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It is a sad day, indeed, as one of the greatest tough guy character actors in Hollywood has passed away. Dennis Farina, the man with the mustache, died this morning in a Scottsdale, Arizona hospital, as a result of a blood clot forming in his lung. He was 69 years old. That number may surprise you, as Farina has managed to look almost exactly the same over the past 30 years, except for his hair color. And here at Cinema Blend, we'd rather remember and celebrate the career that Farina was responsible for rather than merely mourning his passing. I have trouble believing the man would have wanted it any other way.
Born February 29, 1944, the Chicago native joined the Chicago Police Department in 1967 and worked there for 18 years until he decided to get into the acting business. He played a bit part in Michael Mann’s 1981 thriller Thief, which led to a stint in theater before Mann decided to put him in the gritty 1986 NBC drama Crime Story, which lasted two seasons. This is perhaps my favorite of all of Farina’s roles, as his no-bullshit Lieutenant Mike Torello was one of the first cops on TV that I truly didn’t want to piss off as a child, and that series along with Hill Street Blues changed the way that televised police dramas were crafted for audiences. He was also one of the only characters to ever seemingly survive an atomic bomb.
But this was hardly his most famous character, and his two most celebrated film roles were on the opposite side of the law. As Midnight Run’s mob boss Jimmy Serrano, he cemented himself as the guy who made being scary look funny with a sense of humor that was frightening, at least if you were the guy embezzling all his money. This role was later complemented by Farina’s turn as Ray “Bones” Barboni in Get Shorty, where he continued to make spouting out F-bombs look like an art form. Combine those roles with excellent performances in films like Snatch, Saving Private Ryan and Out of Sight, and you’re barely skimming the surface of an impressive decades-spanning career.
Law and Order fans will definitely remember him as Detective Joe Fontana from seasons 15 and 16, where he brought his Italian Chicago background to the NYPD with force. More recently, Farina starred with Dustin Hoffman in the short-lived HBO series Luck as racehorse owner and mobster right-hand-man Gus. I know it was cancelled due to the safety of horses on the set, but I think it’s because no one really wanted to believe that Farina would work for Hoffman.
His last TV role was on the Fox comedy New Girl, and he still has two films that have yet to be released, the comedy Authors Anonymous and the musical comedy Lucky Stiff.
R.I.P Dennis Farina. Your dramatically comedic realism will truly be missed for many years to come. We extend our condolences to Farina’s family and friends in their time of mourning.
Have a laugh along with the following NSFW video montage, which captures some of Farina’s best profanity-spewing moments.