Ryan O'Neal

Ryan O'Neal

O'Neal in 1968
Born Charles Patrick Ryan O'Neal
(1941-04-20) April 20, 1941
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation Actor, boxer
Years active 1960–present
Spouse(s) Joanna Moore (m. 1963; div. 1967)
Leigh Taylor-Young (m. 1967; div. 1973)
Partner(s) Farrah Fawcett (1979–1997; 2001–2009)
Children 4 (including Tatum, Griffin, and Patrick)
Parent(s) Charles O'Neal
Patricia Olga

Charles Patrick Ryan O'Neal[1] (born April 20, 1941), known professionally as Ryan O'Neal, is an American actor and former boxer. O'Neal trained as an amateur boxer before beginning his career in acting in 1960. In 1964, he landed the role of Rodney Harrington on the ABC nighttime soap opera Peyton Place. The series was an instant hit and boosted O'Neal's career. He later found success in films, most notably Love Story (1970), for which he received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations as Best Actor, What's Up, Doc? (1972), Paper Moon (1973), Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975), and A Bridge Too Far (1977). Since 2007, he has had a recurring role in the TV series Bones as Max, the father of the series' protagonist.

Early life

O'Neal was born in Los Angeles, California, the eldest son of actress Patricia Ruth Olga (née Callaghan; 1907–2003) and novelist and screenwriter Charles O'Neal.[2] His father was of English and Irish descent, while his mother had Ashkenazi Jewish and Irish ancestry.[2][3] His brother, Kevin, is an actor and screenwriter.[4]

O'Neal attended University High School in Los Angeles, and trained there to become a Golden Gloves boxer. During the late 1950s, his father had a job writing on a television series called Citizen Soldier, and moved the family to Munich, where O'Neal attended Munich American High School.[5]


TV roles and early work

O'Neal appeared in guest roles on series that included The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Leave It to Beaver, Bachelor Father, Westinghouse Playhouse, Perry Mason and Wagon Train. From 1962 to 1963, he was a regular on NBC's Empire, another modern day western, where he played "Tal Garrett".[6]

Peyton Place

In 1964 he was cast as Rodney Harrington in the prime time serial drama Peyton Place. The series was a big success, making national names of its cast including O'Neal. Several were offered movie roles, including Mia Farrow and Barbara Parkins.

Eventually O'Neal was cast in the lead of The Big Bounce (1969), based on an Elmore Leonard novel. Then he played an Olympic athlete in The Games (1970). Neither film was particularly successful.

Love Story

The Games had been co written by Eric Segal, who recommended O'Neal for the lead in Love Story, based on Segal's novel and script. A number of actors had turned down the role including Beau Bridges and Jon Voight before it was offered to O'Neal. His fee was $25,000; he had an offer that paid five times as much to appear in a Jerry Lewis film but O'Neal knew that Love Story was the better prospect and selected that instead.[7] "I hope the young people like it," he said before the film came out. I don't want to go back to TV. I don't want to go back to those NAB conventions."[7]

Before the film was released, O'Neal appeared in a TV movie written by Eric Ambler, Love Hate Love, which received good ratings. He also made a Western, Wild Rovers with William Holden for director Blake Edwards.

Love Story turned out to be a box office phenomenon, making O'Neal a star and earning him a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Wild Rovers was considerably less popular.

He followed it with What's Up Doc? (1972) for director Peter Bogdanovich opposite Barbra Streisand. This was the third-highest-grossing film of 1972 and led to him receiving an offer to star in a movie for Stanley Kubrick, Barry Lyndon. While that was in pre production, O'Neal played a jewel thief in The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1972) opposite Jacqueline Bisset and Warren Oates. Then he was reunited with Bogdanovich for Paper Moon (1973) in which he starred opposite his daughter Tatum O'Neal. Tatumwon an Oscar for her performance in a very popular movie. In 1973, O'Neal voted by exhibitors as the second most popular star in the country, behind Clint Eastwood.[8]

Barry Lyndon

O'Neal spent over a year making Barry Lyndon (1975) for Kubrick. The resulting film was considered a commercial disappointment and had a mixed critical reception; it won O'Neal a Harvard Lampoon Award for the Worst Actor of 1975. Its reputation has risen in recent years but O'Neal says his career never recovered from the film's reception.[9]

O'Neal was reunited with Bogdanovich a third time in Nickelodeon (1976), alongside Tatum and Burt Reynolds, for a fee of $750,000. The film flopped at the box office.

He followed this with a small role in the all-star war film A Bridge Too Far (1977), playing General James Gavin. O'Neal's performance as a hardened general was much criticised, although O'Neal was only a year older than Gavin at the time of the events in the film. "Can I help it if I photograph like I'm 16 and they gave me a helmet that was too big for my head?" he later said. "At least I did my own parachute jump."[10] The film performed poorly at the US box office but did well in Europe.

