Veteran heart-throb and Love Story star Ryan O’Neal dead at 82

Ryan O'Neal as fans remember him in the box office tear-jerker <i>Love Story</i> with Ali McGraw.

Ryan O'Neal as fans remember him in the box office tear-jerker Love Story with Ali McGraw. Photo: Paramount

Ryan O’Neal, the actor who went from a TV soap opera to an Oscar-nominated role in Love Story, has died at the age of 82.

“My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us,” Patrick O’Neal, a Los Angeles sportscaster, posted on Instagram on Friday. He did not give a cause.

Ryan O’Neal was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, a decade after he was first diagnosed with chronic leukaemia. He was 82.

“My father, Ryan O’Neal, has always been my hero,” Patrick O’Neal wrote, adding, “He is a Hollywood legend. Full stop.”

Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett at the Chances Are premiere in 1989.

Ryan O’Neal was one of the biggest actors of the 1970s and a longtime companion of Farrah Fawcett. (AP PHOTO)

O’Neal was among the biggest movie stars in the world in the 1970s, working with many of the era’s most celebrated directors including Peter Bogdanovich on Paper Moon and Stanley Kubrick on Barry Lyndon.

Farrah Fawcett’s partner

He often used his boyish, blond good looks to play men who hid shadowy or sinister backgrounds behind their clean-cut images.

O’Neal maintained a steady television acting career into his 70s in the 2010s, appearing for stints on Bones and Desperate Housewives, but his longtime relationship with Farrah Fawcett and his tumultuous family life kept him in news.

Twice divorced, O’Neal was romantically involved with Fawcett for nearly 30 years, and they had a son, Redmond, born in 1985. The couple split in 1997, but reunited a few years later. He remained by Fawcett’s side as she battled cancer, which killed her in 2009 at age 62.

With his first wife, Joanna Moore, O’Neal fathered actors Griffin O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal, his co-star in the 1973 movie Paper Moon, for which she won an Oscar for best supporting actress. He had son Patrick with his second wife, Leigh Taylor-Young.

Ryan O’Neal had his own best-actor Oscar nomination for the 1970 tear-jerker drama Love Story, co-starring Ali MacGraw, about a young couple who fall in love, marry and discover she is dying of cancer.

The movie includes the memorable, but often satirised line: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

O’Neal played bit parts and performed some stunt work before claiming a lead role on the prime-time soap opera Peyton Place (1964-69), which also made a star of Mia Farrow.

Faded matinee idol Ryan O’Neal with son Patrick in 2022. Photo; AP

From there O’Neal jumped to the big screen with 1969’s The Big Bounce, which co-stared his then-wife, Leigh Taylor-Young. But it was Love Story that made him a movie star.

The romantic melodrama became one of Paramount Pictures’ biggest hits and collected seven Oscar nominations, including one for best picture. It won for best music.

O’Neal then starred for Bogdanovich as a bumbling professor opposite Barbra Streisand in the 1972 screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc? The filmmaker cast him the next year in the Depression-era con artist comedy Paper Moon.

Upstaged by daughter Tatum

O’Neal played an unscrupulous Bible salesman preying on widows he located through obituary notices. His real-life daughter, Tatum, played a trash-talking, cigarette-smoking orphan who needs his help – and eventually helps redeem him.

Although critics praised both actors, the little girl’s brash performance overshadowed her father’s and made her the youngest person in history to win a regular Academy Award.

She was 10 when the award was presented in 1974. (Younger performers such as Shirley Temple have won special Oscars.)

The elder O’Neal’s next major film was Kubrick’s 18th century epic Barry Lyndon, in which he played a poor Irish rogue who travelled Europe trying to pass himself off as an aristocrat.

Charles Patrick Ryan O’Neal was born on April 20, 1941, and was the son of screenwriter Charles O’Neal and actor Patricia Callaghan O’Neal. O’Neal spent time as a lifeguard and an amateur boxer before finding his calling as a performer.


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