Dennis Farina, one of the great character actors of our time, has passed away at the age of 69. His publicist announced the news this morning, though no cause of death was listed.
Farina got his break when Michael Mann made his directorial debut Thief in 1981. Mann’s concept for the film was to have most of the cops played by real-life crooks, and vice versa, and so Farina played a crook. It appeared it gave him the acting bug and after eighteen years on the force, he retired and went to Hollywood. It mostly led to TV work, but Mann kept an eye on Farina, and cast him in both his movies (Manhunter) and his TV shows (Farina appeared on Miami Vice, Crime Story, and in Luck).
Mann’s work had him playing cops and crooks, and for good reason, but it was work in films like Midnight Run and Get Shorty that showed Farina could be hilarious. He was the sort of actor who could bounce back between crap and masterpieces, from TV to movies, and he always made everything he was in better. As a character actor, he had his peak moment in 1998 when appeared in Steven Spielberg‘s Saving Private Ryan and Steven Soderbergh‘s Out of Sight in the same summer.
Though in no way is the passing of Dennis Farina the gut punch that came when James Gandolfini died, there is a sense that both were the sort of performers that made everything they did that much better. Farina was one of those guys that if you saw his name in the credits, you knew you’d at least get five good minutes in a movie. For that he will be missed.
What is your favorite Dennis Farina performance?