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Dennis Franz has amassed a mantelfull of accolades for his complex and compelling performance on NYPD Blue. An eight-time Emmy nominee, he has won the Award for Lead Actor in a Drama Series four times. This is unprecedented — to win four Emmys for the same character on the same dramatic series. He was also a 1994 Golden Globe Award winner, received five Best Actor awards from the Viewers for Quality Television, won the very first SAG award for Best Actor in a Drama in 1994 (and again in 1996), and for Best Ensemble Acting in a Drama (in 1995 and 1997). Franz received critical acclaim for his guest-starring roles on ABC's Civil Wars and the television movie, In the Line of Duty: Stand-Off at Marion. He starred in the TV movie, Moment of Truth: Caught in the Crossfire, and the ABC miniseries Texas Justice. During the 1989-90 television season he starred as Lieutenant Stan Krieger on the series Nasty Boys. In feature films Franz has starred in City of Angels, and his voice can be heard — as the police horse — in the film Doctor Dolittle. Other feature credits include American Buffalo, Die Hard II: Die Harder, The Package, Dressed to Kill Popeye, Blowout, Remember My Name, Perfect Couple, , Psycho II and A Fine Mess.
Born in Maywood, Illinois, Franz was active in high-school baseball, football and swimming. During his junior year he tried out for a part in a school production of The Crucible because his girlfriend was auditioning. He got his part, she didn't, and so a promising romance was lost.
Dennis attended Wright Junior College in Chicago and then Southern Illinois University, majoring in speech and theater. Following graduation he enlisted in the military and did an 11-month tour of duty in Vietnam. Returning home, he got together with some college buddies and organized several theater companies in the Chicago area, including The Organic Theater Company.
In 1983 Franz began his association with Steven Bochco, portraying Sal Benedetto on the critically acclaimed Hill Street Blues. TV Guide voted him "Villain of the Year". Bochco later asked Franz to star in Bay City Blues, a series about minor league baseball players. When the series ended after four episodes, the producers of Hill Street Blues created the role of Lieutenant Buntz for Franz so he could return to "The Hill." Buntz became very popular and Franz remained with the series for its last two seasons, 1985-86 and 1986-87. This led to a short-lived spin-off, Beverly Hills Buntz.
In his spare time Franz snow-skis, plays golf and gives of his time and talent to charitable organizations. The Los Angeles Police Department Reserve officers presented him with their 2000 "Twice A Citizen" Award. He serves on the board of the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance since its inception in January, 2000, and co-hosted — with Katie Couric — their first ROCK 'N RACE TO FIGHT COLON CANCER, in Washington DC His appearance in May, 2001, on Celebrity Millionaire earned $250,000 for the charity. The Academy of the American Veteran Awards named Dennis as "Veteran of the Year 2002."
Franz has also hosted the Revlon Run/Walk in Los Angeles, benefiting breast and ovarian cancer research, and the Los Angeles Police Department's golf tournament.
He was presented with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 19, 1999, and that date was proclaimed "Dennis Franz Day" in Hollywood.
Franz was among a select group — including Faith Hill, Britney Spears and *NSYNC — who read selections from Pope John II's private prayer / poem books for a CD that serves as a companion piece to "The Private Prayer Books of Pope John Paul II," a seven volume collection of his personal writings. Proceeds are donated to charities selected by the Vatican.
16M watch 'Blue' finale
Dennis Franz concludes 'NYPD Blue.' "NYPD Blue" went out with a bang Tuesday night.
An estimated 16 million people tuned in for the final episode - the 261st in the series - marking the largest audience for the cop drama in more than three years.
The finale gave ABC an easy win in the 10 p.m. hour with total viewers and in the all-important 18-to-49 age demographic.
"Blue's" viewership for the night was up 6 million from the previous week, and roughly 7 million ahead of what it has been averaging this season.
Also, the hour-long retrospective leading into the finale averaged 13.3 million viewers. The Jimmy Smits-hosted hour generated ABC's largest nonsports audience on a Tuesday at 9 p.m. since May 2002.
The highly anticipated "NYPD Blue" finale featured Dennis Franz's Andy Sipowicz taking command of the detective squad at the fictional 15th Precinct, and then pursuing a closed murder case in a way that jeopardized his relationship with top police brass.
In the end, Sipowicz's police smarts won out and viewers were left with an image of him sitting at his desk alone, absorbing the weight of his new position.
Next week, ABC will fill the same time slot with "Blind Justice," a new series from "Blue" producer Steven Bochco starring Ron Eldard as an NYPD detective trying to keep his job after being blinded in a shootout.
