Dennis Farina

Dennis Farina

Farina at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival
Born February 29, 1944
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died July 22, 2013(2013-07-22) (aged 69)
Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.
Cause of death pulmonary embolism
Occupation Actor, Chicago Police Officer
Years active 1981–2013
Spouse(s) Patricia Farina (1970–1980) (divorced)
Partner(s) Marianne Cahill[1]
Children 3

Dennis Farina (February 29, 1944 – July 22, 2013) was an Italian-American actor of film and television and former Chicago police officer. He was a character actor, often typecast as a mobster or police officer. His most known film roles are those of mobster Jimmy Serrano in the comedy Midnight Run and Ray "Bones" Barboni in Get Shorty. He starred on television as Lieutenant Mike Torello on Crime Story and as NYPD Detective Joe Fontana on Law & Order. He also hosted and narrated a revived version of Unsolved Mysteries. His last major television role was in HBO's Luck, which premiered on January 29, 2012.

Early life

Farina was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Sicilian-American parents Joseph Farina, a doctor, and his wife Yolanda Donati.[2][3][4] His father was from Villalba, Sicily.[5] He had three brothers and three sisters.

Before becoming an actor, Farina served three years in the United States Army, followed by 18 years in the Chicago Police Department's burglary division, from 1967 to 1985.

Career in show business

Farina began working for director Michael Mann as a police consultant, which led Mann to cast him in a small role in the 1981 film Thief. Farina moonlighted as an actor in Chicago-based films (like Code of Silence, a 1985 Chuck Norris film) and theater before Mann chose him for his Crime Story series, which aired on NBC from 1986-88. Farina played mobster Albert Lombard in Mann's previous hit television show, Miami Vice. He later starred as the title character in Buddy Faro, a 1998 private-detective series on CBS.

Two of his best-known movie characters are Jimmy Serrano, the mob boss from Midnight Run, and Ray "Bones" Barboni, a rival criminal to Chili Palmer in Get Shorty. Farina also played FBI Agent Jack Crawford in the first Hannibal Lecter crime film, Michael Mann's Manhunter.

Other movies include Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (as Lieutenant Colonel Walter Anderson) and in various cops-and-robbers stories including Striking Distance, Another Stakeout, Snatch, The Mod Squad, Reindeer Games, Men of Respect, Big Trouble and Out of Sight. He played a baseball manager in Little Big League and a basketball coach in Eddie.

In a leading-man role and a departure from his usual parts, Farina co-starred with Bette Midler in a romantic comedy, That Old Feeling, directed by Carl Reiner in 1997.

In 1998's Saving Private Ryan, Farina plays a short role as the battalion commander who advises Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) of the mission which forms the basis of the film's plot.

Farina had a flair for comedy. He won an American Comedy Award for his performance in Get Shorty and starred in a television sitcom, In-Laws, from 2002 until 2003. He appeared in 2002's Stealing Harvard, a comedy in which he played a tough-talking, overprotective father-in-law. He also had a comic role opposite Ed Harris and Helen Hunt in the HBO production of Empire Falls in 2005 and opposite Alan Rickman in 2008's Bottle Shock.

His distinctive voice was put to use in early 2005, when Farina provided the voice of aging boxer-turned-superhero Wildcat on Justice League Unlimited. In early 2013, he voiced the father of Daffy Duck's girlfriend on The Looney Tunes Show, and played himself in an April 13, 2014 episode of the animated series Family Guy called "The Most Interesting Man in the World," aired posthumously, one of his final acting roles.

In 2004, the producers of the television series Law & Order hired Farina as Det. Joe Fontana; following the departure of longtime cast member Jerry Orbach. Farina stayed on the show for two seasons, but his character was not as popular as Orbach's Det. Lennie Briscoe had been. In May 2006, it was announced Farina was leaving Law & Order for other projects, including 2007's You Kill Me opposite Ben Kingsley and 2008's What Happens in Vegas with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher.

