:42AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
serious, are you serious? I've heard that term all my life, never heard a soldier called a "star". ?War hero, yes, if he was a war veteran.Get over it, movie actors are stars, not soldiers and war veterans.
on July 22,2013 | 08:56AM
IAmSane wrote:
Hahahahaha... calm down, Captain America.
on July 22,2013 | 09:53AM
s_manuwai wrote:
"serious" He was a cop for 18 years before he started acting. He wore uniform in the service of protecting freedom and stopping crime. He's star and a hero.
on July 22,2013 | 11:31AM
false wrote:
I take you never saw any of Farina's movies then...
on July 22,2013 | 11:55AM
dlum003 wrote:
One of the better "Heavies" in hollywood
on July 22,2013 | 08:30AM
inverse wrote:
He did not fit well in Law and Order when he took over for Jerry Orbach who died from prostate cancer.
on July 22,2013 | 10:13AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Midnite Run was a classic movie which everyone should see....funny to the very end.......
on July 22,2013 | 08:42AM
REMKaneshiro wrote:
Yup, "Midnight Run" is a underrated classic. But I think much too dialogue-driven for most under 35 years old.
on July 22,2013 | 11:33AM
joshislost wrote:
suprised no one turned this into a racial thing yet????
on July 22,2013 | 06:20PM
AshesofAngels wrote:
First thing I ever saw him in was "The Case of the Hillside Stranglers" with Billy Zane. "IMDb" shows that he had a good career, a good body of work where he worked steady and worked with many actors along the way and brought a great vibrance to his roles. Human Mortality and Impermanence sets deeper in with each passing of people you grew up watching on the Big and Small Screens.
on July 25,2013 | 01:22AM
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