via Spike Lee/Instagram



Director Spike Lee shared the sad news that Paul Benjamin, one of the "cornermen" in Lee's landmark 1989 film "Do the Right Thing," has passed away.

Lee shared this photo of Benjamin to Instagram, writing, "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."

No other details about Benjamin's death were immediately available.

In "Do the Right Thing," Benjamin played ML alongside Frankie Faison as Coconut Sid and Robin Harris as Sweet Dick Willie. The trio gathered every day on the corner and served as a sort of Greek chorus, commenting on the events of the day.

His other noteworthy roles included a bank robber who rips off the mafia in "Across 110th Street" (1972), the father of a folk singer (Roger E. Mosley) in "Leadbelly " (1976), the embittered prisoner English in "Escape From Alcatraz" (1979) opposite Clint Eastwood, and Henry, the owner of the model train hobby shop in "The Station Agent" (2003).

Paul Benjamin in 'Escape From Alcatraz' (Paramount)



His many other films include "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "Rosewood," and the blaxploitation films "The Education of Sonny Carson" and Pam Grier's "Friday Foster." Benjamin made his film debut playing a bartender in "Midnight Cowboy" (1969).

Robert Townsend, who directed Benjamin in 1991's "The Five Heartbeats," also paid tribute to the actor. He tweeted: "I am so sad to hear about the passing of Paul Benjamin.He was a brilliant actor and I had the pleasure to work with him on THE FIVE HEARTBEATS he played Eddie’s father. My prayers go out to his family at this time. Rest in paradise, King."

"ER" fans may also remember him as homeless man Al Ervin, who appeared on several episodes of the hit NBC series, including the pilot and some of Anthony Edwards' last episodes.

[Via THR]