His role of Detective Lt. Mike Torello on Crime Story was as a Chicago police officer, who was assigned to the U.S. Justice Department. Farina's Law & Order character, Detective Fontana, worked for Chicago Homicide before his transfer to the NYPD. Fontana shared a number of other characteristics with the actor who played him; they came from the same Chicago neighborhood, attended the same parochial school, and had the same tastes in clothes and music and were fans of the Chicago Cubs.

Also on television, Farina appeared in two network miniseries based on Joe McGinniss true-crime books, Blind Faith (1990) and Cruel Doubt (1992). He made a rare western, portraying legendary lawman Charlie Siringo in a 1995 television movie, Bonanza: Under Attack, a followup to the hit 1960s series.

In October 2008, he became the new host of Unsolved Mysteries when it returned to television with a new five-season, 175-episode run on Spike TV. Farina replaced Robert Stack, who had hosted the series for its prior 15-year run. This version featured re-edited segments from previous incarnations on NBC, CBS, and Lifetime .[6]

Farina played the title role in a 2011 independent film, The Last Rites of Joe May, written and directed by Joe Maggio, shot on location in Chicago. He was among the stars of a 2014 release, Authors Anonymous, playing a wanna-be novelist with a fantasy of becoming another Tom Clancy.

On television, Farina co-starred in the 2012 HBO horse-race gambling series Luck, with Dustin Hoffman, directed by Michael Mann. He had a recurring guest role in 2013 in the television comedy series New Girl, though his character was killed off prior to the actor's death.

Personal life

Farina in May 2007

Farina was married to Patricia Farina from 1970 until their divorce in 1980. They have three sons together: Dennis Jr, Michael and Joseph. His youngest son, Joseph, is also an actor. He has two granddaughters, Brianna and Olivia, and four grandsons: Michael, Tyler, Matthew and Eric. He lived with his longtime girlfriend Marianne Cahill[7] in Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Farina was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan and played in this role in a 1988 revival of the successful 1977 Organic Theater Company stage play Bleacher Bums, which was written by and starred fellow Chicago actors Joe Mantegna and Dennis Franz.


Farina was arrested on May 11, 2008, for carrying a loaded .22 caliber pistol through Los Angeles International Airport security. Farina was taken to the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division and booked on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon, and bail was set at $25,000. He claimed he had simply forgotten the weapon was still in his briefcase and had never intended to take it on a plane. After police determined the weapon was unregistered, the charges were upgraded to a felony and bail was increased to $35,000.[8]

On July 17, 2008, after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors, Farina pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years' probation.[9]


Farina died on July 22, 2013, in a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona after suffering a pulmonary embolism.[10][11] Farina is buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.


Year Film Role Notes
1981 Thief Carl
1985 Code of Silence Dorato
1986 Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling Freddy
1986 Manhunter Jack Crawford
1988 Midnight Run Jimmy Serrano
1990 Men of Respect Bankie Como
1992 We're Talking Serious Money Sal
1992 Mac Mr. Stunder
1992 Street Crimes Brian
1993 Another Stakeout Brian O'Hara
1993 Romeo Is Bleeding Nick Gazzara Uncredited
1993 Striking Distance Capt. Nick Detillo
1994 Little Big League George O'Farrell
1995 Get Shorty Ray "Bones" Barboni
1996 Eddie Coach John Bailey
1997 That Old Feeling Dan De Mora
1998 Out of Sight Marshall Sisco
1998 Saving Private Ryan Lt. Col. Walter Anderson
1999 The Mod Squad Capt. Adam Greer
2000 Reindeer Games Jack Bangs
2000 Preston Tylk Dick Muller
2000 Snatch Abraham "Avi" Denovitz
2001 Sidewalks of New York Carpo
2002 Big Trouble Henry Desalvo
2002 Stealing Harvard Mr. Warner
2004 Paparazzi Det. Burton
2004 Scrambled Eggs Dr. Carlson Short film
2007 You Kill Me Edward O'Leary
2007 Purple Violets Gilmore
2007 National Lampoon's Bag Boy Marty Engstrom
2008 The Grand L.B.J. Deuce Fairbanks
2008 Bottle Shock Maurice
2008 What Happens in Vegas Banger
2010 Knucklehead Memphis Earl
2011 The Last Rites of Joe May Joe May
2014 Authors Anonymous John K. Butzin


