Onscreen stalwart Dennis Farina’s good fortune continues as he stars in HBO’s new series Luck.It’s often said we make our own luck, but Dennis Farina, 67, credits his to Michael Mann, the macho auteur behind Thief, Manhunter, Crime Story and the new HBO series, Luck — projects that have kept Farina’s deck stacked for decades. A Rat Packer at heart who traded a Chicago police badge for Tinseltown headshots in the early ’80s, Farina says his entire life has been a Dean Martin–style kick to the head. He talked to American Way about Luck and lucky breaks.
American Way: You’ve done four projects with Michael Mann. Is all of your great work really his fault?
Dennis Farina: I can tell you this: The fact that I’m here at all today is definitely Michael Mann’s fault. If I’m right for something, he’ll use me. If I’m not, he’s not going to sacrifice the project to give me a job. It’s that simple. When Michael calls, you know it’s going to be a serious discussion. That’s a call you take.
AW: Luck is set in the world of horse racing, and it stars you, Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. It’s a banquet table of genius and testosterone.
DF: We hope. [Laughs] It’s been fun and enlightening. I don’t know from horses, except I lose when I bet on them. But man, it’s a world out there. You don’t even know what you don’t know about the world of horse racing.
AW: Tell me you guys have started a club or something.
DF: What we’ve been doing, after we get our new scripts, we all go to breakfast together. We found this really throwback diner in L.A., and we kind of take over the place every week. We talk a little bit about the script, but mostly we tell old war stories. Nobody does that better than Dustin.
AW: For all the criminals you’ve played in the movies, you were once a cop. How did you make that switch?
DF: I was struggling a little bit with how to make that decision to leave the badge, a job I really loved — and still do — to be an actor. Someone told me that one day the decision would be made for me. They were right. That’s when Michael Mann offered me Crime Story.
AW: You’ve said you’re a very lucky guy. What’s the luckiest thing in your life?
DF: I don’t want to sound corny, but my faith and my family. And there were a lot of people that were really nice to me when I had no idea what I was doing. That’s pretty lucky.