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Danny Aiello, star of Do The Right Thing and Moonstruck, passes away

Danny Aiello, best known for featuring in films such as The Godfather, Moonstruck and Do The Right Thing, passed away at 86.

By: PTI | Los Angeles | Published: December 14, 2019 3:53:47 pm
Danny Aiello Danny Aiello’s most memorable role came in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989), where he essayed the role of Sai, the Italian-American owner of a local pizzeria.

Veteran actor Danny Aiello, best known for featuring in films such as The Godfather, Moonstruck and Do The Right Thing, has died. He was 86.

According to TMZ, Aiello passed away on Thursday at a New Jersey hospital where he was being treated for an illness.

The news of his demise was confirmed by his representative, Tracey Miller.

“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,” Miller said.

Born on June 20, 1933 in Manhattan, New York, the actor broke into Hollywood in the 1970s. His first prominent role came in Robert De Niro-starrer Bang the Drum Slowly.

He later featured as Tony Rosato in Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster classic The Godfather Part II, where he delivered one of the most memorable dialogues of all time, “Michael Corleone says ‘Hello!’”

In the early 1980s, Aiello starred in films like The Front, Once Upon a Time in America, and Fort Apache: The Bronx. He collaborated with director Woody Allen on two movies — The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), in which he portrayed the abusive husband of Mia Farrow’s character, and Radio Days (1987).

Aiello also starred in Cher-starrer Moonstruck, where he played the role of her fiance Johnny Cammareri, whom she ditches for his younger brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage).

But, perhaps, his most memorable role came in Spike Lee’s 1989 comedy-drama feature Do the Right Thing, where he essayed the role of Sai, the Italian-American owner of a local pizzeria.

The part earned him best supporting actor nominations at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes.

In the 1990s, Aiello starred in films and shows such as Hudson Hawk (1991), Ruby (1992), Leon: The Professional (1994), 2 Days in the Valley (1996) and TV miniseries The Last Don (1997).

The actor is survived by his wife Sandy, whom he married in 1955. They have three children — Rick, Jaime, and Stacey. His fourth son, Danny Aiello III, died of cancer in 2010.

On social media, his demise was mourned by his co-stars like De Niro, Cher, Farrow and Giancarlo Esposito.

“I am very saddened to hear of Danny’s passing. I have known him for almost 50 years. I am sad. See you in Heaven, Danny,” De Niro said.

Cher posted, “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. Goodbye #JohnnyCammareri Loretta (sic).”

Farrow called Aiello a “superb actor and a lovely person”, saying she is saddened by the news of his death.

“So very sad to hear that Danny Aiello has died. He was a superb actor and a lovely person. It was a joy and an honour to work with him (in Broadway Danny Rose) Condolences and love to his family,” she wrote.

Esposito, who featured alongside Aiello in Do The Right Thing, tweeted, “RIP #DannyAiello. Oh so talented. Explosively wonderful human being – We see eye to eye & chose LOVE over Hate. We agreed to disagree for our art. But, in the end we were healed of our hate by sharing our love for life! Do the right thing. Fly with the angels my Italian brother.”

Director Spike Lee posted a throwback photo from Do The Right Thing on Instagram and said he is feeling “broken”.

“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,” he captioned the photo.

Among others who also mourned Aiello’s demise were actors Charlize Theron and Samuel Jackson.

Theron said, “Such sad news to wake up to this morning. One of my first jobs ever in Hollywood was with Danny Aiello and he was everything you could’ve imagined – funny, gracious, kind, and a true legend of his craft. You will be missed, my friend.”

She had shared screen space with Aiello in 1996 crime drama 2 Days in the Valley.

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