Dennis Farina

Once a real-life cop who went on to portray lawmen on television, Dennis Farina was born Feb. 29, 1944, in Chicago. While a consultant on the 1981 thriller Thief, he was cast in a bit part -- but it took five more years and the lead in the TV drama "Crime Story" (1986-88) before he left the police force to pursue acting full time.

Adept at comedy, Farina memorably starred as a menacing mobster in 1988's Midnight Run and later exhibited his range playing a serial killer in The Case of the Hillside Stranglers (1989) and a surly baseball manager in Little Big League (1994). Farina's breakout performance came in 1995 with his uproarious supporting turn as John Travolta's nemesis in Get Shorty.

In 2004, Farina signed on for a two-year stint as dapper Det. Joe Fontana on the long-running TV series "Law & Order." After returning to the big screen, Farina appeared in The Grand (2007) and What Happens in Vegas (2008). He died July 22, 2013.

Filmography