Year Title Role Notes
1983 Through Naked Eyes Patrolman TV film
1984 Hard Knox April TV film
1984–1989 Miami Vice Albert Lombard 3 episodes
1985 American Playhouse Supervisor Episode: "The Killing Floor"
1985 Hardcastle and McCormick Ed Coley Episode: "Undercover McCormick"
1985 Hunter Vic Terranova Episode: "The Snow Queen" 1 & 2
1985 Remington Steele Cop Episode: "Steele Trying"
1985 Final Jeopardy Policeman #2 TV film
1986 The Birthday Boy Diner owner TV film
1986 Jack and Mike Episode: Pilot
1986 Lady Blue Joe Kaufman Episode: "Sylvie"
1986 Triplecross Ernie (Veteran Cop) TV film
1986–1988 Crime Story Lt. Mike Torello 44 episodes
1987 Six Against the Rock Robert Stroud TV film
1988 Open Admissions Fred TV film
1989 China Beach Lt. Col. Edward Edward Vincent Episode: "All About E.E.V."
1989 The Case of the Hillside Stranglers Angelo Buono, Jr. TV film
1990 Blind Faith Prosecutor Kelly TV film
1990 People Like Us Elias Renthall TV film
1991 Perfect Crimes Armand Zaro TV film
1992 Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel Mike Cerone TV film
1992 Cruel Doubt Tom Bereton Miniseries
1992 Tales from the Crypt Antoine Episode: "Werewolf Concerto"
1993 The Disappearance of Nora Denton TV film
1993 A Stranger in the Mirror TV film
1994 One Woman's Courage Craig McKenna TV film
1994 The Corpse Had a Familiar Face Det. Harry Lindstrom TV film
1995 Out of Annie's Past Charlie Ingle TV film
1995 Bonanza: Under Attack Charley Siringo TV film
1997 Bella Mafia Don Roberto Luciano TV film
1998 Buddy Faro Buddy Faro 13 episodes
2002–2003 In-Laws Victor Pellet 15 episodes
2004–2006 Law & Order Det. Joe Fontana 46 episodes
2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury Det. Joe Fontana Episode: "Skeleton"
2005 Justice League Unlimited Wildcat (voice) Episode: "The Cat and the Canary"
2005 Empire Falls Walt Comeau Miniseries
2008–2010 Unsolved Mysteries Host/narrator Lifetime
2011–2012 Luck Gus Demitriou HBO
2012 New Girl Walt Miller 2 episodes
2012 Doc McStuffins Riggo Episode: "Stuck Up"
2013 The Looney Tunes Show Frank Russo (voice) Episode: "Daffy Duck, Esquire"
2014 Family Guy Himself, final role Episode: "The Most Interesting Man in the World"


  1. Yardley, William (July 23, 2013). "Dennis Farina, Detective in Life and TV, Dies at 69". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
  2. "People Profile | Dennis Farina". Cigar Aficionado. 1999-08-01. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  3. "Dennis Farina Biography (1944–)". Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  4. Houlihan, Mike (2004-03-12). "Even Italian actor gets touched by shamrock // 120 HOURS TO GO". Chicago Sun-Times.
  5. "History of medicine and surgery and physicians and surgeons of Chicago online". Biographical Publishing Corporation. p. 49. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  6. "'Unsolved Mysteries' Gets A New Look On Spike Tv". 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  7. "Dennis Farina and his longtime love Marianne Cahill". E News Daily. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  8. "Actor Dennis Farina arrested at LA Airport". 2008-05-11. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  9. "Actor Dennis Farina Gets Probation on Gun Charge". 2008-07-17. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  10. "Publicist: Actor Dennis Farina, Police Officer Turned Star of "Law & Order," Has Died at 69.". Associated Press. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
  11. "'Law And Order' Star Dies; Blood Clot In Lung". TMZ. Retrieved 22 July 2013.

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