Dennis Franz: Sipowicz a cop for the ages
Never has such an unlikable, unphotogenic character so completely won our hearts.
From the first time we saw him sweat on a bar stool, in the September 1993 pilot of "NYPD Blue," we knew Andy Sipowicz was going to be trouble. And we knew Dennis Franz could fume more convincingly than any actor we had encountered on the small screen.
Sipowicz and the rest of the 15th Precinct clock their final hour this week, as "NYPD Blue" concludes its stellar 12-year run. The finale (9 p.m. Tuesday on KMGH-Channel 7 following a one-hour tribute special), won't be melodramatic, Steven Bochco has promised.
After Tuesday night, Sipowicz - that's Sgt. Sipowicz to you, bub - will go on interrogating perps and skels. We just won't see him. He remains one of TV's all-time great characters.
In Sipowicz, Franz found his perfect instrument - and writers Bochco and David Milch found an irascible and emotionally stunted creation worthy of great literature.
We knew immediately that Sipowicz, a balding, bullying, racist pig, was offensive; we had no idea how complex or long-suffering he would be. As he inched toward reining in his twin demons of prejudice and alcoholism, we became more invested in his struggle. As the demons multiplied, the anti-hero, alternately simmering and exploding, dared us to care.
A white racist working for a black boss and, later, a gay boss, Sipowicz was regularly appalled by his surroundings.
Grudgingly, Andy explored the depths, baring more than his often-noted backside as "NYPD Blue" wore on. Backsliding, then finding resolve, he eventually won our admiration more than our pity.
The writers didn't simply show him tending his tropical fish, juxtaposed with a ferocious temper tantrum on the streets. "NYPD Blue" went deeper, using Sipowicz's minimalist dialogue to maximum effect.
Flaunting unfashionable short-sleeve dress shirts, bad skin and a beefy paunch, Sipowicz stood out. And Franz held his own with the conventionally handsome leads David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, Rick Schroeder and Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
Years later, in spite of himself and having endured an inordinate amount of love, loss and prostate cancer, Sipowicz has evolved into a more attuned human being. Not to worry, he'll never quote Dr. Phil.
But Sipowicz, having lost a beloved son, partner, second wife and more, is now willing to pause, use a breath freshener and inhale rather than resort immediately to fists.
Classically overburdened, the character is often compared to Job.
"TV may well be the only medium, and that includes literature, capable of showing, in something like real time, the making of a soul," pop culture professor David Lavery wrote.
Sipowicz is "one of the few people you can smell on TV," Esquire magazine once noted. "From the outset he was the best portrait of unresolved violence drawn into being a cop and the surest prospect for tragedy."
His journey to becoming achingly intact is more memorable than the partial nudity or foul language that originally got the series noticed.
"There was so much controversy surrounding the show," Bochco told critics last month on the 20th Century Fox lot. "ABC was so anxious about what was going to happen, vis--vis advertisers and affiliates. I mean, it was a storm.
"And I think if there had been any wobble in the audience reaction, I don't know that we would have survived three, four weeks," Bochco said. "But we were virtually an instant hit. And I knew that creatively we were enormously strong.
"I always had faith that once the controversy settled down, what would really sustain the show would be that people would finally perceive that under all those bells and whistles there was a really first-rate drama with compelling characters and great stories."
Franz doesn't get all the credit. In addition to his co-stars, notable recurring guest turns included David Schwimmer, Daniel Benzali, Debra Messing, Melina Kanakaredes, Christopher Meloni, Richard Schiff, Mos Def, Khandi Alexander, Scott Cohen and Joe Spano.
But Sipowicz was the heart and soul.
After 12 seasons, Dennis Franz and 'NYPD Blue' gang are calling it quits
Twelve seasons ago, Detective Andy Sipowicz came on the scene, and, oh, what a charmer he was.
Balding and full-bellied, NYPD's finest was crass, crude and rude. There wasn't much to love, but viewers managed to find it and kept tuning in for more of NYPD Blue, the ABC drama that's garnered 20 Emmys during a run that ends this season.
Behind Sipowicz's volatile facade is Dennis Franz, 60, no newcomer to the cop beat. Franz had previously teamed up with NYPD Blue creator Steven Bochco for another law-enforcement show, Hill Street Blues, where he played not one but two officers in the precinct. After an unsuccessful spinoff — Beverly Hills Buntz — and some other missteps, Franz earned a shield with staying power on Blue.
Franz isn't sure what awaits him once he turns in his badge — he's thinking more acting, some traveling with wife Joanie and lots of relaxing. "I'm good at doing nothing," he quipped. But he's ready for the show to end, and he's proud of what he called a "phenomenal run."
Q: You've been through four partners on the show. Who has been your favorite?
