Danny Aiello - Actors and Actresses

Nationality: American. Born: Daniel Louis Aiello, Jr., in New York City, 20 June 1933. Education: Attended James Monroe High School (two weeks). Military Service: U.S. Army. Family: Married Sandy Cohen, 1955, sons: Rick, Danny III, and Jaime, daughter: Stacey. Career: 1972—film debut in The Godmother (unreleased); 1973—first released film Bang the Drum Slowly ; 1975—stage debut in Lampost Reunion , Little Theatre, New York City; 1985–86—in TV series Lady Blue . Awards: Theatre World Award, for Lampost Reunion , Little Theatre, New York City, 1975; Faberge Award, Straw Hat Award, Theatre World Award, Theatre of Reunion Award, for That Championship Season , Chicago production, 1975; Best Actor Award, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, for Hurly Burly , Los Angeles production, 1985; Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago Film Critics Awards, for Do the Right Thing , 1989; Career Achievement Award, Motion Picture Bookers Club, 1989. Agent: William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A. Address: 4 Thornhill Drive, Ramsey, NJ 07446, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


The Godmother (Russo—unreleased)


Bang the Drum Slowly (Hancock) (as Horse)


The Godfather, Part II (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Tony Rosato)


The Front (Ritt) (as Danny La Gattuta); Hooch (Edward Mann); Kojak: Black Thorn (Dubin—for TV)


Fingers (Toback) (as Butch)


Bloodbrothers ( A Father's Love ) (Mulligan) (as Artie); The Last Tenant (Jud Taylor—for TV) (as Carl); Lovey: A Circle of Children, Part II (Jud Taylor—for TV) (as Bernie Serino)


Defiance (Flynn) (as Carmine)


Hide in Plain Sight (Caan) (as Sal Carvello)


Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (Rich) (as Johnson); Fort Apache, the Bronx (Petrie) (as Morgan)


Amityville II: The Possession (Damiana); A Question of Honor (Jud Taylor—for TV) (as Martelli)


Blood Feud (Newell—for TV) (as Randy Powers); Deathmask (Friedman) (as Mike Gress); Old Enough (Marisa Silver) (as Mr. Bruckner); Once upon a Time in America (Leone) (as Police Chief Aiello)


Key Exchange (Kellman) (as Carabello); The Protector (Glickenhaus) (as Danny Garoni); The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen) (as Monk); The Stuff (Cohen) (as Vickers)


Tales from the Darkside: The Odds (John Strysik—for TV) (as Tommy Vale)


Man on Fire ( Absinthe ) (Chouraqui) (as Conti); Moonstruck (Jewison) (as Johnny Cammareri); The Pick-Up Artist (Toback) (as Phil); Radio Days (Woody Allen) (as Rocco); Daddy (Herzfeld—for TV) (as Coach Jacobs); Russicum ( The Third Solution ; Russicum I Giorni del Diavolo ) (Squitieri) (as George Sherman)


White Hot (Benson) (as Charlie Buick); Alone in the Neon Jungle ( Command in Hell ) (Georg Stanford Brown—for TV) (as Chief of Police); Crack in the Mirror ( Do It Up ) (Benson) (as Charlie)


The January Man (O'Connor) (as Capt. Vincent Alcoa); Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee) (as Sal Frangoni); Making of Do the Right Thing (Bourne—doc) (as himself); Harlem Nights (Eddie Murphy) (as Phil Cantone); The Preppie Murder (Herzfeld—for TV) (as Detective Mike Sheehan)


Jacob's Ladder ( Dante's Inferno ) (Lyne) (as Louis); Lost Idol ( Shock Troop ) (Chalong) (as John Cunningham)


The Closer (Logothetis) (as Chester Grant); 29th Street (Gallo) (as Frank Pesce Sr.); Hudson Hawk (Lehmann) (as Tommy Five-Tone); Once Around (Hallström) (as Joe Bella)


Mistress (Primus) (as Carmine Rasso); Ruby (Mackenzie) (title role)


