An Italian-American character actor with a beefy physique, no-nonsense expression, and intimidating presence, Danny Aiello came to acting late in life, having been a bus driver, a transport labor official, a night-club bouncer, and (he claims) an occasional thief. He began performing at an improvisational night spot. As he was approaching middle age, he appeared in a regional theater production of Jason Miller's That Championship Season, for which he won a Most Outstanding Newcomer award. Aiello made his screen debut in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973), and he went on over the next 15 years to play a succession of tough guys, cops, brutes, slobs, and "ordinary guys" in a wide variety of movies, but broke out of that mold when he portrayed Cher's fiancée in Moonstruck (1987). For his portrayal of a pizza parlor owner in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing two years later, Aiello received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. He went on to become one Hollywood's more prolific character actors; between 1989 and 1996, he appeared in 26 feature films. The actor's first lead role came in the title part of Ruby (1992). In addition to his screen work, Aiello has also appeared frequently on Broadway, and in 1976, he won a Theater World Award for his Broadway debut in Lampost Reunion. His work in TV movies includes the acclaimed A Family of Strangers (1980).
- Dropped out of high school after only two weeks.
- At 16, lied about his age and enlisted in the Army for three years.
- Worked as a bus driver and union rep for Greyhound Bus.
- Started his career in acting in his late 30s, with his first film role in 1973's Bang the Drum Slowly.
- Made his Broadway debut in Lampost Reunion in 1975.
- Appeared in the video for Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" in 1988.
- Released his first jazz CD, I Just Wanted to Hear the Words, in 2004.