US actor Ryan O’Neal and US actress Ali MacGraw arrive to attend the premiere of the film Love Story at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris on March 19, 1971. (AFP)
Actor Ryan O’Neal, the 1970s Hollywood heartthrob who starred in such films as the smash-hit tearjerker Love Story, screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon, the movie that also launched his daughter’s movie career, died on Friday at age 82.
The performer’s death was announced by his son Patrick O’Neal in an Instagram post. No cause of death was given.
O’Neal, also known for his long-time relationship with the late actress Farrah Fawcett, revealed in 2012 that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, though he said then that he was expected to make a full recovery.
O’Neal, a Los Angeles native who trained as an amateur boxer before taking up acting, made his showbiz breakthrough in 1964 when he landed the role of Rodney Harrington in the hit ABC prime-time television soap opera Peyton Place.
The actor is perhaps best known for his Oscar-nominated star turn opposite Ali MacGraw in the 1970 romantic drama Love Story, a box office sensation adapted from Erich Segal’s popular novel of the same title.
A key line of dialogue from the film became one of Hollywood’s most memorable catch phrases: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It spawned a poorly received 1978 sequel, Oliver’s Story, co-starring O’Neal and Candice Bergen.
Ryan also scored a major success in the 1972 romantic comedy What’s Up, Doc? co-starring Barbra Streisand and directed by Peter Bogdanovich, who also directed O’Neal in the 1973 hit Paper Moon, which co-starred the actor’s then-young daughter.
Her debut role in the Depression-era drama as a precocious, cigarette-smoking orphan earned Tatum O’Neal an Academy Award at the age of 10 for best supporting actress.
She appeared with her father again in the 1976 Bogdanovich comedy Nickelodeon, along with Burt Reynolds.
Tatum O’Neal and her younger brother Griffin ended up living with their father after their parents divorced in 1967 and their mother, the actor’s first wife, Joanna Moore, lost custody due to alcohol and drug abuse.
But Tatum O’Neal claimed in a 2004 memoir, A Paper Life, that she suffered years of parental abuse and fits of jealousy from her father, and that he introduced her to drugs as a youngster, leading to an estrangement of nearly 25 years.
According to Tatum O’Neal, she and her brother were left to care for themselves when her father moved in with Fawcett, the Charlie’s Angels television star.
In February 2007, the elder O’Neal, then in his 60s, was arrested after a fight with his son Griffin that ended in gunfire. Prosecutors later decided to not to file charges.
Although he acknowledged in a 2009 Vanity Fair magazine interview, “I’m a hopeless father,” O’Neal disputed his daughter’s claims of abuse and neglect. The two eventually reconciled and appeared in a biographical docuseries together in 2011 called Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neals.
Patrick O’Neal, who announced his father’s death, was the actor’s third child, born to his second wife, Leigh Taylor-Young
The actor’s fourth child, a son named Redmond from his relationship with Fawcett, also struggled with substance abuse and was arrested on several occasions in 2008 and 2009 for drug offences leading to jail time. Still, O’Neal’s relationship with Fawcett proved to be his most enduring. They were together from 1979 until 1997. Then, after a break-up of several years, they reunited in 2001 until her death in 2009, following a long battle with cancer.
O’Neal’s film career cooled after the mid-1970s. He starred in Stanley Kubrick’s historical drama Barry Lyndon, a movie that took more than a year to make before opening in 1975 to mixed reviews and a mediocre box office.
Near the end of his career, O’Neal had a recurring role from 2005 to 2017 on Fox television’s police procedural series Bones, playing the father of the show’s title character, a forensic anthropologist portrayed by Emily Deschanel.