A: You're never going to get that out of me! But from Sipowicz, well, he had a real fondness for John Kelly, which was David Caruso's character.
Q: Sipowicz is believable in part because of all the little details viewers have become familiar with — such as wearing short sleeves with ties, or putting cologne in his armpits. What are his quirks that you love?
A: Well, I like his insistence, how he's thinking he's right about little things. Like, for one example, his pronunciation of the word "prostate." He was certain it was "prostrate." Even when John Irvin tries to correct him, Andy insists he's right. Irvin even leaves a dictionary open to the correct spelling on his desk, and Andy gets upset and still insists it's wrong.
Q: And where do you get inspiration for those quirks?
A: It began from our writer and creator, David Milch. He was my role model for Andy, so on a personal level I got a lot of inspiration from him. I began to realize that he was ridding himself of a lot of demons through Andy Sipowicz. I also looked to Bill Clark, our executive producer, who used to be a police officer. Between the two of them, I came up with a lot of Andy.
Q: Is there one line you remember that really sums up Sipowicz?
A: Yeah. (Laughs.) "Ipso this, you (expletive) little (expletive)." I said that to Sylvia Costas in the pilot episode. We're on the stand and I don't think she's doing a good job getting the info for our case. So afterward we're in the hall, and she says some legal term — "Res Ipso Loquitor" — and Andy comes back with (that line).
Q: With actress Charlotte Ross off the show, your personal life with on-screen wife Connie is less visible. Is that disappointing?
A: It's a big disappointment. It really came as a surprise. We spent so much time getting the audience to accept this oddball relationship. We worked very hard at that, and I think we won a large portion of the audience over.
Q: Where will this season take Sipowicz? Will we see more tragedy for him?
A: I doubt that very seriously. I think Steven and I and the writers do not want to see Sipowicz go out on the slab. We want to end on an upbeat note for him as far as what's ahead.
Q: How much did your two previous roles on Hill Street Blues help you create the mannerisms of Sipowicz?
A: Not only those two helped, but also Andy Sipowicz is cop No. 28 for me. So all 27 in the past have created those layers.
Q: Terry Wrong, who produced NYPD 24/7, said the officers he interviewed for that documentary (narrated by Franz) all loved Sipowicz. Wrong said several of those officers have met you when visiting Los Angeles. Do you spend a lot of time with actual police officers around the country?
A: Hardly a week goes by where officers don't come on the set, swapping stories, taking pictures, giving us "attaboys." When we film in New York, they're with us 24/7.
Q: How did you land the role in the Dixie Chicks' Goodbye Earl video?
A: I was backstage (on Rosie O'Donnell's show) when they were coming off. I oohed and aahed at them, and we both said, "Big fans! Big fans!" And they asked if I'd want to do a video. And they said I'd have to be a nasty guy. And I said, "Hey, I've done that before." Six months later, they said I could be one of the cops in the video, and I said, "No, no, no. I want to be Earl."
Final episodes of 'NYPD Blue' will begin next month
The final installments of arguably the finest police drama since Hill Street Blues begin Jan. 11, as NYPD Blue (Tuesdays, WKRN, Ch. 2, 9 p.m.) starts airing the show's last eight episodes. ABC announced Dec. 21 in The Hollywood Reporter and on Zap2It.com that the series finale would a two-hour show March 1. No details are being revealed about the program's outcome, although some rather intriguing developments have occurred that have greatly improved the pace and quality from the uneven earlier episodes.
The inevitable clashes between Sipowicz and his new commanding officer Lieutenant Thomas Bale (Currie Graham) were initially more fury than substance, but the two now have a working rapport. Not much has been uncovered thus far about new detective Laura Murphy (Bonnie Somerville), but perhaps the most important creative ingredient was the restoration of Detective John Clark's (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) reputation as well as the partnership of Clark and Sipowicz.
Whatever happens in the last shows, it will be a long time before any character has the impact on a program that Dennis Franz has enjoyed portraying Andy Sipowicz. Sipowicz began as a raging alcoholic, unrepentant racist and frequently abusive lout, and has matured over the years into the squad's voice of reason and experience. Franz has won four Emmy awards in the role, with the show itself winning 20 citations. Oddly, they have only won the Best Dramatic Emmy one time, in 1995. But from the first season in 1993, when they earned both widespread critical raves and controversy for daring to stretch the limits of language and nudity on broadcast television, NYPD Blue has skillfully combined personality and procedure more effectively than any other crime or police show. While reruns continue weekdays on TNT and weekends on Court TV, things won't be the same next season without the adventures of Sipowicz, Clark and comrades.
