HIFF ’16: Achievement Awards

Third in a series by Lisa Iannucci explaining film festivals from the insider’s POV. Part Three: Danny Aiello received annual Award for Excellence in Film & the Arts 

Special for FF2 Media by Lisa Iannucci


Legendary actor Danny Aiello stood in front of the audience at the Hoboken Film Festival on June 3rd to accept his Award for Excellence in Film & the Arts. After playing a tribute montage of his more than 90 film roles, including Do The Right Thing, Moonstruck, The Professional, 29th Street and Hudson Hawk, Aiello said, “Seeing that, I can’t believe I was on screen. I sit here thinking that I want to throw up because I could have done that better,” he laughed.

Before becoming an Academy Award nominee, Aiello was working as a nightclub bouncer when his first acting opportunity came up as a ballplayer in the 1973 baseball drama, Bang the Drum Slowly, with Robert De Niro. “I was nervous and wasn’t sure if I would do the lines right, when I saw Vincent Gardenia and he told me not to be nervous,” says Aiello. “Then he says that I probably will never work again anyway!”danny

Gardenia was wrong, of course. Aiello has had an illustrious career with a variety of memorable roles, including a walk-on role as small-time hood Tony Rosato in The Godfather Part II (1974), where he ad-libbed the famous line “Michael Corleone says hello!” during a hit on a rival gangster Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo).

Aiello thanked the Hoboken International Film Festival for providing opportunities for young filmmakers to get their work out there.

This is the same film festival that has honored other famous actors with HIFF Lifetime Achievement awards, including actor Paul Sorvino. Sorvino has appeared in more than 140 movies, most notably in Goodfellas. Other honorees include:

  • Eric Roberts (The Expendables; The Specialist)
  • Robert Loggia (Academy Award & Emmy Nominee; Independence Day; Scarface; Jagged Edge; Big);
  • Cloris Leachman (Academy Award, 4-Time Golden Globe,19-Time Emmy Winner & Nominee);
  • Michael Biehn (Terminator; Tombstone; The Seventh Sign);
  • Billy Dee Williams (Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi; Batman; Lady Sings the Blues),
  • Charles Durning (Tootsie; The Sting; O’ Brother Where Art Thou).

Not only are film festivals a place to launch the careers of new filmmakers, but they are a place to honor the works as well. Like Sorvino, Mark Ruffalo was honored a few years ago at the Woodstock Film Festival – another Hudson Valley, New York festival –, but he wasn’t honored for his work as the Hulk in “The Avengers”. He was honored for the work he’s done fighting for clean energy and against fracking and he was given the first-ever Meera Gandhi Giving Back Award. I had the honor of sitting right in front of him at the Festival when he accepted this award.

“I’ve been focused on the problems for a long time,” Ruffalo said in an interview. “Now I’m focusing on the solutions.”

For more information on the Woodstock Film Festival, visit http://woodstockfilmfestival.com/.

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Top Photo: Danny Aiello signs autographs before accepting his award at the Hoboken International Film Festival in Middletown, NY.

Bottom Photo: Filmmakers, actors and other industry people mingle at the opening festivities of the Hoboken International Film Festival in Middletown, New York.

Photo Credit: Lisa Iannucci

For more information on the Hoboken International Film Festival, visit http://www.hobokeninternationalfilmfestival.com/festival-information/.

Tags: Danny Aiello, FF2 Media, Films for Two, HIFF 2016, Hoboken Film Festival, Kenneth Del Vecchio, Lisa Iannucci

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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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