Paul Benjamin Dies: Actor in ‘Do the Right Thing,’ was 81

Do The Right Thing actor Paul Benjamin has passed away. Lee revealed the veteran actor’s passing on Instagram on June 28. It was not immediately clear what caused the death. Ben was 81 years old.

Benjamin started his career in 1969 as a barman in Midnight Cowboy. He later went on to play one of the three sage Brooklyn ‘cornermen’ in Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing. He subsequently transitioned into more extensive TV work later in the 1970s after playing small roles in Sidney Lumet’s The Anderson Tapes and Born to Win.

The father of a folk singer (Roger E. Mosley) in Leadbelly (1976), the resentful prisoner English in Escape From Alcatraz (1979), and Henry, the proprietor of the model train hobby shop in The Station Agent (2003) are just a few of his other notable performances.

Benjamin was the son of a preacher and was born on January 1st, 1938, in South Carolina, as the youngest of 12 children. He relocated to New York and attended Herbert Berghof’s acting school before making his acting debut as a barman in Midnight Cowboy (1969).

Benjamin also participated in the 1979 CBS telefilm I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, based on Maya Angelou’s book, and acted in The Five Heartbeats (1991), Rosewood (1997), and Hoodlum (1997) for Robert Townsend.

In Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing, Benjamin played ML alongside Frankie Faison as Coconut Sid and Robin Harris as Sweet Dick Willie. Every day, the three gathers behind a brick wall under a beach umbrella to act as a type of Greek chorus, reflecting on the happenings of the day.

Other films that Benjamin has appeared in include Escape From Alcatraz (1979), Some Kind of Hero (1982), Pink Cadillac (1989), Clint Eastwood’s The Five Heartbeats (1991), Bill Duke’s Hoodlum (1997), and John Singleton’s Rosewood (1997, all of which starred Richard Pryor).

Indie films including Stanley’s Gig, The Station Agent, Deacons For Defence, and James Hunter’s 2005 thriller Back in the Day were where he most recently appeared in the 2000s.

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