NBCNEWS.COM - Actor Dennis Farina, the Chicago cop turned actor who played Det. Joe Fontana on TV's "Law & Order" and also starred in numerous movies, died Monday at age 69, his publicist tells NBC News. The cause of death was reportedly a blood clot in his lung.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of a great actor and a wonderful man," the statement from his publicist read. "Dennis Farina was always warm-hearted and professional, with a great sense of humor and passion for his profession. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues. We hope that he finds a new life where great roles are plentiful and the Cubs are always winning the pennant."
Farina died in Scottsdale, Ariz., and his girlfriend of 35 years, Marianne Cahill, was with him, his publicist says.
Before becoming an actor, Farina worked as a Chicago police officer for nearly 20 years. He was serving as a police consultant to movie director Michael Mann on the 1981 film "Thief" when Mann gave him a small role, which led to a rich acting career in which he mostly played policemen or mobsters.
In 2004 when Farina joined the uber-successful crime drama "Law & Order," he told TODAY's Katie Couric that he enjoyed the stylish detective he played. "I hope he's never defined, really, to tell you the truth," Farina told Couric. "It's fun finding out myself what he's gonna do next or what characteristics he might have."
Recently, he starred in the HBO horse-racing series "Luck," and produced and starred in "The Last Rites of Joe May," an independent film. "Luck" was canceled in 2012 after three horses died during the making of the show. Farina also had a recurring role on Fox's "New Girl." He also starred in HBO's Golden Globe-winning miniseries, "Empire Falls."
His movie resume included "Get Shorty," "Saving Private Ryan," "Snatch" and "Midnight Run." He won an American Comedy Award for his "Get Shorty" role.
He also was a frequent face in Chicago theater.