We've got some sad news coming in today as it's been reported veteran actor Danny Aiello has passed away. According to the actor's family, Aiello died due to complications from an infection at a New Jersey medical facility where he was being treated for a sudden illness, passing shortly after his family visited him on Thursday evening. He was 86 years old.
A Manhattan native, Aiello lied about his age to join the U.S. Army when he was just 16. After the three-year military stint, he began taking on odd jobs to support himself, which includes working as a bouncer as the prestigious New York comedy club, The Improv. By the time he turned 30, Aiello had taken a strong interest in pursuing an acting career, and in the early '70s, he began to appear in major motion pictures.
One of Aiello's earliest roles is in the 1973 Robert De Niro baseball movie Bang the Drum Slowly. In 1974, he snagged another small but iconic role in The Godfather Part II, which saw him ad-libbing the now-famous line, "Michael Corleone says hello!" Bigger roles would come in the years soon after, including a co-starring role with Jan Michael Vincent in the 1980 movie Defiance. Aiello would also reunited with De Niro in 1984 for the acclaimed gangster movie Once Upon a Time in America.
Aiello's most well-known role came in 1989 when he appeared as pizza shop owner Sal in the classic Spike Lee movie Do the Right Thing. In addition to acting the part, Aiello had also written his own scene with John Turturro just minutes before it was shot, as Lee had given him a lot of creative leeway with his role. His performance brought him tremendous critical praise, earning him Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Aiello also won film critic awards in multiple cities for his legendary performance as Sal.
A veteran of the big screen, the roles mentioned above only scratch the surface of everything Aiello has done with his acting career. Some of his other most memorable roles include playing Cher's fiance in the romantic comedy Moonstruck, Lee Harvey Oswald's assassin Jack Ruby in the biopic Ruby, and chiropractor Louie Denado in the psychological horror movie Jacob's Ladder. Longtime cinema lovers may also recognize him from such movies as The Stuff, Harlem Nights, Hudson Hawk, 29th Street, Lucky Number Slevin, and The Neighborhood. He had been continuously working with film all the way up until his death, and will posthumously appear in the upcoming movie One Moment.
Aiello is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sandy, and three children, Rick, Jaime, and Stacey; another son, Danny Aiello III, died in 2010 from pancreatic cancer. Our thoughts are with them at this time as we offer our condolences. Aiello will certainly be missed, though his work on the big screen will ensure his legacy is preserved forever. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from TMZ.