The Cemetery Club (Duke) (as Ben Katz); Me and the Kid (Dan Curtis) (as Harry); The Pickle ( Adventures of the Flying Pickle ) (Mazursky) (as Harry Stone)


Leon ( The Cleaner ; The Professional ) (Besson) (as Tony, + co-pr); Ready to Wear ( Prêt-a-Porter ) (Altman) (as Major Hamilton)


Lieberman in Love (Lahti) (as Joe Lieberman); The Road Home ( He Ain't Heavy ) (Hamilton); Power of Attorney (Himelstein) (as Joe Scassi)


City Hall (Harold Becker) (as Frank Anselmo); Two Much (Trueba) (as Gene Paletto); 2 Days in the Valley (Herzfeld); Mojave Moon (Dowling); Long Road Home ; A Brooklyn State of Mind (Rainone) (as Danny Parente);


Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook (Fisher) (as Narrator); The Last Don (Clifford—mini for TV) (as Don Dmenico Clericuzio); Dellaventura (Rosenthal—series for TV) (as Anthony Dellaventura)


Wilbur Falls (Glantz) (as Phil Devereaux); Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis (Henderson) (as Mr. Rathbone); The Last Don II (Clifford—mini for TV) (as Don Clericuzio)


Mambo Café (Gonzalez) (as Mob Boss)


By AIELLO: articles-

"Beyond the Bronx with Danny Aiello," interview with Patrick Goldstein, in Los Angeles Times , 24 September 1989.

" Harlem Nights : Danny Aiello Is a Crooked Cop on the Take," interview with Charles Fleming, in American Film , November 1989.

"Case Study: Danny Aiello," interview with Kevin Koffler, in Hollywood Reporter , 8 May 1990.

"Danny Aiello: Hard Times to High Times," interview with Rod Lurie, in West Side Spirit (New York), 4 February 1991.

"Broadway Danny Aiello," interview with Gavin Smith, in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1991.

"Everyone's in The Pickle (and They Relish Their Roles): Danny Aiello Stars as Director Harry Stone, a Victim of Artistic Suicide," interview with Tom Provenzano, in Drama-Logue , 6–12 May 1993.

"The Natural: Danny Aiello Escapes into Acting while Enduring Real-Life Problems," interview with Michael Horowitz, in UCLA Daily Bruin (Los Angeles), 18 November 1994.

On AIELLO: articles—

Decker, John, "Call Him the Great Danny," in Soho Weekly News (New York), 14 June 1979.

Chase, Chris, "Danny Aiello, the Actor, Still a Working Man," in New York Times , 8 May 1981.

Loeser, Deborah, "Forget the Screen Image—Danny Aiello Is More Cream Puff than Hard Roll," in Chicago Tribune , 24 March 1985.

Tajima, Renee, "Say the Right Thing," in Village Voice (New York), 20 June 1989.

Van Gelder, Lawrence, "At the Movies: for Danny Aiello, Life Is Busy and Sal the Pizza Man Is Not a Bigot," in New York Times , 7 July 1989.

Goldstein, Patrick, "Beyond the Bronx with Danny Aiello," in Los Angeles Times Calendar , 24 September 1989.

Carcaterra, Lorenzo, "Making Room for Danny," in US (New York), 11 December 1989.

Norman, Michael, "His Bus Came In," in New York Times Magazine , 21 January 1990.

Carcaterra, Lorenzo, "Danny Aiello," in People Weekly (New York), 19 February 1990.

Flatow, Sheryl, "I Wanted to Be More," in Parade Magazine (New York), 2 December 1990.

Schweiger, Daniel, "Once Around with Danny Aiello," in Village View (New York), 18–24 January 1991.

Golden, Tim, "Danny Aiello Travels the Blue-Collar Route to Stardom," in New York Times , 16 February 1991.

Smith, Gavin, "Broadway Danny Aiello," in Film Comment (New York), 1 July 1991.

Current Biography 1992 , New York, 1992.

"Inspirational Actor Danny Aiello. Set to Start 'Breaking Legs' in Cerritos," in Drama-Logue (Hollywood), 30 September–6 October 1993.

