He got his big break in 1973 in a supporting role opposite Robert DeNiro in Bang the Drum Slowly. One 50-year career later, Danny Aiello had starred in four Woody Allen movies and a steady slew of dozens of others, including The Godfather Part II, Moonstruck (co-starring Cher and Nicolas Cage), Ruby (in which he played the title character of Jack Ruby), and Spike Lee's 1989 classic Do the Right Thing, for which he was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for his role as pizzeria owner Sal Frangione. Now, the actor's storied tenure on the big screen has come to a close: Deadline reports the 86-year-old died Thursday after a sudden illness in a New Jersey medical facility. "It is with profound sorrow to report that Danny Aiello, beloved husband, father, grandfather, actor, and musician passed away last night after a brief illness," a family spokesperson said, per TMZ.
The outlet reports Aiello had suffered an infection related to treatment for his illness, and that he died shortly after his family had visited him Thursday evening. Born in New York City, Aiello endured a hard childhood after his father abandoned the family, per Deadline. Aiello joined the Army when he was 16 and served for a few years; when he returned to the Big Apple, he worked odd jobs before catching the acting bug. In addition to his lengthy film resume, Aiello also performed on Broadway and in TV series and put out a few albums with a "big band sound," per TMZ. "Everything is happening so damn fast. It’s like a beautiful dream that never seems to end," he told People in 1990. Aiello is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sandy—about whom he said in a 2014 CBS interview, per People: "We have nothing in common"—and three children; a fourth child, Danny Aiello III, died in 2010 of cancer. (Read more obituary stories.)