Danny Aiello

Danny Aiello, veteran actor and musician, has died after a brief illness in New Jersey.

TMZ printed the following statement from a representative for the actor’s family:

“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. The family asks for privacy at this time. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.”

Born in New York City in 1933, Aiello was 40 years old when he landed his first role in a movie. It just so happened that movie starred Robert De Niro and was titled Bang the Drum Slowly.

“I was 40 when I did my first movie. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” Aiello said. “My interpretation of acting at the time, because I didn’t know how to build a character, was pure energy. People call me an instinctive actor. I used to consider that an insult early on, only because I had never studied. Now… I love it.”

This led to a walk-on role in The Godfather Part 2, and the rest, as they say, is history. Aiello made a career out of playing tough guys, and in 1990, he was nominated for an Oscar in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.

That same year, he appeared in Jacob’s Ladder, Adrian Lyne’s mind-bending horror/thriller starring Tim Robbins.

Aiello is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sandy Cohen, and three children and their families. He was preceded in death by his son, Danny Aiello, III, who passed away at age 53 from pancreatic cancer.