The 81-year-old's death was announced by Spike Lee on Instagram Wednesday

By Matt McNulty
July 05, 2019 05:35 PM
Paul Benjamin and Norma Donaldson in 1972
Everette Collection

Actor Paul Benjamin, who appeared in Spike Lee’s seminal 1989 film Do the Right Thing, died last month, the director announced Wednesday.

Lee penned a heartfelt tribute to Benjamin on Instagram, revealing the 81-year-old actor had died on June 28. A cause of death wasn’t immediately revealed.

“I’m Sad To Write That The Great Actor PAUL BENJAMIN (Who Played ML, {Far Left} One Of The Cornermen Passed This Past Friday,2 Days Before The 30th Anniversary Of DO THE RIGHT THING. Rest In Paradise. Born 1/1/38. Died 6/28/19”

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Benjamin got his start as an actor playing a bartender in Midnight Cowboy in 1969 and eventually appeared in bit parts in Sidney Lumet’s The Anderson Tapes and Born to Win before moving more into television work towards the late ’70s.

He had also appeared in the pilot episode of ER, which earned him a recurring role on the series for the next several seasons.

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Benjamin would later appear in independent films into the mid-aughts, but at one point worked amongst the industry’s biggest names. He acted alongside Richard Prior in Escape From Alcatraz in 1979 as well as Some Kind of Hero in 1982.

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In Lee’s iconic film, Benjamin played ML, one of the three wise Brooklyn “cornermen.”

Benjamin, who was born in South Carolina but moved to Los Angeles, where he died, also worked with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Clint Eastwood and appeared in an episode of Law and Order.

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