O'Neal turned down a reported $3 million to star in Oliver's Story (1978), a sequel to Love Story.[11] Instead he appeared in the car-chase film The Driver (1978), directed by Walter Hill, who had written The Thief Who Came to Dinner. This was a box office disappointment in the US but, like A Bridge Too Far, did better overseas.

O'Neal was meant to follow this with The Champ (1979), directed by Franco Zeffirelli, but decided to pull out after Zeffirelli refused to cast O'Neal's son Griffin opposite him.[11] Instead he agreed to make Oliver's Story after all once the script was rewritten.[11] However the film was a flop at the box office.

"What I have to do now, seriously, is win a few hearts as an actor," he said in 1978. "The way Cary Grant did. I know I've got a lot of winning to do. But I'm young enough. I'll get there..."[11]

Around this time O'Neal was meant to star in The Bodyguard, from a Lawrence Kasdan script, opposite Diana Ross for director John Boorman. However the film fell over when Ross pulled out, and it would not be made until 1992, with Kevin Costner in O'Neal's old role.[12] There was some talk he would appear in a film from Michelangelo Antonioni, Suffer or Die,[13] but this did not eventuate.

Instead O'Neal played a boxer in a comedy, The Main Event, reuniting him with Streisand. He received a fee of $1 million plus a percentage of the profits. The Main Event was a sizeable hit at the box office.

A 1980 profile of O'Neal described him:

Unlike most stars of the post-Hoffman era he is very handsome, especially when moustached: he has bond [sic] curly hair and a toothpaste smile: he seems to lead an interesting life. What is on screen is, er, less interesting, but still agreeable. Maybe he would really come on if he had the apprenticeship of the stars of the 30s: for he is, to underline the point, a throwback to that era. There are no nervous tics, solemnity is at bag; his is an easy, genial presence, and thank heaven for it![14]

Decline as star

O'Neal was looking to follow it as the lead in the film version of The Thorn Birds to be directed by Arthur Hiller but the book ended up being adapted as a mini series.[15] Instead O'Neal made a British-financed thriller, Green Ice (1981), which had a troublesome production (the original director quit during filming) and flopped at the box office.

He had a cameo in Circle of Two, a film his daughter made with Richard Burton. O'Neal says Burton told him during filming he was "five years away from winning acceptance as a serious actor. On the other hand, my agent, Sue Mengers says I'm right on the threshold. Split the difference, that's two and a half years. One good picture, that's all I need..."[16]

However, in the early 80s he focused on comedies. He received $2 million for the lead in So Fine.[17] This was followed by Partners (1982), a farce written by Frances Veber in which O'Neal played a straight cop who goes undercover as one half of a gay couple. He then played a film director loosely based on Peter Bogdanovich in Irreconcilable Differences (1984); he received no upfront fee but got a percentage of the profits.[11] It was a minor box office success.

O'Neal's film career was in decline. His one time agent Sue Mengers later said of this:

I never figured it out myself. It was hard to cast Ryan—he was too beautiful—and I think a lot of men were jealous of him. Ryan was very cocky, self-confident, very masculine, and gorgeous, and he had every beautiful girl in the world going out with him. It didn’t make him popular with his male contemporaries; he never became pals with the guys who were in the center of things then.[9]

He tried something different playing a gambler in Fever Pitch (1985), the last movie for Richard Brooks. Even less conventional was Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987) for director Norman Mailer. Both movies flopped at the box office.

Supporting actor and TV star

O'Neal had a good supporting role in the romantic comedy Chances Are (1989). He returned to TV opposite his then-partner Farrah Fawcett in Small Sacrifices (1989).

He and Fawcett made a short-lived CBS series Good Sports (1991).

He had a good role in Faithful (1996) with Cher. It was directed by Paul Mazursky who later said of O'Neal:

He’s sweet as sugar, and he’s volatile. He’s got some of that Irish stuff in him, and he can blow up a bit. One day he was doing a scene, and I said, ‘Bring it down a little bit,’ and Ryan said, ‘I quit! You can’t say “Bring it down” to me that loud!’ I said, ‘If you quit, I’m going to break your nose.’ He started to cry. He’s sort of a big baby at times, but he’s a good guy, and he’s very talented. He’s had a strange career, but he was a monster star.[9]

Later career

He was a recurring character on Fox's Bones (2007–present).[6]

In 2011, Ryan and Tatum attempted to restore their broken father/daughter relationship after 25 years. Their reunion and reconciliation process was captured in the Oprah Winfrey Network series, Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals.[6]

In 2016, O'Neal reunited with Love Story co-star Ali MacGraw in a staging of A.R. Gurney's play Love Letters.[18]

