Born Dennis Franz Schlachta in Maywood, Chicago, his father was a German immigrant and both he and Franz's mother were postal workers. After leaving school, Franz studied for a degree in speech and theatre at Southern Illinois University. Immediately after graduating, he was drafted and enlisted in officer school, going on to do an 11-month tour of duty in Vietnam with a reconnaissance unit.
After returning home, he suffered from depression for a time and briefly worked as a postman and security guard. In 1972 he joined the Organic Theatre Company and performed with them both in Chicago and across the US. He appeared in several Chicago-based films, including Robert Altman's A Wedding before moving to Los Angeles, where he became a member of Altman's resident company.
He made his TV debut in Chicago Story in 1982, before going on to become a regular in projects of producer Steven Bochco, playing two different roles - unscrupulous Detective Sal Benedetto and streetwise Lieutenant Norman Buntz in popular cop series Hill Street Blues. Buntz also featured in a short-lived 1987 spin-off series, Beverly Hills Buntz. In 1993 Franz took on the role for which he is best-known, as Det. Andy Sipowicz, in highly successful TV cop series NYPD Blue. He stayed with the show all through its 12 seasons.
Although best-known as a television actor, Franz has also featured in a number of movies, including a number directed by Robert Altman and Brian de Palma, as well as Bruce Willis hit Die Hard 2: Die Harder and the 1998 City of Angels.
He married Joanie Zeck in 1982 and has two step-daughters.
|Chicago Story||Joe Gilland||1982||1|
|Bay City Blues||Angelo Carbone||1983||1|
|Hill Street Blues||Lieutenant Norman Buntz||1985–1987||6||7|
|Beverly Hills Buntz||Norman Buntz||1987–1988||1|
|Nasty Boys||Stan Krieger||1990||1|
|NYPD Blue||Andy Sipowicz||1993–2005||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||11||12|
|Hill Street Blues||Detective Sal Benedetto||1983||3|
Guest Starring Roles
|The A-Team||Sam Friendly||2x19 - Chopping Spree||February 14, 1984|
|T.J. Hooker||Andros Margolis||4x04 - Hardcore Connection||November 3, 1984|
|Simon & Simon||Frank Mahoney||4x14 - Almost Foolproof||January 3, 1985|
|Hunter||Sergeant Jackie Molinas||1x14 - The Snow Queen (1)||March 23, 1985|
|Hunter||Sergeant Jackie Molinas||1x15 - The Snow Queen (2)||March 30, 1985|
|The A-Team||Brooks||3x23 - Beverly Hills Assault||April 9, 1985|
|Matlock||Jack Brennert||3x08 - The Mayor (1)||January 31, 1989|
|Matlock||Jack Brennert||3x09 - The Mayor (2)||February 7, 1989|
|Civil Wars||Murray Seidelman (Special Guest Appearance)||1X1 - Pilot||November 20, 1991|
Awards and Accolades
- Won: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (1994, 1996, 1997, 1999)
- Nominated: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (1995, 1998, 2000, 2001)
- Won: Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Drama (1995)
- Nominated: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV
- Won: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series (1993, 1995)
- Nominated: Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002)