Daniel Louis Aiello Jr. (/ˈɛl/; born June 20, 1933)[1] is an American actor who has appeared in numerous motion pictures, including The Godfather: Part II (1974), The Front (1976), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Moonstruck (1987), Hudson Hawk (1991), Ruby (1992), Léon: The Professional (1994), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), Dinner Rush (2000), and Lucky Number Slevin (2006). He had a pivotal role in the Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing (1989) as Salvatore "Sal" Frangione, earning a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He played Don Domenico Clericuzio in the miniseries The Last Don (1997).

Early life

Aiello, the fifth of six children, was born on West 68th Street, Manhattan,[2] the son of parents, Frances (née Pietrocova), a seamstress, and Daniel Louis Aiello, a laborer, who deserted his children and wife, who had lost her eyesight and become legally blind. For many years, Aiello publicly condemned his father but the two reconciled in 1993, although Aiello harbors a resentment of his father's conduct.[1][3][4] He moved to the South Bronx when he was seven, and later attended James Monroe High School.[4]

At the age of 16, Aiello lied about his age to enlist in the U.S. Army. After serving for three years, he returned to New York City and did various jobs in order to support himself and later his family. Aiello served as a union representative for Greyhound Bus workers and was a night club bouncer at the legendary New York comedy club, The Improv.[citation needed]


Film and television

With actress Estelle Parsons in 1977

Aiello broke into films in the early 1970s. One of his earliest roles came as a ballplayer in the 1973 baseball drama, Bang the Drum Slowly, with Robert De Niro. Aiello had a walk-on role as small-time hood Tony Rosato in The Godfather Part II (1974), ad-libbing the famous line "Michael Corleone says hello!" during a hit on rival gangster Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo).[5]

In 1980, Aiello had a co-lead role with Jan Michael Vincent in Defiance, about some Manhattan residents who fight back against the thugs terrorizing the neighborhood. The next year, he received considerable acclaim for playing a racist New York City cop in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981) with Paul Newman. In 1981, Aiello won a Daytime Emmy Award for his appearance in an ABC Afterschool Special called A Family of Strangers.[6]

He was paired with De Niro again for the Sergio Leone gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America (1984), as a police chief whose name was also "Aiello." His many film appearances included two for director Woody Allen, who cast him in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) and Radio Days (1987).[citation needed]

Aiello is perhaps best known for his role as pizzeria owner Sal in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989). At the time of the film's release, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he called the role his "first focal part". He further identified the film as a very collaborative effort, during which Spike Lee at one point told him "Whatever you wanna do, you do." Aiello went on to write a crucial scene he shared with John Turturro ten minutes prior to its production.[7] The role earned him nominations for a Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, as well as film critic awards from Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.[8]

Aiello has also portrayed more sympathetic characters. He gained recognition as the befuddled fiancé of Cher opposite her Oscar-winning performance in the romantic comedy Moonstruck (1987), and the actor made a comic appearance in drag for the Robert Altman fashion-industry film Prêt-à-Porter (1994).[citation needed] He also had sympathetic roles in the 1990 horror thriller Jacob's Ladder and the 1991 comedy-drama 29th Street.[9]

Aiello played nightclub owner and Lee Harvey Oswald assassin Jack Ruby in the 1992 biopic Ruby and a political big shot with mob ties in City Hall (1996), starring Al Pacino. He later starred in the independent feature film Dolly Baby (2012), written and directed by Kevin Jordan; Aiello also starred in Jordan's Brooklyn Lobster, which premiered at The Toronto Film Festival in 2005.[10]


Aiello's singing has been on display in films such as Hudson Hawk (1991), Once Around (1991), and Remedy that starred his son Ricky Aiello and Jonathan Doscher. He has released several albums featuring a big-band sound, including I Just Wanted to Hear The Words (2004), Live from Atlantic City (2008), and My Christmas Song for You (2010). Aiello and EMI songwriter Hasan Johnson released an album of standards fused with rap entitled Bridges in 2011.[11]

He played the title character for the video of Madonna's song, "Papa Don't Preach" (1986), and recorded his own answer song, "Papa Wants the Best for You", written by Artie Schroeck.[12]


Aiello's Broadway theatre credits include Gemini, The Floating Light Bulb, Hurlyburly, and The House of Blue Leaves. He also was in the 1976 Broadway play Wheelbarrow Closers, directed by Paul Sorvino.

