Paul Benjamin, who played one of the three wise “cornermen” in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, has died. He was 81.
Lee posted a tribute to Benjamin on Instagram earlier this week, and said the veteran actor died on June 28.
“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,” the director captioned his post.
Benjamin played “ML,” alongside Frankie Faison as Coconut Sid and Robin Harris as Sweet Dick Willie.
The trio would sit outside under a beach umbrella and gossip about neighborhood happenings in the iconic 1989 film about racial tensions in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York.
The Spike Lee Joint elevated the careers of many of its cast, including Danny Aiello, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Rosie Perez, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn and John Turturro. Legendary couple Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee also starred in the film.
Before his memorable role in Do The Right Thing, Benjamin got his start on stage in the theater, then segued into small roles in films, including Midnight Cowboy (1969), Leadbelly (1976), Escape From Alcatraz (1979), The Five Heartbeats (1991), Rosewood (1997), Hoodlum (1997) and The Station Agent (2003).
Benjamin was born in Pelion, South Carolina on New Year’s Day in 1938. He was the youngest of 12 children of Baptist preacher, Rev. Fair Benjamin and Rosa Benjamin, according to the International Movie Database.