Dennis Farina (born Febrary 29, 1944) is an American actor of film and television and former Chicago police officer. He is 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 Detective Joe Fontana on Law & Order. His latest TV role was in HBO's Luck, which premiered on January 29, 2012.
Farina was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Sicilian-American parents Iolanda, a homemaker, and Joseph Farina, a Sicilian immigrant doctor. He was raised in a large family and has three brothers and three sisters. Before becoming an actor, Farina served 18 years in the Chicago Police Department's burglary division, from 1967 to 1985.
Career in show business
Farina began his work in show business working for director Michael Mann as a police consultant, which subsequently led to an interest in acting when Mann cast him in a small role in the 1981 film Thief. Farina proceeded to moonlight as an actor in the Chicago theater scene before Mann chose him for his Crime Story series. Farina played the mobster Albert Lombard in Michael Mann's other television show, Miami Vice.
Two of his most well-known movie characters are Jimmy Serrano, the mob boss from Midnight Run, and Ray "Bones" Barboni, a rival criminal of Chili Palmer's in Get Shorty. He also played FBI Agent Jack Crawford in the first Hannibal Lecter crime film, Michael Mann's Manhunter. Other movies in Farina's filmography include Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan (as Army Lieutenant Colonel Walter Anderson), Striking Distance, Another Stakeout, Little Big League, Snatch, The Mod Squad and Out of Sight. He co-starred with Bette Midler in the romantic comedy That Old Feeling.
Farina has demonstrated quite 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 2002-03. He 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. In early 2005, Farina provided the voice of aging boxer-turned-superhero Wildcat on Justice League Unlimited.
The producers of the long-running television series Law & Order hired Farina as Det. Joe Fontana after the retirement of Jerry Orbach's character Lennie Briscoe. Farina stayed with the show for two years, but his character was not as popular with viewers as Orbach's Lennie Briscoe had been. As a result, in May 2006, it was announced that Farina was leaving Law & Order to pursue 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 later seconded to the U.S. Justice Department. Farina's Law & Order character, Joe Fontana, worked for Chicago Homicide before his transfer to the NYPD. As is common on Law & Order, Fontana shares a number of other characteristics with the actor who plays him: they hail from the same Chicago neighborhood, attended the same parochial school, and have the same tastes in both clothes and music.
In October 2008, Farina 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 entire original 15-year run before his death in 2003. The series would include re-edited segments from previous incarnations on NBC, CBS, and Lifetime (all originally hosted by Stack) as well as several new original stories.
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 co-stars in the 2012 HBO horse-race gambling series Luck, with Dustin Hoffman, directed by Michael Mann.
Farina was married to Patricia Farina from 1970 until their divorce in 1980. They have three sons: 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.
Farina is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan and played an avid fan in a 1988 revival of the successful 1977 Organic Theater Company stage play The Bleacher Bums which was written by and starred fellow Chicago actors Joe Mantegna and Dennis Franz.