Danny Aiello: 'The Irishman' Star Robert De Niro Pays Tribute to Late Actor Following Death at 86

After the unexpected news that veteran actor Danny Aiello had passed away Thursday night, Robert De Niro has reflected on the loss of his friend and four-time co-star. In a statement to People, De Niro said that "I am very saddened to hear of Danny’s passing. I have known him for almost 50 years. I am sad." The Irishman star closed with a simple "I'll see you in heaven."

De Niro's careers overlapped a number of times with Aiello's over three decades. The two first shared the screen in the 1973 sports drama Bang the Drum Slowly, which some consider to be a breakout role for both actors. The following year, the pair co-starred in The Godfather Part II. They also appeared together in Sergio Leone's (almost) four-hour crime drama Once Upon a Time in America in 1984, as well as the 1992 thriller Mistress.

Along with the actor's many fans, De Niro was joined in his mourning by Cher, who co-starred with Aiello in the 1987 rom-com Moonstruck, who called him a "genius comedic actor." She even addressed Aiello as Johnny Cammareri and signed it as Loretta, their characters from the film.

Along with Moonstruck, Aiello's best-known role was as the pizzeria owner Salvatore "Sal" Fragione in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing. His performance earned him an Academy Award nomination, though he lost to Denzel Washington for his role in the Civil War epic Glory. Of course, some fans will always think of him as the eponymous disapproving dad from Madonna's 1986 video for "Papa Don't Preach."

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De Niro's latest mob movie epic, The Irishman, is currently streaming on Netflix. Clocking in at a whopping three-and-a-half hours, the film reunites the actor with director Martin Scorsese. The two worked together on a number of groundbreaking films over the years, including Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy and Goodfellas. The two last worked together on the lengthy crime drama Casino, which hit theaters in 1995.

Aiello is survived by his wife of nearly 65 years, Sandy, as well as children Rick, Jaime and Stacey Aiello. His son, Danny Aiello III, who was a stuntman and actor, died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer.