Dennis Franz

Active - 1978 - 2000  |   Born - Oct 28, 1944 in Maywood, Illinois, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Thriller, Comedy, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Born October 28th, 1944, Chicago native Dennis Franz (originally Dennis Schlachta) spent 11 months in an airborne division during the Vietnam War. Afterwards, Franz became a postman -- and, by his own admission, not a very good one. Short, bald, overweight and scrappy, he decided to establish himself as a character actor, making the rounds of Windy City casting agencies in search of film work. Franz made his film debut in a bit part in De Palma's The Fury (1978). He made his TV debut as beat cop Joe Gilland in the 1982 TV series Chicago Story. Franz went on to become a "regular" in the various projects of producer Steven Bochco, playing baseball coach Angelo Carbone on the four-episode Bay City Blues (1983), and two different roles -- unscrupulous detective Sal Benedetto and streetwise lieutenant Norman Buntz -- on the popular Hill Street Blues. An attempt to capitalize on his Hill Street fame led to the short-lived 1987 series Beverly Hills Buntz. In 1993, Dennis Franz was back with Bochco on the controversial series NYPD Blue; once again, he played a cop, this time a recovering alcoholic trying to reassemble his shattered personal life and career. His gritty portrayal of Detective Andy Sipowicz is considered his best role and has won Franz multiple Emmy awards. While primarily a television actor, Franz has appeared in numerous feature films and has worked with such esteemed directors as Brian De Palma and Robert Altman. As with his television career, he is frequently cast as a police officer. After working with silver screen sweetheart Meg Ryan in 1998’s City of Angels, Franz continued his work on NYPD Blue until the series was completed in 2002 after a 10 season run.

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  • Served a tour of duty in Vietnam.
  • Worked briefly as a Chicago postman.
  • Joined the Organic Theatre Company in 1972, along with actor Joe Mantegna.
  • Cast in the 1978 comedy-drama A Wedding by Robert Altman, who encouraged him to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles.
  • His character on Steven Bochco's Hill Street Blues was killed off so he could join another Bochco series, the short-lived Bay City Blues.
  • Wore a wig and zombie make-up to play the title character in the Dixie Chicks' 1999 video "Goodbye Earl."
  • Was nominated for an Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy for his work on NYPD Blue every year from 1994 to 2001, taking home a total of four trophies during the series' run.
  • Has played a cop nearly 30 times in his career.