Danny Aiello: Robert De Niro, Spike Lee, Cher, Giancarlo Esposito & Others Remember ‘Do The Right Thing’ & ‘Moonstruck’ Actor

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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.”

 

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