Law & Order Star Dennis Farina Dead at 69

Get More: In Memoriam

Dennis Farina DiesDennis Farina, a former police officer who rose to fame in TV’s Crime Story and the big-screen Midnight Run in the mid-’80s, then went on to create memorable roles on Law & Order, Luck and most recently New Girl, died Monday at age 69.

News of Farina’s passing was first published by the Associated Press; the cause of death was reportedly a blood clot in his lung.

Born in 1944 in Chicago, Farina worked for that city’s police force for 18 years before switching gears and becoming an actor, where he frequently played law-enforcement or mobster type roles.

He rose to fame as Lt. Mike Torello in Michael Mann’s period drama Crime Story, as well as through his role as Jack Crawford in the first Hannibal Lecter movie Manhunter, and mob boss Jimmy Serrano in Midnight Run.

More recently, Farina’s Det. Joe Fonatana was introduced in 2004 as a pseudo-replacement to Law & Order‘s Lennie Briscoe (played by the late Jerry Orbach); Farina’s character failed to catch on with viewers and he was written out after two seasons.

Farina’s last regular series role was on HBO’s ill-fated Luck, though he appeared in two Season 2 episodes of New Girl as Nick’s dad, and had just been announced as a Family Guy Season 12 voice.

 What are some of your favorite memories of Farina’s long and illustrious career? Share with your fellow readers in the comments.



Comments (51)

  • I really liked his turn on L&O, although I know I’m probably in the minority on that. He was a perfect counterpart to the eternally bland Jesse Martin.

    Comment by Pat D. – July 22, 2013 10:32 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I enjoyed it also-but he’ll always be Mike Torello to me-RIP Dennis.;(

      Comment by Suzanne Kari (@suzank45) – July 22, 2013 10:36 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • One of the best roles ever on Crime Story.

        Comment by Looney – July 22, 2013 01:35 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree with you Pat D., I know he was not well liked, but I really liked him & like you said “He was a perfect counterpart to the eternally bland Jesse Martin”, so bravo for your post which was well put.
      Angie

      Comment by papnana – July 22, 2013 10:48 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I loved him in L&O! He was just an all around talented actor. He will be missed. RIP Dennis.

      Comment by CactusRose – July 22, 2013 10:52 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • i thoroughly enjoyed him, as well. and i happen to think Jesse L. Martin was terrific.
      no need to put one down to raise the other.

      Comment by flutiefan – July 22, 2013 11:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • So true flutie fan. I’m not even sure why Jesse L. Martin’s talent had to even been brought up. I enjoyed both their performances on L&O. I loved Dennis in many of his other roles and was sad to read about his passing. He will truly be missed!

        Comment by Jackie – July 22, 2013 12:29 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Sorry, but one of the first things that come to mind when I think of “bland character” I think of Jesse Martin’s turn as Ed Green. Utterly forgettable in just about every way.

        Maybe that was just the way the character was written, but I felt he was far inferior to his predecessors (Ben Bratt, Noth [depending on how you see the Briscoe/Logan dynamic) and his successor (Jeremy Sisto). It wasnt that he was BAD, mind you, just that he did absolutely nothing to stand out.

        Comment by Pat D. – July 22, 2013 01:27 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I liked Dennis F in anything he was in, he always brought an authenticity and a slight twinkle in his eye while on screen.

      Comment by gail – July 22, 2013 12:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree that his Detective Fontana was a good foil for Detective Greene. Plus, I think some of the reason Farina wasn’t as well received as he could have been was that Farina had a hell of a job to do: Jerry Orbach in his role in as Lennie Briscoe was a tough act to follow. RIP.

      Comment by kate – July 22, 2013 02:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • so agree he and Jesse kinda bounced off each other–great actor R.I.P. Dennis

      Comment by tracy rucker boykin (@ttrb62) – July 22, 2013 03:49 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I remember fondly many of his roles, played masterfully.

      Your acting talents will be sadly missed by your fans, Dennis. May you rest in peace, My condolences are extended to Mr. Farina’s family during this difficult time.

      Comment by The art of poise – July 23, 2013 07:40 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Any future New Girl guest stars should insist on a ‘no funeral’ contract.

    Comment by RockGolf (@rock_golf) – July 22, 2013 10:35 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Yeah, that turned out to be unsettlingly prophetic. Very sad.

      Comment by wordsmith – July 22, 2013 11:36 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Great actor and I liked him on L&O. RIP

    Comment by glen – July 22, 2013 10:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Joe Fontana may not be as memorable as Briscoe, but he filled the shoes nicely while was there…RIP Dennis Farnia

    Comment by Kenny – July 22, 2013 10:42 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • What a huge loss in the acting world! Dennis Farina was a very thoughtful & versatile actor. He and James Gandolfini are probably already playing cards& having a laugh ; “upstairs”.

    Comment by kakirita – July 22, 2013 10:45 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • What a great way to look at it:-)

      Comment by jacqsworld – July 22, 2013 12:34 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • Thanks, Jacqsaworld. My theory is to view their deaths,( although very tragic), as “was it is,” & these two fine actors will make the most of their situation. :)

        Comment by kakirita – July 22, 2013 12:40 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sad to hear about his passing. He had a great career. my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

    Comment by Joey – July 22, 2013 10:52 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am very sad to hear about his death. I always found him fun and engaging in every role he played – whether a good guy or the heavy. Another wonderful actor gone. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

    Comment by rowan77 – July 22, 2013 10:57 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Ray Bones in “Get Shorty”–brilliant.

