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Do The Right Thing Star Danny Aiello Passes Away

December 13, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Danny Aiello Al Pacino City Hall

Veteran character actor Danny Aiello, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Do The Right Thing, has passed away. Deadline reports that Aiello passed on Thursday night in New Jersey after a brief illness at the age of 86.

Aiello had an extensive career that spanned 45 years and made him one of the most recognizable characters actors on the planet, including roles in The Godfather Part II, Moonstruck, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Leon: The Professional, Harlem Nights, Once Upon a Time in America, and Lucky Number Slevin. He began his acting career on Broadway after spending ten years as a union representative for Greyhound. His theater work led to roles in film, including baseball drama Bang the Drum Slowly, which he appeared in alongside Robert DeNiro. He would again be in a DeNiro film in a small role in Godfather Part II as the gangster who garrots Frankie Pentangeli; his line, “Michael Corleone says hello,” was improvised.

That role was followed up by a role as a bookie in 1976’s The Front alongside Woody Allen, who would eventually cast him to play Mia Farrow’s drunk of a husband in The Purple Rose of Cairo in 1985. He would also play a dirty cop in Fort Apache the Bronks in 1981, Rocco in Radio Days (1987), the titular role of Lee Harvey Oswald’s murderer Jack Ruby in 1992’s Ruby, and mob-connected politician Frank Anselmo in City Hall alongside Al Pacino.

It is Do The Right Thing and Moonstruck for which he is most recognized, though. Aiello was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the Spike Lee joint, where he played pizza owner Sal Fragione. Aiello convinced Lee to allow him to contribute more depth to the character to make him less stereotypical. And his role in Moonstruck as Johnny Cammareri marked a rare role where he wasn’t playing a tough guy.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends and many fans of Mr. Aiello. He will be missed.

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Danny Aeillo, Jeremy Thomas