Dennis Farina: From ‘Crime Story’ to ‘New Girl,’ his 10 greatest roles

Dennis Farina: From ‘Crime Story‘ to ‘New Girl,’ his 10 greatest roles
July 22, 2013

Fans of veteran character actor Dennis Farina were shocked on Monday (July 22) to learn that he had suddenly passed away at the age of 69 after suffering a blood clot in his lung. Luckily for us, Farina, a former Chicago police officer who commonly played cops on screen, will live on in the performances he brought to life in both TV and film.

Here’s a look back at the 10 roles that defined Farina’s long career in show business.

1. “Thief” – 1981

Farina may have only appeared briefly as Carl, a henchman, but this was the film role that started it all. Director Michael Mann cast him in the film after Farina had worked his his police consultant, beginning a working relationship that would span the actor’s career

2. “Manhunter” – 1986

When Mann adapted Thomas Harris’ novel “Red Dragon” (the first cinematic appearance of Hannibal Lecter), he turned to Farina to bring FBI agent Jack Crawford to life. Farina was the first actor to breathe life into a character that’s also been played by Harvey Keitel and, most recently, Laurence Fishburne on NBC’s “Hannibal.”

3. “Crime Story” – 1986-1988

After appearing in a handful episodes on Mann’s “Miami Vice,” Farina was chosen to toppling this NBC series about two men in the early ’60s who were determined to destroy one another. As Lt. Mike Torello, Farina went back to his roots to play a Chicago Police detective out to get mobster Ray Luca (Anthony Denison).

4. “Midnight Run” – 1988

In this action-comedy film, starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, Farina appeared not as a cop, but as Chicago mob boss Jimmy Serrano, whom Grodin’s character had embezzled $15 million from.

5. “Get Shorty” – 1995

In the hit adaptation of Elmore Leonard‘s novel of the same name, Farina appeared as Miami mobster Ray “Bones” Barboni, rival to John Travolta’s character, Chili Palmer.

6. “That Old Feeling” – 1997

For a rare foray into romantic comedy, Farina would reteam with “Get Shorty” co-star Bette Midler. In the film, directed by Carl Reiner, the two played divorced parents who reunite for the first time in 14 years at their daughter’s wedding. Sparks, inevitably, re-fly.

7. “Out of Sight” – 1998

Another adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, Farina had a bit part as Marshall Sisco, father of Jennifer Lopez’s Karen Sisco.

8. “Law & Order” – 2004-2006

Brought on to replace a retiring Jerry Orbach, Farina spent two years playing Det. Joe Fontana, a transfer to the NYPD from the Chicago Police Department. The character was known for having a flashy lifestyle, often remarking how events on the job would damage his expensive clothing.

9. “Luck” – 2012

Farina would team with Mann for the final time on this short-lived HBO drama, created by David Milch, centered around the world of horse racing. He starred as Gus Demitriou, long-time driver and confidante of mobster Chester “Ace” Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman). The scenes between Hoffman and Farina were among some of the series’ finest.

10. “New Girl” – 2012

In what would become the final role of his career, Farina guest-starred as Walt Miller, Nick’s (Jake Johnson) con man father. After two episodes wherein a relationship between father and son was rekindled, Farina’s character was killed off.

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