Dennis Franz is a man for all season
While the set is a-bustle with activity, there is a pervasive sadness, too. This is NYPD Blue’s last harrah.
Winner of 20 Emmy Awards, the show is half-way through its last season. Part of the reason it will end is that co-creator, executive producer Steven Bochco thinks the show has little new territory to explore. "I don’t think any of us are tired of doing the show," he says in his spacious office across the lot. "And I think the quality of the show would indicate that; we all love that show, both in front of and behind the camera.
" Our ratings are down over the last several years, "he says." I think that’s partly a function of having no lead-in. We’ve had no lead-in for the last nine years. We’ve really been a stand-alone, and that’s tough. "
Dennis Franz changed the face of TV heroes when he was cast as the opinionated Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue.
Sipowicz is ill-kempt, flawed and bigoted, but as Franz plays him, he’s a noble Everyman in short sleeves and lumpy ties; a man for all seasons.
Franz has been a hero to cast members like Bill Brochtrup, who plays the sensitive administrative assistant." The glow off of Dennis makes everybody look better, "says Brochtrup.
Gordon Clapp, who plays Medavoy, started on the show as a part timer." I came on as a guest in Episode 3 and have been there ever since, "he says.
" I was recurring for the first season and became a series regular in Season 2. I always call myself ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner, ’" he says. "Up until a couple years ago I couldn’t imagine it ending. I guess last year when it was apparent this would be the last season. I got used to the idea and I thought, ‘ It really is time to move on. "’
Franz is looking forward to doing more features after the show folds, though he says he wants to take a bit of time off from the 13-hour-a-day schedule.
Old shows can become too expensive to produce, says Franz, the veteran of two other Bochco series.
" The normal tendency is the older a show gets, the less the licensing fee and the higher the salaries. There are some rare exceptions where the licensing fees may not decrease, but those are very rare. That’s one of the considerations when a show comes to an end, "he says.
" As far as actors, writers, producers losing interest, I haven’t lost interest in the show, "he says." If we were still sought after it would be a hard decision to make to walk away from it, but it’s kind of mutually agreed upon between Steven Bochco [and the network], and he has said to me on several occasions that he sees this as a 12-year show. " NYPD Blue airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC and in reruns on TNT and Court TV.
Dennis Franz offers a look into the toughest police forces, NYPD
The exploits of the New York Police Department have been the focus of countless movies and television shows, but nothing can compare to the real thing. This new series, narrated by NYPD Blue star Dennis Franz offers an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look into one of the world's toughest police forces, the NYPD.
For the first time on television, the NYPD have opened their doors to reveal the secrets of working in law-enforcement. Over a period of 16 months, compelling cops from elite units have shared their hopes, their frustrations and their own dark humour, as cameras follow them into situations that are unpredictable and often dangerous.
The producers of NYPD 24/7 have ensured that all aspects of police work are revealed. Instead of watching a simple arrest and conviction, NYPD 24/7 offers an insight into the frustrations that accompany investigations, including the dead-ends, cagey witnesses, dubious suspects and the constant cynicism that plagues the force.
NYPD 24/7 producer Terry Wrong spent years campaigning for the series before it came to fruition. The next challenge was securing the trust of the cops in the force. "It took three months just to get the detective squads just to say hello to us in the morning. They are deeply suspicious of the media," he says. "It's only when you live those brutal shifts with them and look at the horrendous crime scenes with them that you finally make some progress."
Wrong believes that the cops' biggest concern was the reaction from their colleagues. "If you're stepping out and embracing the media, it's not like sleeping with the enemy, but almost," he explains. The cops that did agree to the filming were mocked for their efforts. "The cops would call them Hollywood. 'Oh, hey, where's Hollywood? He's in the bathroom, putting make-up on.' You have to be brave and confident to want to do this," Wrong says.
A new opportunity for Dennis Franz
Dennis Franz of ABC's NYPD Blue is a judge on cable's TNT's Dramatic Auditions where an aspiring actor gets a shot at Hollywood.
The winner gets $50,000 cash, an apartment in L.A. for a year, along with the use of a car, Franz told TV Guide Online. That's a coup in itself! Plus, they throw in acting lessons and a publicist. How 'bout that? This is a legitimate opportunity for dramatic actors to get a foot in the door.
TNT is scheduled to name the winner in December.
Meanwhile, in the 12th season of NYPD Blue, Franz said he's dealing with his flipped-out partner, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and a new lieutenant.
His TV wife Connie, played by Charlotte Ross, may not return.
I wish I could say she was coming back, but it doesn't look like that's gonna be the case, he said. We spent a great deal of time letting the audience accept that relationship. To have that just chopped off from under me -- I felt gypped.