Reps for Aiello told Fox News the actor died Thursday night.
“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,” his manager Tracy Miller told us.
“The family asks for privacy at this time. Service arrangements will be announced at a later date.”
Per TMZ, who was first to report the news, the actor’s family said he died at a medical facility in New Jersey where he was being treated for a sudden illness. The outlet reports that he was dealing with an infection related to an injection site and died shortly after his family left following a visit.
Portrait of American actor Danny Aiello, in costume (as ‘Sal’) smiles as he poses on the set of the film ‘Do the Right Thing’ (directed by Spike Lee), New York, 1989.
(Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)
The veteran of stage and film got his big break in the early 1970s in the Robert De Niro-led baseball drama “Bang the Drum Slowly.” However, he is perhaps best known for his role as Sal the pizza guy in Spike Lee’s 1989 film “Do The Right Thing” for which he earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
Cinema fans may also recognize Aiello from his role in “The Godfather Part II,” where he played Tony Rosato, the man who uttered the now-famous line: “Michael Corleone says hello!”
His breakthrough was as the hapless lover dumped by Cher in Norman Jewison’s hit comedy “Moonstruck.” His disillusion contributed to the laughter, and although he wasn’t nominated for a supporting-role Oscar (Cher and Olympia Dukakis won in their categories), Aiello was inundated with movie offers.
In this June 29, 2009 file photo, Director Spike Lee, right, and actor Danny Aiello attend a special 20th anniversary screening of “Do the Right Thing”, in New York.
“Living in New York City gave me training for any role,” he said in a 1997 interview. “I’ve seen people killed, knifed. I’ve got scars on my face. I have emotional recall when I work; the idea is simply to recreate it. I’ve seen it and experienced it. I’ve played gangsters, teachers but most of my work has been in the police area. And for that I’m adored by the police in New York City.”
Among his other movies: “Fort Apache, the Bronx” (as a cop who threw a boy from a building), “Once Upon a Time in America,” “Harlem Nights,” “Jack Ruby” (as Ruby) and”City Hall.” He also appeared in TV miniseries, including “The Last Don,” “A Woman Named Jackie” and in the 1985-86 police series “Lady Blue.” It was Aiello who played Madonna’s father in the pop icon’s “Papa Don’t Preach” video.
In this April 28, 1981 file photo, Actor Danny Aiello hugs actress Beatrice Arthur at a party following their opening performance in Woody Allen’s play, “The Floating Lightbulb,” in New York.
Daniel Louis Aiello Jr. was born June 20, 1933, to Italian parents. His father, a laborer, left the family of seven children, and Daniel started working at age 9 selling newspapers, working in a grocery store and bowling alley, shining shoes and loading trucks. In his teenage years, he joined a street gang and, he claimed, engaged in burglary and safe-cracking. He dropped out of high school before graduating, got married in 1955 and joined the Army.
After three years in the service, he worked at several factory jobs, landing as a baggage man at Greyhound. The ambitious Aiello rose to become president of the transit union.
In this July 28, 2001 file photo, Danny Aiello poses for a photo at Gigino restaurant in New York.
“I wanted to become a politician,” he told a reporter in 1995. “I always thought that I could talk, that people liked me, that I can represent them.” But when Greyhound accused him of starting a wildcat strike and the union leaders agreed, Aiello quit his job.
He worked at one job after another, and in 1970 was hired as a bouncer at the New York comedy club, Improvisation. One night, he was asked to act as an assistant emcee. “It was no big deal; it was just ‘Danny, go up and announce the acts,'” he recalled in 1997. “There was a little bantering between acts, and I kept that short. I was terrified.”
Aiello, the blue-collar character actor whose long career playing tough guys included roles in “Fort Apache, the Bronx,” “The Godfather, Part II,” “Once Upon a Time in America” and his Oscar-nominated performance as a pizza man in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” has died.
Yet Aiello soon branched out, playing small roles in the movies “Bang the Drum Slowly” and “The Godfather, Part II,” and as the bartender lead in a musical play “Lamppost Reunion.” Starting in 1980 he averaged three films a year, plus appearances in theater and television. Off-Broadway, he appeared in “The Shoemaker” in 2011.
Aiello and his wife, Sandy, lived in Ramsey, New Jersey. He also is survived by three children: Rick, Jamie and Stacy. A fourth son, stuntman and stunt coordinator Danny Aiello III, died in May 2010 of pancreatic cancer.
Fox News’ Melissa Roberto and The Associated Press contributed to this report.