Mischel, Rick, "Smiling All the Way to Success," in Entertainment Today (New York), 11–17 November 1994.

"Film, Legit, TV Actor Carries Torch for N.Y.," in Variety , 29 September 1997.

Carson, Tom, "My Left Flatfoot: Prime-Time Dicks Trip Over Themselves," in Village Voice (New York), 21 October 1997.

Mitchell, Elvis, "T.V. Tough Love: Dellaventura is the Funniest New Series on Television, through Sheer Inadvertence," in New Times (Los Angeles), 13 November 1997.

Hamill, Denis, "That'll Be Two for Dinner: Danny Aiello and Bob Giraldi Cook Up a Movie in Tribeca," in New York Daily News , 13 February 2000.

* * *

In the Hollywood studio era Danny Aiello would have made a respectable living as a character actor representing the tough urban guy from the school of hard knocks. His urban upbringing has a definite bearing on his work in the theater and movies. He is a product of New York and can be considered a New York actor. Many of his films and television productions have a New York setting and theme.

He grew up in a large Italian family, with a father who was missing most of the time; his mother and siblings struggled. He had very little schooling, ran with street gangs, went into the Army, married, and found himself with a family at an early age. During a particularly desperate time in his life he resorted to criminal activity (which he freely admits) in order to pay the rent and feed his family.

He came to acting relatively late, more or less by chance, with virtually no training; even so he was soon working with important directors Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Ritt, and Woody Allen. Over the course of his career to date, his roles have ranged from the vicious murdering cop in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981) to more compassionate cop roles such as in The Preppie Murder . He has played small roles in many important films: The Front ; Bloodbrothers , an impressive, underrated New York film; and Jacob's Ladder . In more major roles he has shown a distinctive acting ability, such as the crude, insensitive husband of The Purple Rose of Cairo ; and the Momma's Boy, Johnny Cammareri, in Moonstruck , which brought out his comedic abilities. He is quite successful as the lead in The Pickle , a film that may be absurd in its concept, but which shows him with a nasty streak, but also great comic talent as a Hollywood director struggling to overcome a string of flops.

He has also had leading roles as Jack Ruby in Ruby (1992) and Chester Grant in The Closer (1990; a role recreated from the 1976 Broadway play Wheelbarrow Closers ), but while these parts share the same characteristics—small-time loser and hood and paid FBI informer in the first; hard-driven, bitter, and nasty man alienated from his family in the second—the films themselves are not successful. In many ways this underlines the dilemma in his acting career. If Aiello has good writers and directors, he can shine; if not, he will fall into a characteristic mold: a loud-mouthed and profane persona with a trademark laugh that is not always pertinent to the action of the film.

His most important film to date, the one that has gained him the most fame and recognition, is Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing . He is excellent in this film as the embattled Sal Frangoni, holding on to his pizza parlor in an all-black Bedford-Stuyvesant. Some of his best acting occurs in the interchanges between father and sons, and this type of relationship, both in real life and on the screen, has great importance to him. While vituperative, angry, opinionated, and frustrated to the point of violence, he is still able to convey warmth and compassion for the African Americans that he lives with. He says to his bigoted son: "Why is there so much anger in you? I never had trouble with these people. They grew up on my food. I'm very proud of it. Sal's is here to stay. I'm your father and I love you." Aiello claims that there is about 85 percent of himself in the film. His wife in real life claims that there is 100 percent.

While this film has been the most important of his career, his most successful films have been the ones in which he portrays a family man, a loving father and husband, working hard to keep his family together. The two films that show him with this wonderful range of acting ability, along with his characteristic hard edges, are 29th Street and Once Around . The essence of Aiello's acting may well be found in these films; his performances show great depth, compassion, sympathy, and humor. The films are moving and successful in large part because of him—probably due to the opportunity they offer Aiello to act out much of what he lacked as a child when his father was not around, and there was not much love and support from his father for his children. Danny Aiello is making up for those hard times, and being quite successful at it.

—Allen Cohen

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