Award-Winning Actor Danny Aiello Passed Away

Award-winning actor Danny Aiello passed away at the age of 86 on December 12, 2019. He was highly regarded in the Italian American Community and was a former NIAF Gala Honoree. “We are saddened to hear of the passing of Danny Aiello,” said NIAF Chair Patricia de Stacy Harrison. “He was an exceptional actor, as well as a singer and producer, who brought hard-earned real-life experience to the stage and screen. He was proud of his Italian heritage. NIAF honored him in 1989 with a NIAF Lifetime Achievement Award for the Performing Arts at our 14th Anniversary Gala.” 

Danny Aiello began his acting career as a successful Broadway actor, performing in seven shows in 11 years before pursuing film roles. He was 40 when he made his movie debut in 1973 in Bang the Drum Slowly, starring Robert De Niro. The following year, he rejoined De Niro in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather Part II, and 16 years later earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor in his role as a pizzeria owner in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. His other well-known films include Moonstruck (1987), Fort Apache: The Bronx (1981) and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984), among others. Before his acting career, Mr. Aiello was a blue-collar worker until his mid-30s. According to The New York Times, he worked on an assembly line at an aircraft plant in New Jersey, was a baggage handler for Greyhound in Manhattan, among other jobs to support his family. Later in his life, he released several albums including I Just Wanted to Hear The Words (2004), Live from Atlantic City (2008), and My Christmas Song for You (2010). 

“We here at NIAF are grateful to have honored Danny Aiello, an individual who worked hard and became a positive role model in the Italian American Community,” said NIAF Chair Gabriel A. Battista. “Everyone at the Foundation sends our thoughts and sincerest condolences to his family.” Sandy Cohen, Mr. Aiello’s wife of 64 years, survives him. His other survivors include two sons, Rick and Jaime; a daughter, Stacey; and 10 grandchildren. His son, Daniel Aiello III, a stunt coordinator, died in 2010.