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

The actor Danny Aiello in 2005. He started his acting career on the New York stage and didn’t make his movie debut until he was 40.

Danny Aiello, the burly New York-born film and stage actor who was 40 when he made his movie debut and 16 years later earned an Academy Award nomination for his role as a pizzeria owner in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” died on Thursday. He was 86.

His death was confirmed by Jennifer De Chiara, a literary agent, in an email. No other details were provided.

In Mr. Lee’s 1989 film, about a white business in the predominantly black Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, Mr. Aiello was a morally complicated racist villain, willing to wield a baseball bat but sentimental about the young people in the neighborhood having grown up on his food.

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

Danny Aiello, the New York actor and former Greyhound bus employee best known for his Oscar-nominated turn as Sal the pizza-joint owner in Do the Right Thing and for portraying Cher’s lovelorn suitor in Moonstruck, has died. He was 86.

His rep Tracey Miller told The Hollywood Reporter that the actor died Thursday night after a brief illness.

Aiello, who didn’t start acting until he was 35, often played loathsome types, as in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), where he starred as Mia Farrow’s gruff, drunken husband. In a similar vein, he battled with Paul Newman in Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), portraying a crooked cop who tosses a kid off a roof. 

Danny Aiello Dies: Oscar-Nominated ‘Do The Right Thing’, ‘Moonstruck’ & ‘Godfather Part II’ Actor Was 86

Danny Aiello, whose roles in The Godfather Part II, Moonstruck and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing made him one of the most familiar and admired character actors of recent decades, died Thursday in a New Jersey medical facility following a sudden illness. He was 86.

His death was confirmed by spokesperson Tracey Miller, who released this statement: “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.”

He’d also appear in four Woody Allen projects: 1976’s The Front, in which Allen starred as a man hopelessly caught up in the Hollywood blacklist; 1985’s The Purple Rose of Cairo; 1987’s Radio Days; and, in 1981, Allen’s Broadway play The Floating Lightbulb, in which Aiello co-starred with Bea Arthur.

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