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.🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿
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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