danny aiello obit

Danny Aiello, a character actor with prominent roles in MoonstruckDo the Right Thing, and more, has died at the age of 89. Aiello’s career began in the 1970s, and he worked steadily for the next several decades. His turn as Sal in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and his acting roles included extensive work on both small and big screen.

Danny Aiello’s larger-than-life presence always caught your attention. Early in his career, he had what amounted to a walk-on role with no lines in The Godfather Part II, but decided to improvise the line “Michael Corleone says hello!” as he bumped off another character. Director Francis Ford Coppola liked it so much he kept the line in the film.

Aiello would go on to play more mobsters and hoods over the years, from Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer Jack Ruby in Ruby to Don Domenico Clericuzio in the TV movie The Last Don, based on another story from Godfather author Mario Puzo. But it was when Aiello showed a softer side that he truly shined. His supporting turn in Jacob’s Ladder is one of the best elements of that horror thriller, simply because he plays the part so tenderly.

Other notable Aiello credits include The Purple Rose of Cario, The Professional, Radio DaysCity Hall2 Days in the Valley, and of course, Hudson Hawk.

He appeared in the video for Madona’s “Papa Don’t Preach” and parlayed that into a spin-off song that he sung himself, “Papa Wants the Best for You.” He even filmed a video for it.

Aiello is survived by 64 years, Sandy, and three children. Some of the people Aiello worked with have weighed-in on his passing.

 

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