Ryan O'Neal, who became an instant movie star in the 1970 top-grossing hit film “Love Story” but who was later known as much for his personal life and health problems as for his acting in his later career, died Friday. He was 82.
His son Patrick O'Neal confirmed the death in a post on Instagram. It was not stated what the cause was or where he died.
Mr. O'Neal was a familiar face on both the big and small screens for half a century. But he was never as famous as in the immediate aftermath of 'Love Story'.
He was 29 years old and had spent a decade on television but had made only two other films when he was chosen to star in Arthur Hiller's sentimental romance, written by Erich Segal (who turned his screenplay into a bestselling novel ). His performance as Oliver Barrett IV, a wealthy, golden-haired Harvard hockey player married to a dying woman played by Ali MacGraw, earned him the only Academy Award nomination of his career.
He played rich town boy Rodney Harrington for five years on the primetime soap opera “Peyton Place.” But in 1970, Hollywood wasn't all that interested in television actors, and he had been far from the first choice to star in “Love Story.”
“Jon Voight turned down the role. Beau Bridges would do it,” he told a reporter in 1971. “When my name came up through Ali, they all said, 'No.' Ali said, 'Meet him.'”
“So we met in one of those conference rooms where everyone sits half a mile away from everyone else,” he continued. “Weeks later they asked me to test. Then I didn't hear anything until they finally called and said, 'Will you give us a week's extension to make a decision?'”
Ultimately, Ms. MacGraw convinced Paramount to cast Mr. O'Neal. He was hired for $25,000 (just over $200,000 in today's money) and his film career was born.
It never burned so brightly again, although he maintained great fame throughout the 1970s, appearing in films such as “Barry Lyndon” (1975), Stanley Kubrick's elegantly photographed adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel about a poor 18th-century Irish boy who rises . in English society and then falls from those heights; and “A Bridge Too Far” (1977), Richard Attenborough's epic tale of World War II heroism.
He also demonstrated his talent for comedy in three films directed by Peter Bogdanovich. He co-starred with Barbra Streisand in “What's Up, Doc?” (1972), a comedy inspired by the 1938 Cary Grant-Katharine Hepburn film “Bringing Up Baby”; with Burt Reynolds in “Nickelodeon” (1976), a look back at the early days of filmmaking, based on the memories of Raoul Walsh and other directors; and, with his 9-year-old daughter Tatum, in the best-known of the three films he made with Mr. Bogdanovich made, “Paper Moon” (1973).
In “Paper Moon,” set in the Midwest during the Depression, Mr. O'Neal played a small-time con artist preyed upon by a cigarette-smoking orphan who might be his illegitimate daughter. Tatum O'Neal won an Academy Award for that performance — she remains the youngest person ever to win one of the four acting Oscars — and for a while it seemed that Mr. O'Neal would become the patriarch of an acting dynasty.
When Tatum starred as a Little League pitcher in “The Bad News Bears” (1976), she became the highest-paid child star in history, with a salary of $350,000 (the equivalent of about $1.9 million today) and a percentage of the net profit. gain. Her younger brother Griffin also seemed primed for stardom when it was announced that he would appear alongside his father in Franco Zeffirelli's 1979 remake of “The Champ,” the 1931 tearjerker about a washed-up former boxer and his son.
But Mr. Zeffirelli ended up making the film with Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder, and Griffin O'Neal's career never took off. He did have one leading role, in the 1982 film 'The Escape Artist', but that film was not a success. When he returned to the public eye five years later, it was not because of his acting, but because of his involvement in a boating accident that killed his friend Gian-Carlo Coppola, the son of director Francis Ford Coppola. He was convicted of negligence in operating a boat, but acquitted of manslaughter.
The O'Neal family would have many more problems with the law, with drugs and with each other.
Mr. O'Neal, who was known in Hollywood for his temper — when he was 18, he spent 51 days in jail for a brawl at a New Year's Eve party — was accused of assaulting his son Griffin in 2007. Those charges were dropped, but a year later he and Redmond O'Neal, his son with actress Farrah Fawcett, were arrested on drug charges. He pleaded guilty and was ordered to undergo counseling while Redmond entered rehabilitation but continued to struggle with addiction.
Tatum O'Neal had her own highly publicized drug problems and was estranged for years from her father, who she said physically abused her when she was a child.
Mr. O'Neal's fame began to wane in 1978, when Paramount offered him $3 million to star in “Oliver's Story,” a sequel to “Love Story.” He accepted it, even though his distaste for the project was clear.
“There's something cheap about sequels,” he told a reporter, “and this one is a complete rip-off.” When the film came out, critics agreed.
His days as an A-list star were quickly over, although he continued to work steadily throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His most memorable films from this period include “Partners” (1982), in which he played a heterosexual detective who goes undercover with a gay partner, played by John Hurt; “Irreconcilable Differences” (1984), as a successful Hollywood director whose 10-year-old daughter, played by Drew Barrymore, sues him for divorce; and “Tough Guys Don't Dance” (1987), a crime drama written and directed by Norman Mailer. He also co-starred with Ms. Fawcett in the short-lived 1991 television series “Good Sports.”
Most of Mr.'s later work. O'Neal has appeared on television, including a recurring role on the series “Bones.”
Patrick Ryan O'Neal was born in Los Angeles on April 20, 1941, the eldest son of Charles O'Neal, a screenwriter, and Patricia Callaghan O'Neal, an actress. At the age of 17, he joined his nomadic parents in Germany and got his first taste of show business as a stuntman in the television series “Tales of the Vikings.”
He never took an acting class, but his striking good looks and the anger that seemed to boil just beneath the surface helped him win roles on television not long after he returned to Los Angeles.
His marriages to actresses Joanna Moore and Leigh Taylor-Young ended in divorce. Ms. Taylor-Young, his “Peyton Place” co-star, told an interviewer that their marriage never recovered from the success of “Love Story,” which she said “brought a kind of life that is not suited to Ryan's personality.” ”
Mr. O'Neal was romantically linked to many actresses, but it was his on-again, off-again relationship with Ms. Fawcett, which began while she was still married to actor Lee Majors, that attracted the most attention. The couple never married, but were together for almost twenty years before splitting in 1997. They later reconciled and were living together when Mrs Fawcett died of cancer in 2009. In 2012, he published a book about their relationship, “Both of Us: My Life with Farrah.”
Mr. O'Neal's survivors include his daughter and a son, Patrick, a sportscaster. Complete information about survivors was not immediately available.
In 2012, Mr O'Neal revealed he was being treated for prostate cancer. That diagnosis came 11 years after he contracted chronic myelogenous leukemia, which eventually went into remission.
The last major role Mr. O'Neal played was himself. In the summer of 2011, he and his daughter starred in a reality show, “Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals,” on Oprah Winfrey's cable channel OWN. The series gave the impression that the two had ended their long estrangement, but Mr. O'Neal later told an interviewer that it painted the wrong picture.
“We are further apart now than when we started the show,” he said.
Peter Keep News And Mayor of Orlando reporting contributed.