Actor Danny Aiello has passed away at age 86, according to TMZ. The outlet reported that Aiello passed away Thursday night “at a medical facility in New Jersey where he was being treated for a sudden illness.”
“We’re told he suffered an infection related to his treatment. Danny’s family had come to visit him on Thursday, and we’re told he died shortly after they’d left on Thursday evening.”
Aiello’s Early Life Was Far Removed From Hollywood
A native New Yorker, Aiello was the fifth of six children. At just 16-years-old, the Purple Rose of Cairo actor lied about his age to enlist in the U.S. Army and ended up serving for three years. After his military career, Aiello confessed in his autobiography I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else that he returned to New York only to fall into a number of odd jobs.
These jobs included working as a union representative for Greyhound Bus workers and acting as a nightclub bouncer at famous New York comedy club The Improv.
Aiello Found A Calling In The Acting World
It was not until the 1970s, when he was in his mid-30s that Aiello decided to pursue his love of acting. Aiello’s career began with the role of a baseball player in 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly, alongside Robert De Niro.
In 1981, Aiello won a Daytime Emmy Award for his part in an ABC After School Special called A Family of Strangers. After this victory, Aiello’s career moved from strength to strength. He appeared with De Niro once more in gangster movie Once Upon a Time In America, in addition to starring in two Woody Allen movies. He also won wide acclaim for being Cher’s fiance in smash rom-com Moonstruck.
However, the pinnacle of his achievement was when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1990 on the strength of his performance as Sal, the pizzeria owner in Spike Lee’s critically-acclaimed Do the Right Thing.
Aiello continued acting late into life, most recently starring in Making a Deal with the Devil, which was released May 2019.
His Career Was Not Free From Hardship
Despite a storied career, Aiello confessed in his autobiography that he had been prone to “dark times” and that he had suffered from bouts of depression. He claimed that acting was what helped save him when he was experiencing what he called a “loss of self” (via CBS News).
“The thing about being an actor, though, is that you’re never alone. With me that evening were all the characters I had ever portrayed in the movies and on the stage. They whispered in my ear, telling me that while winning isn’t everything, losing doesn’t have a hell of a lot to say for itself. Those voices are always present,” he wrote.
He Was Supported By A Large Family
Aiello is survived by his wife, television producer Sandy Cohen. He also leaves behind three children: Rick, Jaime, and Stacey Aiello. His fourth child, Danny Aiello III, passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2010 after following in his father’s footsteps as an actor and stuntman.
The sad news is unfortunately not the only Hollywood death this week. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, former child actor and brother of Facts of Life star Nancy McKeon, Philip McKeon passed away earlier this week at just 55-years-old.