    Comment by StupidPeopleShutUp – July 22, 2013 11:01 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Rest in peace, Dennis, you will be greatly missed. Prayers of strength for your family.oo.v

    Comment by Mozella L. Mansel – July 22, 2013 11:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I loved him a JLo’s dad in Out of Sight. He had an amazing career.

    Comment by Plum – July 22, 2013 11:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • He was so good in “Bottle Shock” and other films but his “Law & Order” days are my favorite.

    Comment by Gwen – July 22, 2013 11:14 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I had just researched Law & Order this morning. I didn’t have a reason to; besides a few episodes here and there, I had never even seen the show. It was done entirely on a whim, and because I was bored. I read a little bit about Farina’s character, and only hours later I find out he’s dead. How strange. What a loss though. I know him more as Nick’s dad on New Girl and from the short time I watched Luck, but he was a great actor. RIP.

    Comment by Eric Studholme – July 22, 2013 11:15 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I liked Farina on Law and Order but I loved him in “That Old Feeling” with Bette Midler! The movie is a romantic comedy and Farina was hilarious and yet very credible in the part!

    Comment by Lisa – July 22, 2013 11:38 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I was about to post the same thing! That Old Feeling was great! Whenever I catch it on tv, I always seem to get sucked in :)

      Comment by Rebecca – July 22, 2013 01:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • He was great with Whoopi Goldberg in “Eddie”!

    Comment by Serena – July 22, 2013 11:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Since everyone agrees he was great on L&O, the suits probably didn’t like him. As we all know, they are totally out of touch. Terrific, charming guy. Wish I could find a silver fox like him.

    Comment by pylgrym – July 22, 2013 11:47 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Probably what happened was similar to the brilliant “Boston Legal”—the suits got concerned that the show’s demographic was getting too old, and that was the end of Farina for some “New Blood” in the form of Nina Cassidy.

      Comment by Pat D. – July 22, 2013 01:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Aww, that’s too bad…..i really liked him alot…..he will be greatly missed.

    Comment by Alisa Neely – July 22, 2013 11:48 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Mr. Farina also hosted a short revival of Unsolved Mysteries. I remember him as a kid when he was on Crime Story in the ’80s. Never knew he was a real cop. Go figure! He seemed like a nice man. May he RIP.

    Comment by Wendy – July 22, 2013 11:57 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I liked him a lot in the In Laws. Private convo time.

    Comment by Mark – July 22, 2013 11:58 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I loved him in Big Trouble and That Old Feeling. RIP!

    Comment by Lauren – July 22, 2013 12:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Wonderful actor. I especially enjoyed him as Ray Barbone in “Get Shorty.” He was hilarious as a comedic actor and riveting in dramatic roles. He will be sorely missed.

    Comment by Tom Gotor – July 22, 2013 12:12 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • R.I.P., Dennis Farina and thanks for sharing your talent with your fans…………………..

    Comment by Gregory Greene – July 22, 2013 12:52 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Time for a “Crime Story” marathon. He will be missed

    Comment by TOrchwood68 – July 22, 2013 12:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • i totally agree…..they need to reair that show…..ALOT of good actors were in that.

      Comment by Alisa Neely – July 22, 2013 01:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Loved Snatch and That Old Feeling. What a tremendous talent. RIP.

    Comment by Cindy – July 22, 2013 01:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So many movies this guy has been fantastic in. Get Shorty is one of my favorite roles of his. And I loved him on Law & Order – he was authorized dammit.

    Comment by canadian ninja – July 22, 2013 01:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Res in Peace Dennis Farina. You will be remembered and missed.

    Comment by J – July 22, 2013 01:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • really loved him in “that old feeling” with bette midler.. they were hillarious together! such a loss.. my prayers to the family and friends..

    Comment by Clayton Rodrigues – July 22, 2013 03:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Areal lost rip

    Comment by william kabala – July 22, 2013 04:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Loved, loved ,loved Dennis Farina as Det Joe Fontana. What a class actor. I was surprised to hear he wasn’t well liked in the roll. I thought he was great and could’nt get enough of him in that roll. He was great in any roll he did! I will miss him.

    Comment by Theresa DalMaso – July 22, 2013 05:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very sad. I loved him on Luck and Law and Order.

    Comment by Britta Unfiltered – July 22, 2013 08:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • And Out of Sight. Great movie.

      Comment by Britta Unfiltered – July 22, 2013 08:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • To his family and friends my condolences for your loss, take heart in the fact that Dennis was admired and liked by so many for his work and as a human being.

    Comment by AJ – July 23, 2013 02:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Always loved his acting…..& of cause , his looks! I’m so sorry to hear of his passing! Rest in peace, Dennis..prayers coming your way

    Comment by Louise Russo – July 23, 2013 02:06 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The original Jack Crawford… loved him in Manhunter. RIP.

    Comment by Marco – July 23, 2013 04:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I remember fondly many of his roles, played masterfully. Your acting talents will be sadly missed by your fans, Dennis. May you rest in peace.

    My condolences are extended to Mr. Farina’s family during this difficult time.

    Comment by The art of poise – July 23, 2013 07:43 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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