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Refresh for updates… News of the death of Danny Aiello rippled across social media on Friday morning as friends, co-stars, peers and admirers of the 86-year-old character actor shared their thoughts on a body of work that included Do the Right Thing, Moonstruck, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Jacob’s Ladder and Madonna’s music video for “Papa Don’t Preach.”
Among those offering remembrances were co-stars Cher, Giancarlo Esposito, Kristy Swanson, Charlize Theron, among many others. Better Midler recalled meeting Aiello at New York’s Improv comedy club in the late 1960s..
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Aiello’s Oscar-nominated performance as Salvatore “Sal” Frangione in Spike Lee’s incendiary 1989 classic Do the Right Thing was mentioned most frequently, a testament to the film’s trenchant achievements and Aiello’s compelling portrait of a pizzeria owner vexed by the changing demographics of his Brooklyn neighborhood.
Aiello’s screen career was launched by the 1973 sports drama Bang the Drum Slowly, which also starred a newcomer named Robert De Niro. Aiello joined De Niro for a notable follow-up, when both appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s Best Picture Oscar winner The Godfather Part II, with De Niro in the title role and Aiello settling for a memorable walk-on role as Tony Rosato.
Aiello’s work would be front-and-center in Do the Right Thing, however, and his nuanced, soulful performance as the beleaguered Italian-American business owner in the milestone film earned him the best reviews of his career. The role role earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards.
Lee on Friday led the social media wave of tributes to the accomplished and popular character actor.
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Robert De Niro:
“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.”
Danny was a wonderful actor and a lovely person. May he RIP. https://t.co/JxurpX9TYx
— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) December 13, 2019
Today, we remember the great Danny Aiello. His career spanned nearly five decades and included roles in films such as “Moonstruck” and “Do the Right Thing,” which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/CZkKiPYnOP
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) December 13, 2019
Shoutout to Sal’s Pizzeria for all those years of dope slices from Mr Senor Love Daddy! RIP Danny Aiello!!!
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) December 13, 2019
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 ❤️
— Charlize Theron (@CharlizeAfrica) December 13, 2019
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 pic.twitter.com/gUYvrCBnlA
— Giancarlo Esposito (@quiethandfilms) December 13, 2019
I started at the Improv in the late 60s when #DannyAiello was the maitre d’…he was wonderful, not just to me, but to everyone who turned up. I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body. My condolences to his family and close friends; he was one in a million.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) December 13, 2019
— Kristy Swanson (@KristySwansonXO) December 13, 2019
Rest In Peace My Dear, Sweet Friend Danny Aiello🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/kXpkNL1s02
— Maureen McCormick (@MoMcCormick7) December 13, 2019
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.🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿
A post shared by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on Dec 13, 2019 at 7:02am PST
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.
— Cher (@cher) December 13, 2019
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 honor to work with him (in Broadway Danny Rose) Condolences and love to his family https://t.co/NSeGCes6sy
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) December 13, 2019
Pre-Sobriety with pals, Robert Klein and Danny Aiello. Just had a few drinks and joked 30 plus yrs ago about what if Trump ever became President.
Then had five more drinks!
OY! #Resist#VoteBlue #sobriety pic.twitter.com/u6a0rLA4Gx
— Richard Lewis (@TheRichardLewis) May 30, 2018
Dennis Farina is so Chicago, and Danny Aiello is so New York. I’m not even sure what this means, but I believe it to be true 100%.
— Andy Richter (@AndyRichter) December 13, 2019
— natasha lyonne (@nlyonne) October 12, 2018
RIP Danny Aiello.
People remember him most for his iconic role in "Do The Right Thing!" but he was the guy in The Godfather II who strangled Frank Pentangeli, the informant who lied to Congress that inspired Roger Stone to get convicted tampering with a witness to do the same…
— Grant Stern (@grantstern) December 13, 2019
Danny Aiello Had a majestic leadership quality to his work. He always seemed to know what to do next. There was an authority that was both compassionate and sinister.Certainly one of the great Italian American actors to appear on the screen.Wrap in peace. https://t.co/drCJz46Wu9
— Michael Des Barres (@MDesbarres) December 13, 2019
— MichaelRapaport (@MichaelRapaport) December 13, 2019
— The View (@TheView) December 13, 2019
From the Army to Greyhound labor rep to bouncer at The Improv to Hollywood stardom!!
From Johnny in Moonstruck to Sal in Do The Right Thing.
That smile, that laugh, that NY attitude.
They don’t make ‘em like Danny anymore.
What a talent… a true one of a kind. pic.twitter.com/ssaw9QvAVt
— Billy Baldwin (@BillyBaldwin) December 13, 2019
“This is my pizzeria!!!”
One of the greats. RIP Danny Aiello. pic.twitter.com/TVv4KS9quc
— Cousin Sal (@TheCousinSal) December 13, 2019
Wow! RIP Danny Aiello! So many great characters brought to life through him. Mr. Johnny Cammareri, Sgt. Phil Cantone, Don Domenico Clericuzio, & of course Sal! Thanks for the art! 🙏🏿 #dannyaiello #livewelllived… https://t.co/aThaAEWRL3
— Johnta Austin (@johntalsr) December 13, 2019
Danny Aiello was memorable in the Madonna video where he played the Papa who was asked not to preach pic.twitter.com/A15GKqIREG
— Jesse Hawken (@jessehawken) December 13, 2019
God Bless Danny Aiello.
His Oscar nom was for Do The Right Thing but watch Jacob's Ladder to see him as a literal angel. pic.twitter.com/yFKeJCMmja
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) December 13, 2019
Danny Aiello and Paul Newman's characters had a fistfight in the film Fort Apache, The Bronx. As they rehearsed the rough battle, Danny heard his wife yell "Oh God, don't hit him in the face".
Said Danny "She was talking to me". R.I.P.
— Keith Humphreys (@KeithNHumphreys) December 13, 2019
If you've never seen Moonstruck, you should see Moonstruck. I always felt it was closest to seeing my particular Italian family onscreen and Danny Aiello was just perfect as Loretta's not-to-be fiancé. RIP
— Lauren Morgan (@morglaur) December 13, 2019
— Mark Graham (@unclegrambo) December 13, 2019
“People call me an instinctive actor. I used to consider that an insult early on, only because I had never studied. Now, I love it.”
Rest in peace, Danny Aiello, who brought truth and feeling to his every role. Here he is with Spike Lee during the making of DO THE RIGHT THING. pic.twitter.com/shFkLBIZT5
— Tribeca (@Tribeca) December 13, 2019
Danny Aiello Dies: ‘Do The Right Thing’ Actor Was 86 – Deadline https://t.co/mfvAud9eOx RIP Danny,you were one of a kind
— TitusWelliver (@welliver_titus) December 13, 2019