Dennis Farina (1944 – 2013) was an American film and television actor, TV presenter, narrator and former Chicago police officer. He was born and raised in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood, a working-class neighborhood with a broad ethnic mixture, with Italians and Germans predominant.
Before becoming an actor, Farina served for three years in the United States Army during the Vietnam Era, followed by 18 years in the Chicago Police Department's burglary division from 1967 to 1985. He was hired as an expert burglary consultant by director Michael Mann for the movie Thief (1981), who then cast Farina in a bit part in the movie. Farina then started moonlighting as an actor in Chicago theaters and in small roles in Chicago-based TV-movie productions.
Farina was still working in the Chicago Police Department when he played the supervisor, Harry, on a slaughterhouse "kill floor" in the independent film, The Killing Floor, shot in Chicago in 1983. The film premiered in 1984 on PBS in prime time and won a Sundance Film Festival award in 1985. 19
Mann brought Farina on for guest appearances in the first seasons of his Miami Vice series, which premiered in 1984, playing Al Lombard in the episodes "One Eyed Jack and "Lombard" and in the fifth season in "World of Trouble." Farina also played FBI Agent Jack Crawford in Mann's 1986 film, Manhunter, and in Mann's Crime Story series, which aired on NBC from 1986 to 1988. He appeared in two television network miniseries based on Joe McGinnis’s true-crime books, Blind Faith (1990) and Cruel Doubt (1992).
Farina played a baseball manager in the 1994 film, Little Big League, won an American Comedy Award as best supporting actor for his performance as "Bones" Barboni in the 1995 film, Get Shorty, and played in the 1996 comedy, Eddie, starring Whoopi Goldberg. In a leading-man role and a departure from his usual parts, he co-starred in 1997 with Bette Midler in a romantic comedy, That Old Feeling, directed by Carl Reiner.
In Steven Spielberg's 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan, Farina played the battalion commander who advises Capt. John Miller (Tom Hanks) of the mission which forms the basis of the film's plot. In 1998, he also played the mob boss Jimmy Serrano in Midnight Run and starred as the title character in Buddy Faro, a private-detective series on CBS. In 2000 he played "Cousin" Avi Denovitz in Snatch.
In 2002 he appeared in Stealing Harvard, a comedy in which he played a tough-talking, overprotective father-in-law. He also starred in a television sitcom, In-Laws, from 2002 until 2003. From 2004 to 2006, he played Detective Joe Fontana in the television series Law & Order. Working as a voice-actor beginning in early 2005, he provided the voice of aging boxer-turned-superhero in Justice League Unlimited. He had a comic role opposite Ed Harris and Helen Hunt in the HBO production of Empire Falls in 2005.
He played in the 2007 film, You Kill Me, opposite Ben Kingsley, and in the 2008 films, What Happens in Vegas and Bottle Shock. From 2008 to 2010 he was the new host of Unsolved Mysteries on Spike TV. He then 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-starred in the 2012 HBO horse-race gambling series Luck, with Dustin Hoffman, directed by Michael Mann. In early 2013, he voiced the father of Daffy Duck's girlfriend on The Looney Tunes Show. He had a recurring guest role in 2013 in the television comedy series New Girl, though his character was killed off prior to his death.
He played himself in one of his final acting roles in the animated series Family Guy called "The Most Interesting Man in the World," which aired posthumously in 2014. Also released after his death was the film Authors Anonymous, in which he was one of the stars, playing a "wanna-be" novelist with a fantasy of becoming another Tom Clancy. Farina's last film role was as an aging Italian playboy in a film version of the Off-Broadway musical Lucky Stiff co-starring Dominic Marsh, Nikki M. James, and Jason Alexander. The film, also released posthumously in 2014, was dedicated to his memory.