Ryan O’Neal, the Oscar-nominated actor known for Paper Moon, Love Story, Peyton Place and more, died on Friday at the age of 82.
Ryan’s son, Patrick O’Neal, shared the news on his Instagram page, writing heartfelt captions next to three posts, all featuring photos of a sunset.
“So this is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to say but here we go. My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us,” he wrote. “This is very difficult for my wife Summer and I, but I will share some feelings to give you an idea of how great a man he is.”
“My father Ryan O’Neal has always been my hero. I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life,” he continued. “When I was born in 1967 my dad was already a TV star on Peyton Place. That’s where he met my mom Leigh Taylor-Young, and about 9 months later (give or take a date night or two) I was born. My dad became an international movie star with Love Story at the beginning of the 1970’s, a decade he absolutely crushed by starring in movies like What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Barry Lyndon, A Bridge Too Far, The Main Event, and The Driver.“
“He is a Hollywood legend. Full stop,” Patrick added. “The growth spurt of the first name Ryan can be traced back to my dad. That’s a fact. He was Rodney Harrington on Peyton Place 3 days a week (he starred in 500 shows over 5 years) and then of course the name Ryan peaked after Love Story (the film that saved Paramount Studios and earned my dad a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame).”
“That’s just a touch of what RO accomplished as an actor. He was so skilled at his craft, worked so hard, and just loved acting plain and simple,” he continued, in part. “Highly intelligent and an avid reader and journal writer. He was adept at memorizing pages of dialogue in an hour. I hope he felt proud of his career but he was very humble. And boy did he love the crew on those shoots. He always treated everyone on the set so well. They loved him, I saw it first hand.”
“My dad was 82, and lived a kick ass life,” he wrote on the third post. “I hope the first thing he brags about in Heaven is how he sparred 2 rounds with Joe Frazier in 1966, on national TV, with Muhammad Ali doing the commentary, and went toe to toe with Smokin’ Joe. YouTube has it and trust me, it’s so awesome. Ryan by a majority decision. He loved boxing. And hitting the bag. My dad is a proud member of the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame.”
“Ryan never bragged. But he has bragging rights in Heaven. Especially when it comes to Farrah. Everyone had the poster, he had the real McCoy,” Patrick concluded. “And now they meet again. Farrah and Ryan. He has missed her terribly. What an embrace that must be. Together again. I’ll miss you dad. I love you. We love you.”
Although he had been largely out of the spotlight for more than a decade, Ryan was once a tabloid fixture making headlines for his storied relationship with Farrah Fawcett, with whom he shared a son, Redmond, and troubles with his older children, Tatum, Griffin and Patrick.
In September 2020, Ryan and Tatum reunited for the first time in 17 years. Included in the reunion were Tatum’s children, Kevin, Emily, and Sean McEnroe, the latter of whom posted a photo of the family gathering on Instagram.
“This is one of the most memorable photos of my life,” Sean “The last time we were all together was at the 30-year ‘Paper Moon’ Anniversary in 2003. I could cry tears of gratitude that everyone in this photo is still alive and that we were all able to come together again after so many years of hardship. The entire West Coast is burning, but if the O’Neal can reconcile, truly anything is possible.”
The family gathering marked a step in mending fences after years of well-documented friction between Ryan and his children. Ryan and Griffin have been involved in multiple altercations, the first documented in 1983. Father and son got into another scuffle in 2007.
Charles Patrick Ryan O’Neal was born in Los Angeles on April 20, 1941. The eldest son of an actress and screenwriter, Ryan got an early introduction into the entrainment industry but becoming an actor wasn’t his first career choice. Ryan started out as an amateur boxer prior to jumping into acting.
In the late 1950s, the family moved to Germany where Ryan graduated from high school. He later returned to the States and began working as an actor landing guest appearances on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Untouchable, General Electric Theater, Leave it to Beaver, and several other TV series. He was cast in a recurring role on the series Empire in 1963, which led to more small roles on the likes to Perry Mason, and European Eye, before booking the role of Rodney Harrington on the mid ’60s soap opera Peyton Place.
Not long after making his feature film debut in 1969’s The Big Bounce, Ryan earned his first box office hit with Love Story, which earned him an Oscar nomination. He went on to star in the 1972 romantic comedy What’s Up Doc?, alongside Barbra Streisand. The following year, Ryan appeared in Paper Moon, with Tatum, who portrayed his daughter in the film. Tatum won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the role and while she made history as the youngest person to win the award, her Hollywood success came at a price. Tatum struggled with drug addiction throughout her life, and revealed in her 2005 autobiography, A Paper Life, that her father was abusive and introduced her to drugs.
As the critical acclaim of Paper Moon launched Tatum’s career, Ryan failed to land a box office hit. Many of his films flopped including Oliver’s Story, A Bridge Too Far, and the Stanley Kubrick-directed Barry Lyndon. The era even brought on an offer for Ryan to star in an early adaptation of The Bodyguard opposite Diana Ross, but the music star pulled out of the project, which was released decades later, and recast with Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston.
Ryan reunited with Streisand in the 1979 boxing comedy The Main Event, and further reconnected with his boxing roots by producing the documentary The Contender. That same year, Ryan met Farrah Fawcett, who was married to his friend and fellow actor Lee Majors at the time. Majors initially asked Ryan to take Farrah out to dinner while he was away on business. Ryan, who had divorced his second wife, Leigh Taylor-Young in 1971, fell in love with Farrah, while her marriage to Majors crumbled. “It was a situation I’d never been in before — committing to a woman before I’d even talked to her about it,” Ryan told Vanity Fair in 1991.
The pair went from friends to lovers and began a 30-year roller coaster relationship. Farrah broke up with Ryan in 1979 after she reportedly caught him cheating. They reunited and welcomed son Redmond in 1984 but eventually split before rekindling their romance again in 2001. Soon after, Ryan was diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer, which he successful beat after undergoing medical treatment. Tragically, Farrah died form colorectal cancer in 2009. Ryan opened up about his love for the Charlie’s Angels star in the 2012 book, Both of Us: My Life With Farrah.
Ryan married his first wife, actress Joanna Moore in 1963. The couple shared two children (Tatum and Griffin) but divorced due to Ryan alcohol and drug abuse. Ryan never remarried after his split from Taylor-Young, though he regretted never marrying Fawcett. He was romantically linked to a bevy of beautiful actresses including Bianca Jagger, Ursula Andress, Angelica Houston, Streisand and Ross.
On the acting front, Ryan struggled to find another hit film during the ’80s. Despite netting million dollar paychecks, failed films such as So Fine, Partners, and the British comedy Green Ice, pushed his career into decline. His other notable films, Fever Pitch and Tough Guys Don’t Dance were box office failures as well. Although he was cast in Liza Minelli’s TV special Sam Found Out: A Triple Play, appeared in the romantic comedy, Chances Are, and worked with Fawcett multiple times, Ryan couldn’t match the success of his earlier work.
Nonetheless, Ryan did manage to work with other major leading ladies such as Katherine Hepburn in 1992’s The Man Upstairs, Cher in the 1996 comedy Faithful. Like had had for much of his career, Ryan spent the remainder of the ‘90s bouncing between TV and film. In 2000, he scored a season-long reccurring role on the TV series Bull. He also recurred on the series Miss Match, and appeared in the film Malibu’s Most Wanted, as well as Desperate Housewives, and a reboot of 90210.
O’Neal’s last major role was as Max Keenan on the Fox series Bones, which he portrayed from 2006 until 2017.
He is survived by his four children, Tatum, Griffin, Patrick and Redmond, as well as his grandchildren.