I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, On the Stage, and in the Movies

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Overview

Nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his role in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, beloved Italian-American actor Danny Aiello reminisces about his Hollywood years in this candid, fascinating, and entertaining memoir.

Good instincts, hard work, and great energy are three things Danny Aiello has relied on his entire life—and it’s paid off. Whether it was shining shoes at Grand Central Station, joining the US Army at age seventeen, being married to the same woman for ...

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I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, On the Stage, and in the Movies

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Overview

Nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his role in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, beloved Italian-American actor Danny Aiello reminisces about his Hollywood years in this candid, fascinating, and entertaining memoir.

Good instincts, hard work, and great energy are three things Danny Aiello has relied on his entire life—and it’s paid off. Whether it was shining shoes at Grand Central Station, joining the US Army at age seventeen, being married to the same woman for fifty-eight years and a father to four children, or going from a thirty-something no-name from the Bronx to successful Hollywood actor for more than four decades, he’s worked hard to get to where he is today.

It wasn’t always a smooth ride, though. One of seven children raised in New York City, Aiello had numerous run-ins with the law growing up, and was temporarily committed to a psychiatric ward for a nervous disorder. After securing a job at the Greyhound Terminal in New York City, he worked his way up the ladder for ten years, from a baggage man to president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. But a strike cost him his job, and in order to support his family, he began stealing. Fate intervened when the owner of a famous New York comedy club, The Improv, offered Danny a job as a bouncer. From there, he launched his acting career. And though he’s found great success, Aiello has always felt like a man on the outside looking in, and still feels that way. Here, for the first time in print, he shares what it’s felt like to be an outsider in the acting community—the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. With more than eight-five films to his credit, including The Godfather Part II, Moonstruck, and Do The Right Thing, Aiello has become a household name, a legend, and a national treasure. Here is life as Danny Aiello knows it.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Actor Danny Aiello has appeared in more than seventy films, but his life as revealed in this autobiography has been anything but a casual stroll down Hollywood's Walk of Fame. In fact, he's experienced more than a few potentially sinkhole episodes, including early abandonment by his father, brushes with the law, an underage stint in the Army, and an involuntary stay at a psychiatric ward. In this new autobiography, he writes about it all with candor and care.

Publishers Weekly
11/17/2014
With raw honesty, this straightforward account covers an unusual career for an unusual actor. Aiello's life had an unpromising start growing up with a mostly absent father in cold-water New York flats, in a family that "still had one foot in the last century." He was a teenage soldier, a Greyhound baggage handler, a union organizer, and a Bronx pool hustler and small-time thief before his physical presence landed him a job as a bouncer at The Improv comedy club. He parlayed his emcee duties into some stage work and, with the encouragement of friends, started acting, breaking into stage and film work in the early 1970s. His career arguably peaked when he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," which he talks about in a declarative, factual manner. There's little introspection of the actor's craft here, but there are some good stories, including a hilariously ribald account of a dinner at Bea Arthur's house and a catty rift with Lauren Bacall on the set of Robert Altman's "Ready to Wear." Most of all, though, Aiello's sense of his unlikely journey justifies his pride at his hard-won good fortune. Agent: Jennifer DeChiara, Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781476751900
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 10/14/2014
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 156,982
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Danny Aiello is a beloved American actor and Academy Award–nominee who has appeared in numerous motion pictures, most famously Moonstruck and Do the Right Thing, as well as Once Upon a Time in America, Ruby, The Godfather: Part II, Hudson Hawk, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Léon: The Professional, Two Days in the Valley, and Dinner Rush. He is also known for his role as Don Domenico Clericuzio in the CBS television miniseries Mario Puzo’s The Last Don.

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Read an Excerpt

I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else

Chapter One

Searching for Me


In March 1990, I was sitting in the audience at L.A.’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, waiting for the winners to be announced at the sixty-second Academy Awards ceremony. All around me were gorgeous women and handsome men. The Oscars were the kind of event that showed this New York City kid just how far he had come from his beginnings on the streets of the West Side of Manhattan and the South Bronx.

My stomach was tied in knots. That year, I was nominated as Best Actor in a Supporting Role for my performance as Sal Frangione in Spike Lee’s controversial film Do the Right Thing.

The nomination was so important to me. It told me, You’re not only a working actor, but you’ve been accepted by your peers. For a guy who never set foot in an acting class and who only started his career in his mid-thirties, this was a supreme validation.

I recall clearly what else I felt that night, with all the glitter and glamour flowing around me like a river.

No matter where I was, I was an outsider. Even with an Oscar nomination and everybody talking about my performance, I still had a nagging sense that somehow I didn’t belong.

It’s a feeling that I’ve always had. At something like this major awards event, the sense of being an outsider was especially sharp. What am I doing here? I kept thinking. I wasn’t a member of the Hollywood inner circle. I grew up working-class, not privileged. I’m street. And here I was, surrounded by people who were more like avenues, landscaped boulevards, private drives.

The thing about being an actor, though, is that you’re never alone. With me that evening were all the characters I had ever portrayed in the movies and on the stage. They whispered in my ear, telling me that while winning isn’t everything, losing doesn’t have a hell of a lot to say for itself. Those voices are always present.

Throughout my life, I’ve always been searching for me. Creating characters is part of that search. At the Oscars that night, the truth was both simple and complicated.

I only know who I am when I am somebody else.

It sounds like a riddle, but it’s the reality of my life. When I’m playing a character, only then do I know who I am, only then am I complete.

I’ve experienced dark times in my life when I’ve been an outsider even to myself. I’ve been so depressed and confused that I’ve experienced a loss of self. Acting helped save me.

Geena Davis, who was presenting the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award that evening, stepped up to the podium onstage. She introduced all the contenders, my name among them. I was up against some heavy hitters: Marlon Brando, Denzel Washington, Martin Landau, and Dan Aykroyd.

“The Academy Award for this year’s best supporting actor goes to . . .” She struggled opening up the envelope.

The moment hung in the balance for me. In a lot of ways, it represented a culmination of the journey I was on, leading me to great heights and devastating lows, transporting me to places like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

I want to invite you, the reader, on this journey in search of self. It’s my hope that this personal journey of mine might help you on yours.

Come on along.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2015

    If you want a real life experience,this book is for you.From hum

    If you want a real life experience,this book is for you.From humble beginnings to Academy Award ceremonies,it's quite a ride.There are many laughs and some tears to accompany the career of what I call a natural at whatever he choose to do.Do yourself a favor ,if you have a heart this book will more than touch it...it will caress it.

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