Former policeman turned actor Dennis Farina dies at 69

Mon Jul 22, 2013 3:39pm EDT
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Dennis Farina, the former Chicago cop turned film and TV actor best known for his role as wise-cracking detective Joe Fontana on the hit NBC police drama "Law & Order," died in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Monday, his publicist said. He was 69.

Farina, who parlayed his experience as a police officer, Chicago-accented baritone and straight talking demeanor into a series of tough-guy roles in Hollywood, died after suffering a blood clot in his lung, his publicist Lori De Waal said.

"I was stunned and saddened to hear about Dennis' unexpected passing this morning," Dick Wolf, executive producer of "Law & Order," said in a written statement.

"The 'Law & Order' family extends sympathy and condolences to his family. He was a great guy."

The Chicago-born Farina earned his first credited role in a bit part in the 1981 Michael Mann film "Thief" and would go on to play mobsters Jimmy Serrano in 1988 comedy "Midnight Run" and Ray "Bones" Barboni in 1995 comedy "Get Shorty."

He gained wider attention on NBC TV series "Crime Story" portraying Lt. Mike Torello, the head of Chicago Police Department's organized crime unit, during the show's two season run between 1986 and 1988.

Farina's role on "Law & Order" between 2004 and 2006 also played on the actor's law enforcement background, as Fontana landed in the New York Police Department via Chicago.

The actor's final starring role was in the short-lived HBO TV mob and horse racing series "Luck" opposite Dustin Hoffman. The critically acclaimed series was canceled after its first season due to the death of three horses during production.   Continued...

Actor Dennis Farina arrives at the Hollywood premiere of the HBO series "Luck" in Los Angeles, California January 25, 2012. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas