Danny Aiello, best known for Do the Right Thing, The Godfather Part II and Moonstruck, has died at the age of 86.
Aiello’s literary agent, Jennifer De Chiara, confirmed the actor died on Thursday night after a brief illness.
“Danny was my client and a dear friend. He passed away last night. Danny was a rare talent who triumphed over incredible odds to become one of our greatest actors,” De Chiara said. “He will be missed.”
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Aiello’s publicist, Tracey Miller, said his family has asked for privacy.
The actor played Sal Frangione, a pizzeria owner in a black neighbourhood of Brooklyn, in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.
Lee had first offered the role to Robert De Niro, but Aiello’s performance brought him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In June, Aiello joined Lee to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Do the Right Thing in Brooklyn at a block party dedicated to the film.
His breakthrough, ironically, was as the hapless lover dumped by Cher in Norman Jewison’s hit comedy Moonstruck. His disillusion contributed to the laughter, and although he wasn’t nominated for a supporting-role Oscar (Cher and Olympia Dukakis won in their respective categories), Aiello was inundated with movie offers.
“Living in New York City gave me training for any role,” he said in a 1997 interview. “I’ve seen people killed, knifed. I’ve got scars on my face. I have emotional recall when I work; the idea is simply to recreate it. I’ve seen it and experienced it. I’ve played gangsters, teachers, but most of my work has been in the police area. And for that, I’m adored by the police in New York City.”
Among his other movies are Fort Apache, the Bronx (as a cop who threw a boy from a building), Once Upon a Time in America, Harlem Nights, Jack Ruby (as Ruby) and City Hall. He also appeared in several TV miniseries, including The Last Don, A Woman Named Jackie and the 1985-86 police series Lady Blue.
Many people took to Twitter to share their condolences once news of Aiello’s passing spread.
View this post on Instagram
I’m 💜 Broken. Just Found Out My Brother DANNY AIELLO Made His Transition Last Night. Danny,We Made Cinema History Together With DO THE RIGHT THING. May You Rest In PARADISE.🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿
I would like to thank all of those sending their condolences on the passing of my uncle, Danny Aiello. He was a terrific man, self made, coming from nothing to be an Academy Award nominated actor. He loved his family dearly, adored his wife of 64 years, my Aunt Sandy.
— Michael Kay (@RealMichaelKay) December 13, 2019
Goodbye Dear #DannyAiello 💔
Danny was a Great Actor, But a
Genius Comedic Actor.We Laughed so much. Making #Moonstruck ..It was one of the happiest times in my life,& He Was apart of that Happy time.
— Cher (@cher) December 13, 2019
— MichaelRapaport (@MichaelRapaport) December 13, 2019
From the Army to Greyhound labor rep to bouncer at The Improv to Hollywood stardom!!
From Johnny in Moonstruck to Sal in Do The Right Thing.
That smile, that laugh, that NY attitude.
They don’t make ‘em like Danny anymore.
What a talent… a true one of a kind. pic.twitter.com/ssaw9QvAVt
— Billy Baldwin (@BillyBaldwin) December 13, 2019
— The Playlist 🎬 (@ThePlaylist) December 13, 2019
Family statement: “It is with profound sorrow to report that Danny Aiello, beloved husband, father, grandfather, actor and musician passed away last night after a brief illness. The family asks for privacy at this time. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.” RIP pic.twitter.com/IejzPeAQzJ
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) December 13, 2019
RIP Danny Aiello .. a great actor with many classic and memorable roles. my favorite two are Sal from ‘Do the Right Thing’ & Phil from ‘Harlem Nights’ pic.twitter.com/06sA89jFha
— Ave (@SebastianAvenue) December 13, 2019
Danny Aiello (6/20/33-12/12/19)
80sThen80sNow is Sad to Report the Passing of Legendary Actor, Danny Aiello.
80s Wise Danny Appeared in Multiple Movies including Moonstruck, Harlem Nights and Do the Right Thing.
— 80sThen80sNow (@80sThen80sNow) December 13, 2019
We lost a great actor & a kind soul. I met Danny as a young actor & waitress in LA. Eveytime he came in he asked for me. And every time he left me a hundred dollar bill as a tip- “put it in the acting kitty”. We worked together once. Rest In Peace my friend. #DannyAiello ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2Eirx5cX3N
— gloria mann (@GloriaMann22) December 13, 2019
Rest In Peace my friend.
We lost a great actor today,
BUT more importantly we lost
a great person!
First day I met Danny he took me under his wing gave me advice on the business and life all the while driving me home in his Cadillac.
You’ll be missed!#DannyAiello🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/UsaFQQsfsx
— kirk acevedo (@kirkacevedo) December 13, 2019
“This is my pizzeria!!!”
One of the greats. RIP Danny Aiello. pic.twitter.com/TVv4KS9quc
— Cousin Sal (@TheCousinSal) December 13, 2019
Aiello live with his wife, Sandy, in Ramsey, N.J. He is survived by his wife and three children: Rick, Jamie and Stacy. A fourth son, stuntman and stunt co-ordinator Danny Aiello III, died in May 2010 of pancreatic cancer.
— With files from the Associated Press
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