Dennis Farina, Star of ‘Law & Order,’ Dead at 69

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A veteran of the Chicago theater, Farina appeared in Joseph Mantegna’s “Bleacher Bums” and “Streamers,” directed by Terry Kinney, among other productions.

Born Feb. 29, 1944, Farina was raised in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago, the seventh child of Italian immigrants.

After three years in the U.S. Army, he served with the Chicago Police Department for 18 years, both as a uniformed officer (he was there for the 1968 Chicago riots) and a burglary detective, before he found his way into acting as he neared his forties.

His first film was the 1981 action drama “Thief,” directed by Michael Mann — a future collaborator on numerous projects as recently as “Luck” — whom he had met through a mutual friend.

In “Thief” he landed a small role as a criminal henchman, and, while not initially planning a career change, found the film world “very interesting,” as he told the AP in 2004, and concluded it could be a great sideline. (At the time, he was supplementing his cop’s salary by working as a security guard.)

“I remember going to the set that day and being intrigued by the whole thing. I liked it. And everybody was extremely nice to me,” he recalled, while cautioning, “If the people were rude and didn’t treat me right, things could have gone the other way.”

He continued to work as a detective while taking occasional dramatic roles, and even took a leave of absence from the Chicago police to star in “Crime Story,” before he made the full-time acting plunge.

“If I’m characterized as a character actor, that’s fine with me,” he said in 2007. “Whatever they want to call me is fine. In the kind of roles I do, you can do them and walk away from it and have a really nice time.”

Farina is survived by three sons, six grandchildren and his longtime partner, Marianne Cahill.

(Photo: AP)

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