Danny Aiello, best known for his Oscar-nominated role of pizza shop owner Sal in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do The Right Thing, has passed away at the age of 86. The actor died in a New Jersey hospital on Thursday night where he was receiving treatment for an infection that was caused by an injection.
According to Page Six, the actor died just after his family had left the hospital following a visit.
Danny Aiello, known for his Oscar-nominated performance in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” has died at 86. In this interview from 2016, he reflects on his life and iconic film roles. https://t.co/BrNl5zuHGp
— PBS (@PBS) December 13, 2019
Aiello had a lengthy and successful film and television career with more than 100 credits that began in the early 1970s. His first notable role was in the 1973 film Bang the Drum Slowly alongside Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty. And, in 1974 he played the role of Tony Rosato in The Godfather: Part II and delivered the famous line, “Michael Corleone says hello!”
In a 2014 interview with Charlie Rose, Aiello revealed that the line was not in the script.
“I have no idea why I said what I said,” said Aiello. “I thought I was in trouble with the director.”
Other acting credits in Aiello’s career included the role of Johnny Cammareri in Moonstruck, who he called “such a wimp.” Aiello said that people were shocked when they met him after playing that role because in real life he was an imposing guy who was six-foot-three and more than 200 pounds.
Born in Manhattan, Aiello was married to his wife Sandy Cohen for 64 years, and the couple had four children, including stuntman and actor Danny Aiello III, who died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer. Aiello’s surviving children are Rick, Jaime, and Stacey
In 2014, he published his memoir I Only Know Who I am When I am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, On the Stage, and in the Movies. And, he said that no matter what kind of character he played, he always tried to add some humanity to the role.
RIP to guy who’s picture is on the wall of every pizza place worth eating at https://t.co/JmeQoFdWUw
— Tim Dillon (@TimJDillon) December 13, 2019
“I try to inject an ounce of vulnerability so even if people say, ‘I hate this bastard,’ something still slips through and they can see a human being,” Aiello said.
Numerous actors have paid tribute to Aiello on social media, including his Do The Right Thing co-star Michael Rappaport, who wrote that Aiello was a “huge inspiration” for him personally.
Billy Baldwin, who starred alongside Aiello in the 1989 TV movie The Preppie Murder, wrote: “RIP #DannyAiello. 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.”