Danny Aiello, a fixture of movies and television for decades who was best known for his roles in "Do the Right Thing" and "Moonstruck," died Thursday after a brief illness, according to his family and agent.
He was 86.
"Danny was my client and a dear friend. He passed away last night. Danny was a rare talent who triumphed over incredible odds to become one of our greatest actors. He will be missed," literary agent Jennifer DeChiara said in a statement.
“Just Found Out My Brother DANNY AIELLO Made His Transition Last Night,” Lee wrote. “Danny. We Made Cinema History Together With DO THE RIGHT THING. May You Rest In PARADISE.”
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Cher, who played opposite Aiello as a dissatisfied girlfriend who dumps him for his fiery younger brother, played by Nicolas Cage, wished him goodbye on Twitter.
“Danny was a Great Actor, But a Genius Comedic Actor. We Laughed so much. Making #Moonstruck,” Cher wrote. “It was one of the happiest times in my life.”
In "The Godfather Part II," Aiello ad-libbed the since oft-repeated line: "Michael Corleone says hello!"
Aiello even dipped his toes into pop music, playing Madonna's father in the video for her 1986 hit "Papa Don't Preach."
And in 1996, he appeared on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
Aiello also graced the stage on and off Broadway, in shows such as "Gemini" and "The House of Blue Leaves."
He also had a leading role in Woody Allen's Broadway play "The Floating Light Bulb" and worked with Allen again in the films "Broadway Danny Rose," "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Radio Days."
While most actors center their lives in Hollywood, Aiello refused to move from his native New York, and when CBS wanted him to produce and star in "Dellaventura," the network had to move the production to the East Coast from Los Angeles.
Aiello was born to working-class parents who lived on West 68th Street. His mother was an immigrant from Naples, Italy.
He used a fake identification at the age of 16 to join the Army, and served for three years. After he was honorably discharged, he married Sandy Cohen in 1955, and the couple would have four children.
He supported his family by working at the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Manhattan and then odd jobs after he lost his job for his ardent support of the transit union, which he served as the youngest-ever president.
He eventually landed a job as a bouncer at a comedy club, where he ended up on the stage, eventually gaining attention to land roles in feature films, at nearly 40 years old.
“Damn I’m so sad to hear the great Danny Aiello has passed away,” actor and podcaster Michael Rapaport tweeted. “So so sad. Such a great actor. HUGE INSPIRATION for me personally.”