“Michael Corleone says hello!” ad-libbed actor Danny Aiello during a hit on a rival gangster in the 1974 movie “The Godfather Part II” where he portrayed a small time hood, Tony Rosato. That famous unscripted line identified the Italian American actor with gangster and tough guy roles. While he often portrayed violent and vulgar characters on film, he can, with equal realism, portray sensitive, soft-hearted men with a good sense of humor–just like in the 1987 romantic comedy hit “Moonstruck,” where he played the boyfriend of Cher and which won three of six Oscar nominations.
Born Daniel Louis Aiello, Jr. on June 20, 1933 in New York City, Danny harbored a lifelong deep resentment of his father who deserted him, his blind Italian-born mother and five siblings. When he was 16, he managed to join the U.S. Army by lying about his age. After he was discharged three years later, he came back to New York and worked in different jobs, including a stint as a night club bouncer, to support his family.
In the early 1970s, Danny Aiello joined moviedom and played roles opposite film greats such as Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Paul Newman. He was cast in notable gangster epics and police stories such as “The Godfather Part II,” “The Last Don,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” “City Hall” and “Fort Apache the Bronx,” which earned him acclaim for portraying a racist cop. Danny Aiello also proved his versatility because he could switch to comedic and sympathetic roles such as the highly acclaimed “Moonstruck,” “Jacob’s Ladder” and “29th Street.” For his appearance in an ABC Afterschool Special called “A Family of Strangers’” he received a Daytime Emmy Award.
Aside from good acting, Danny Aiello also had the singing voice to boot. His singing talent was featured in films like “Once Around,” “Remedy” and “Hudson Hawk. In fact, he released several albums that featured big band sound such as “I Just Wanted to Hear the Words” in 2004, “Live in Atlantic City” in 2008 and “Bridges” in 2009. In the video of Madonna’s song “Papa Don’t Preach,” Danny played the title character.
Danny Aiello revealed in an interview that he is a conservative. He admitted that he and his entire family were Democrats all their lives. However, somewhere along the line, he switched to the Republican side when he got disappointed with the way a past Democrat President ran his administration and did not agree with the values that he perceived that leader lived by.