Movie and stage actor Danny Aiello dead at age 86

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Danny Aiello, a veteran stage and film actor remembered for his roles in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and other movies, has died at age 86, his literary agent said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Actor Danny Aiello arrives for the Amy Winehouse Foundation Gala in New York March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Aiello, who earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his supporting role as Sal the pizza guy in Lee’s 1989 movie, died on Thursday night, the agent, Jennifer De Chiara, told Reuters.

“All I can say is that Danny was a rare talent and a wonderful man,” De Chiara said in an email. “The world loved Danny, and he loved them right back. He will be missed.”

Aiello’s death was first reported by TMZ, which said he died while being treated for a sudden illness at a New Jersey medical center.

Born in New York City on June 6, 1933, Aiello held various jobs, including driving a Greyhound bus, before he broke into acting in his 30s, according to IMDB.

It was at New York’s famed comedy club, the Improv, where Aiello had worked as a bouncer that he got his start in show business filling in as an emcee, the website said.

Aiello went on to make dozens of movies, including Norman Jewison’s 1987 comedy, “Moonstruck” with Cher, Nicholas Cage and Olympia Dukakis. In 1986, he appeared with Madonna in a video of her hit single, “Papa Don’t Preach.”

In 2004, his career expanded into music. He released his first single, “All of Me,” as well as an album of standards backed up by an eight-piece jazz band, according IMDB.

In 2015, the actor published his autobiography, “I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, on the Stage, and in the Movies.”

Aiello had been married for nearly 65 years. He and his wife Sandy Cohen had four children, including Danny Aiello III, an actor and stuntman who died in 2010 at age 53, IMDB said.

Reporting By Frank McGurty and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown

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