Franz, Dennis


Franz, Dennis
▪ 1997

      Playing villains and cops—and sometimes villainous cops—Dennis Franz established himself as one of the finest actors on television. In 1996 he collected his second Emmy award for his portrayal of detective Andy Sipowicz on the popular weekly dramatic series "NYPD Blue." Franz achieved stardom and critical acclaim by using his size and tough-guy Chicago accent to create a commanding on-screen presence. Though he had also appeared in a number of feature films, it was his recent TV work that attracted the attention of director Michael Corrente, who cast Franz in a starring role opposite Dustin Hoffman in the film adaptation of David Mamet's play American Buffalo.

      Franz was born Dennis Schlachta on Oct. 28, 1944, in Maywood, Ill. He was active in drama first in high school and then at junior college and Southern Illinois University before enlistment in the army took him to Vietnam. Returning to the stage after his discharge in 1970, Franz was invited to join Chicago's Organic Theatre Company. There he appeared in Bleacher Bums (1978), which focused on a group of fans at a Chicago Cubs baseball game. Film director Brian De Palma watched Franz perform in an Organic production of Cops and invited him to appear in his film The Fury (1978). Other thrillers followed, including Dressed to Kill (1980), Blow Out (1981), and Psycho II (1983).

      After portraying a police officer in a series called "Chicago Story" (1982), Franz landed a guest-starring role on the hit police drama "Hill Street Blues," playing the role of corrupt detective Sal Benedetto during the 1982-83 season. When that character was killed, Steven Bochco, creator of "Hill Street Blues," cast Franz in a new project, "Bay City Blues," a short-lived series about a minor-league baseball team. Franz returned to "Hill Street Blues" for the 1985-86 season as a regular member of the ensemble, playing Lieut. Norman Buntz.

      After "Hill Street Blues" left the air, Franz was cast in similar roles in such unsuccessful series as "Beverly Hills Buntz," "Nasty Boys," and "NYPD Mounted." He had minor roles in the films Die Hard 2 (1990) and The Player (1992) and appeared in several television movies before Bochco offered him a starring role in "NYPD Blue," which debuted in September 1993. The program was controversial because of its graphic depictions of violence and sex but was nonetheless well received by critics and viewers. The show received a record 26 Emmy award nominations in 1994, including Franz's nomination for the award for best lead actor in a dramatic series, which he won. (ANTHONY G. CRAINE)

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Universalium. 2010.

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