US actor Danny Aiello is dead. The Oscar-nominated character actor died on Thursday after a short illness, said spokeswoman Tracey Miller. Aiello, who has appeared in films by Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Brian de Palma, was 86 years old.
Born in New York, Italy, his ancestry was known in the 80s for numerous supporting roles. He played alongside Cher in Addicted to Moon , directed by Sergio Leone in the gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America . He was in front of the camera for Woody Allen in The Purple Rose of Cairo . Aiello was nominated for the Oscar for best supporting actor in the tragicomedy Do the right thing . He was also seen in Harlem Nights and The Godfather II .
Before his breakthrough as an actor, Aiello worked in various other professions: as a child, whose father was temporarily in prison and was mostly absent, he cleaned shoes and delivered newspapers. He joined the army at the age of 16, and after three years of service he returned to New York, where he worked as a bus driver union official and bouncer. He had his first film role only in 1973 at the age of 40, before that he played in the theater: Within eleven years Aiello was involved in seven Broadway productions.
Actor Michael Rapaport described Aiello as "huge inspiration". Singer Cher wrote on Twitter that Aiello was an "ingenious, comedian actor", and working together on the film set of the moon addict was "one of the happiest phases of her life". Aiello is survived by his wife Sandy, with whom he was married for 65 years, as well as three children and ten grandchildren. A fourth son died of cancer in May 2010.