In 1978, director Michael Mann returned to his native Chicago to scout locations and conduct research for a film called “Thief.” One of the local Chicago Police Department advisors hired to work on the tale of cops, robbers and the gray areas in between was Dennis Farina, of the burglary division.
Mann liked him right away. He liked him enough to put him in the movie, in a tiny role, as somebody’s henchman.
“He thought all he had to do to have a career as an actor,” recalled Mann by phone from Hong Kong Monday, “was to be known as ‘Dennis, the dream to work with.’ Because everybody told him that. He was the best guy on the planet. And he was a lot more than a nice guy. He had the charisma and the ability as a storyteller and raconteur to hold your interest. He appreciated the fullness, the roundness, of human life.”
Speaking from the set of his latest film, “Cyber,” Mann recalled Farina as the impeccably coiffed and dressed Sicilian-American dandy, the image of which he happily cultivated off screen and, often, on, as in his two seasons on “Law & Order.”