Farina was officer first

PASSED: A 2012 file photo of actor Dennis Farina who has passed away, aged 69.
PASSED: A 2012 file photo of actor Dennis Farina who has passed away, aged 69.

Some actors will put themselves through boot camp to prepare for the role of a soldier, or learn piano to play a musician, but Dennis Farina took method acting to extremes - he worked for 18 years in the Chicago police before playing a string of cops and robbers and other tough guys in film and television.

He played Detective Joe Fontana in 46 episodes of Law and Order between 2004 and 2006, and was the mobster Bones Barboni, John Travolta's rival, in 1995 comedy crime thriller Get Shorty.

He got into the business through director Michael Mann, whom he met through a mutual friend. Farina gave Mann a few tips about scenes to ensure authenticity and Mann gave Farina a small role in his 1981 film Violent Streets, in which James Caan played a veteran jewel thief.

Mann encouraged him to pursue acting. Farina began doing theatre work in Chicago and picked up the odd supporting role in films and television.

His career really took off when Mann cast him as mobster Albert Lombard in the long-running series Miami Vice in 1984, then gave him a starring role as Lieutenant Mike Torello in a new series, Crime Story.

Although he was in his 40s by the time his acting career took off, Farina appeared in more than 70 films and television shows. He and Bette Midler played a divorced couple forced to spend time together at their daughter's wedding in the comedy That Old Feeling (1997) and was Jennifer Lopez's worried father in comedy thriller Out of Sight (1998). He was also a crooked New York jeweller in the Brad Pitt film Snatch (2000).  - The Times