'Do the Right Thing' Star Danny Aiello Dead at 86

Danny Aiello Spike Lee
Photo credit Getty

Veteran actor Danny Aiello has died.

TMZ reports that he passed away at the age of 86 in New Jersey on Thursday, after getting treated for a sudden illness.

Aiello broke into movies in the early 1970s. Some of his most notable characters were Tony Rosato in "The Godfather Part II," Monk in "The Purple Rose of Cairo," and Mr. Johnny Cammareri in "Moonstruck."

Cher was Aiello's co-star in "Moonstruck." She left her heartfelt comments about the actor on Twitter Friday. Telling him, "Goodbye." Adding that "Danny was a Great Actor, But a Genius Comedic Actor.We Laughed so much. Making #Moonstruck ..It was one of the happiest times in my life."

He also garnered an Academy Award nomination for his role as Sal, the pizza joint owner, in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing."

"Living in New York City gave me training for any role," he said in a 1997 interview. "I've seen people killed, knifed. I've got scars on my face. I have emotional recall when I work; the idea is simply to recreate it. I've seen it and experienced it. I've played gangsters, teachers but most of my work has been in the police area. And for that I'm adored by the police in New York City."

In addition to his prolific film career, Aiello was also a singer and a Broadway actor.

He was born June 20, 1933, to Italian parents. His father, a laborer, left the family of seven children, and Daniel started working at age 9 selling newspapers, working in a grocery store and bowling alley, shining shoes and loading trucks. In his teenage years, he joined a street gang and, he claimed, engaged in burglary and safe-cracking. He dropped out of high school before graduating and joined the Army.

Aiello is survived by three children and 10 grandchildren and his wife Sandy, to whom he married in 1955. His fourth son, a stuntman and stunt coordinator Danny Aiello III, died in May 2010 of pancreatic cancer.

Associated Press Contributed to this story.

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