Acclaimed Actor Danny Aiello Dead at 86

Best-known for standout roles in “Do the Right Thing” and “Moonstruck”

Danny Aiello and Estelle Parsons
Danny Aiello and Estelle Parsons in 1977.
Ron Reagan/Creative Commons

Over the course of his long career in cinema, Danny Aiello played few leading roles, but also never failed to make a deep impression on viewers of whatever film he was watching. He could play heroes and villains, morally compromised characters or the moral center of a narrative. His was a standalone presence on the screen, and one which led to some of the most resonant roles over the course of several decades as a working actor.

That career came to an end on Thursday, when Aiello died at the age of 86. His career included roles in some of the greatest American films ever made, including The Godfather Part II and Do the Right Thing. Aiello’s Do the Right Thing director and co-star Spike Lee has posted a number of moving tributes to Aiello on his Instagram; it’s a resonant reminder of the work that both did to create one of the defining films of its time.

Deadline collected a number of tributes to Aiello, including those from Mia Farrow and Cher, both of whom starred opposite him on screen. ESPN broadcaster Michael Kay, who is Aiello’s nephew, has also written his own tribute to the late actor, one that emphasized the full scope of Aiello’s life.

“He was an Army veteran, then the head of the Greyhound bus drivers union, a bouncer at the Improv who became the emcee at the joint and then went into acting, without a lesson,” Kay wrote. “I loved him deeply and I’m going to miss him very much.”

Based on the responses and tributes to Aiello that have emerged online recently, that’s true for many people across the world. 

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