Dennis Farina, who died Monday at the age of 69, was in his late 30s before he acted a lick.
He had been a Chicago police detective consulting on Michael Mann’s 1981 film “Thief” when the director gave him a small role. He didn’t go Hollywood in an instant but began a second career in his hometown, moonlighting in film and theater until 1986, when Mann cast him as the lead in the TV series “Crime Story,” as, of all things, a Chicago detective who follows a mobster to Las Vegas in the early 1960s, and he quit the (actual) force. He stayed busy in his new life.
Farina was one of those actors so completely himself that a call for a “Dennis Farina type” could lead only to him. Directors made as much use of the person he was as the many people he could be.
Tall, with a bony face, an imperial head of hair and a mustache he made cool when mustaches weren’t cool, he was graceful in his movements and comfortable in his skin — which was rough by Hollywood standards of beauty craggy, pitted and human.