Ex-cop and terrific character actor Dennis Farina has died at the age of 69. He starred in the tv series, Crime Story, which is still the best show about the early mob-era of Las Vegas.
Farina was a Chicago cop who got into acting because the money was good. He first graced the big screen in Michael Mann's terrific neo-noir film, Thief (1981). Farina played a thug.
Michael Mann remembered the actor and cast him as a FBI agent in Manhunter (the film that originally introduced audiences to Hannibal Lector before Jodie Foster knew the killer).
But, it was Crime Story, playing world weary Chicago cop, Mike Torello, that audiences came to know the former cop who was quickly becoming a good character actor. Torello and his squad spent two seasons chasing gangster Ray Luca (Anthony Denison, who should have had a bigger career) from Chicago to the desert oasis of Las Vegas to Central America.
Though the opening title sequence and much of the action took place on a mid-1980s Fremont Street, it had a flavor and look that made you feel like you were in classic Las Vegas (in a way that the recent Vegas tried to but never completely succeeded at).
The show was cancelled after two seasons and Farina returned to making movies. He came back to television in the early 2000s to co-star on Law and Order, replacing the much-loved Jerry Orbach when Orbach became too ill to continue on the show.
Most recently, he had co-starred with Dustin Hoffman in HBO's unlucky series on horse racing, Luck, and again proved what a terrific character actor he had become. His scenes with Hoffman were some of the best of the series and those of us who watched the show, really hoped to learn more about the back story of the two characters when it was prematurely cancelled.
I saw Dennis Farina once at LAX in the baggage claim area a year or so after Crime Story was over. He was waiting at the carousel for his luggage to come down the chute just like everyone else. We chatted briefly and I told him how much I enjoyed the show and his work as an actor.
He never lost that world weary look or that terrific voice.
Rest in peace, Dennis Farina.