It's really upsetting to lose an actor like Dennis Farina, because he's one of a kind. Sure, there are lots of other character actors who could play wiseguys and tough cops, but no other character actor could play Dennis Farina. He's one of those "that guy" players who you've seen a ton of times and he's almost always dependably just who he is: Dennis Farina. From Midnight Run to Get Shorty to Snatch he was a perfect mob type with his thick accent. But he is just as well-known now for his relatively short run as Jerry Orbach's replacement on Law & Order as Det. Joe Fontana.
Not many people know, but Farina came into showbiz late, having actually been a cop in Chicago for 18 years. He began doing theater in the Windy City after meeting Michael Mann through a friend on the force and becoming a police consultant for the filmmaker. Mann also gave Farina his first big-screen role, in his 1981 feature Thief. From there it was uphill as Farina appeared on Mann's Miami Vice, in Mann's Manhunter and then as the lead on Mann's show Crime Story. They reteamed once again recently on the short-lived HBO series Luck.
He also worked a number of times for Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed him in Get Shorty and Big Trouble and produced another film he's in, Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight. His biggest movie, though, is Saving Private Ryan. And that's one of his many minor roles that you may recall wrongly as being much more prominent. But he wasn't always just a supporting heavy, and he might have gone on to do more leading roles like his last film (not counting two that haven't yet been released), the indie The Last Rites of Joe May, for which he received phenomenal reviews.
He's got a long resume for someone who got started late, but he still left us too early at age 69 after suffering a blood clot in his lung. A look through his film and TV work may take you aback as you notice how little you've actually seen. Farina was a larger-than-life personality who could steal scenes so intensely and leave an impression so deeply that you'll think his roles were bigger and more of his movies better and more popular.
Of course, there are a few characters of his we love the best. Watch some of our favorite clips of Dennis Farina below and celebrate the actor we all knew by voice and mustache and talent. And, as you likely know if you're familiar with Farina, most of these are NSFW.
Saving Private Ryan