Danny Aiello, ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Moonstruck’ Actor, Dies at 86

His other credits include “Once Upon a Time in America,” “2 Days in the Valley” and “The Godfather Part II”

danny aiello
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Danny Aiello, who starred in “Moonstruck,” “Do The Right Thing” and “The Godfather Part II,” died on Thursday,  a spokesperson for Aiello confirmed to TheWrap. He was 86.

In a statement to TheWrap, the family said, “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.”

Aiello’s other credits include “The Front” (1976), “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984), “The Purple Rose of Cairo” (1985), “Radio Days” (1987), “Harlem Nights” (1989) and “2 Days in the Valley” (1996).

Aiello was Oscar-nominated for his supporting role in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” in which he plays an Italian-American character who has owned a pizzeria in a neighborhood in Brooklyn for 25 years, and refuses to leave even as racial tensions amplify.

Aiello was born in New York City on June 20, 1933 — he was one of six children. He was raised on the West Side of Manhattan by his legally blind mother. His father was mostly absent. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany.

After serving in the army, Aiello became a package handler for Greyhound in 1957, before he served as the public-address announcer at a bus terminal in Manhattan. For some time, he was also a union representative for Greyhound. He also worked as a bouncer and emcee at New York’s legendary comedy club, Improv, where he met Louis La Russo II, who asked him to be in a play he had written. Although not an actor, Aiello played Biggie in La Russo’s “Lampost Reunion,” and then went on to star in La Russo’s 1976’s “Wheelbarrow Closers” and 1979’s “Knockout” on Broadway. His other theater credits include “Gemini,” “The Floating Light Bulb” and “The House of Blue Leaves.”

He made his film debut in “Bang the Drum Slowly” (1973), before “The Godfather 2” became his second on-screen appearance. He also played Don Domenico Clericuzio in the miniseries “The Last Don” (1997).

Aiello wrote a memoir, titled “I Only Know Who I am When I Am Somebody Else,” was published in 2014.

Aiello is survived by his wife Sandy Aiello, and four children.