In July 2011, Aiello appeared Off Broadway in the two-act drama The Shoemaker, written by Susan Charlotte and directed by Antony Marsellis. The play is a stage version of his 2006 movie A Broken Sole, which began life in 2001 as a one-act play.[13]

Personal life

Aiello lived in Ramsey, New Jersey, for many years.[14] He later moved to Saddle River, New Jersey.[15]

He is the father of stuntman and actor Danny Aiello III, who died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer,[16] His surviving children are Rick, Jaime, and Stacey Aiello.[6]

In 2014, Aiello 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 via Simon & Schuster.[17]

His nephew is Michael Kay, announcer for the New York Yankees.[18]



Year Title Award Result
1981 ABC Afterschool Special Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in Children's Programming
Season 9, Episode 1: "A Family of Strangers"
1989 Do the Right Thing Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
BSFC Award for Best Supporting Actor Won
LAFCA Award for Best Supporting Actor
CFCA Award for Best Supporting Actor
1991 Once Around CFCA Award for Best Supporting Actor Nominated
1994 Prêt-à-Porter National Board of Review Award for Best Cast Won

See also


  1. ^ a b Danny Aiello Biography, filmreference.com; accessed June 21, 2017.
  2. ^ Danny AIELLO profile, International Who's Who. accessed September 1, 2006.
  3. ^ Michael Norman (January 21, 1990). "His Bus Came In". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ a b Danny Aiello Biography, Yahoo.com; accessed June 21, 2017
  5. ^ Middleton, Faith. "Actor Danny Aiello, The Godfather, and Madonna". Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  6. ^ a b "Danny Aiello". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  7. ^ Emerson, Jim (July 7, 1989). "Danny Aiello Is 'The Jackie Robinson of Spike Lee Movies'". Chicago Tribune. 
  8. ^ "Danny Aiello". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  9. ^ "29th Street", IMDb, retrieved 2018-03-03 
  10. ^ "LOVE & LOBSTERS. A family drama tells the true story of a Sheepshead Bay seafood firm under threat". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  11. ^ Bridges (Media notes). Danny Aiello. CD Baby. September 27, 2011. ASIN B005SI4MSA. 
  12. ^ Liz Smith, "Papa Gets Second Chance In New Video", Sarasota Herald-Tribune (October 22, 1986), 5E.
  13. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (July 23, 2011). "A Word With: Danny Aiello. Emotional Guy, Speaking for Others". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Golden, Tim. "FILM; Danny Aiello Journeys Along The Blue-Collar Road to Stardom", The New York Times, February 10, 1991. Accessed January 23, 2008. "Though friends say he is cashing paychecks of close to $1 million, Mr. Aiello and his wife, Sandy, live in the same split-level house in Ramsey, N.J., that they bought a decade ago for $125,000."
  15. ^ Andrea Adams, Saddle River, The Star-Ledger, April 28, 2005; "Last year, instead of amusements during the day, Saddle River Night featured a band concert by a 40-piece orchestra, as well as the family-style picnic and a special treat: Saddle River resident Danny Aiello sang a few songs after the band concert."
  16. ^ "Passings: Danny Aiello III". Los Angeles Times. May 4, 2010. 
  17. ^ ""DANNY AIELLO" Book Results on Simon & Schuster". www.simonandschuster.com. 
  18. ^ Abrahams, Matthew (February 13, 2011). "Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay marries news anchor Jodi Applegate". 

External links