Other ventures

O'Neal said that in 2009 that he "made a tremendous amount of money on real estate, more than [he] deserves".[9]

Personal life

O'Neal was in a long-term relationship with actress Farrah Fawcett from 1979 until 1997. They then reunited in 2001 and were together until her death in 2009.[9] He was previously married to actresses Joanna Moore and Leigh Taylor-Young; both marriages ended in divorce. He has four children: Tatum O'Neal and Griffin O'Neal (with Moore), Patrick O'Neal (with Taylor-Young), and Redmond James Fawcett O'Neal (with Fawcett).[19]

"I got married at 20, and I was not a real mature 20," said O'Neal. "My first child was born when I was 21. I was a man’s man; I didn't discover women until I was married, and then it was too late.”[9] O'Neal had custody of Tatum and Griffin due to his first wife's drug and alcohol issues. He had romances with Ursula Andress, Bianca Jagger, Anouk Aimee, Jacqueline Bisset, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, and Anjelica Huston.[20] In her 2014 memoir, Huston claimed that O'Neal physically abused her.[21]

For several years, O'Neal was estranged from his elder three children.[22] However, in 2011, Tatum reconciled with her father with a book and a television show. On August 4, O'Neal, Tatum, and Patrick attended Redmond's court appearance on firearms and drug charges.[23]

O'Neal has nine grandchildren: three from Tatum's marriage to tennis player John McEnroe,[24] four from both of Griffin's marriages,[25] and two from Patrick's relationship with actress Rebecca De Mornay. He is a great-grandfather by Griffin.[26]

In 2001, O'Neal was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).[27] As of 2006, it is in remission.[28] After struggling with leukemia, O'Neal was frequently seen at Fawcett's side when she was battling cancer. He told People magazine, "It's a love story. I just don't know how to play this one. I won't know this world without her. Cancer is an insidious enemy."[29] In April 2012, O'Neal revealed he had been diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer. He reported that it had been detected early enough to give a prognosis of full recovery, although some doctors have questioned this prognosis.[30]



Year Title Role Notes
1969 The Big Bounce Jack Ryan
1970 The Games Scott Reynolds
1970 Love Story Oliver Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1971 The Moviemakers N/A Short film
1971 Wild Rovers Frank Post
1972 What's Up, Doc? Howard Bannister
1973 The Thief Who Came to Dinner Webster McGee
1973 Paper Moon Moses Pray Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1975 Barry Lyndon Barry Lyndon
1976 Nickelodeon Leo Harrigan
1977 A Bridge Too Far Brigadier General James M. Gavin
1978 The Driver The Driver
1978 Oliver's Story Oliver Barrett IV
1979 The Main Event Eddie 'Kid Natural' Scanlon
1981 So Fine Joseph Wiley
1981 Circle of Two Theatre patron Uncredited
1981 Green Ice Bobby Fine
1982 Partners Sgt. Benson
1984 Irreconcilable Differences Albert Brodsky
1985 Fever Pitch Steve Taggart
1987 Tough Guys Don't Dance Tim Madden Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
1989 Chances Are Philip Train
1989 Small Sacrifices Lew Lewiston
1995 Man of the House Man with Kite Uncredited
1996 Faithful Jack Connor
1997 Hacks Dr. Applefield
1997 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn James Edmunds Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor
1998 Zero Effect Gregory Stark
1999 Coming Soon Dick
2000 The List Richard Miller
2002 People I Know Cary Launer
2003 Gentleman B. Phil
2003 Malibu's Most Wanted Bill Gluckman
2012 Slumber Party Slaughter William O'Toole
2015 Knight of Cups Ryan
2015 Unity Narrator


Year Title Role Notes
1960 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Herm Episode: "The Hunger Strike"
1960 The Untouchables Bellhop (uncredited) Episode: "Jack 'Legs' Diamonds"
1960 General Electric Theater Art Anderson Episode: "The Playoff"
1961 The DuPont Show with June Allyson Cadet Wade Farrell Episode: "Without Fear"
1961 Bachelor Father Marty Braden Episode: "Bentley and the Great Debate"
1961 Laramie Johnny Jacobs Episode: "Bitter Glory"
1961 Leave It to Beaver Tom Henderson Episode: "Wally Goes Steady"
1962–63 Empire Tal Garrett 31 episodes
1963 The Virginian Ben Anders Episode: "It Takes a Big Man"
1964 Perry Mason John Carew Episode: "The Case of the Bountiful Beauty"
1964–69 Peyton Place Rodney Harrington 422 episodes
1991 Good Sports Bobby Tannen 15 episodes
1992 1775 Jeremy Proctor Unsold TV pilot
1995 The Larry Sanders Show Ryan O'Neal 2 episodes
2000–01 Bull Robert Roberts, Jr. 6 episodes
2003 Miss Match Jerry Fox 18 episodes
2005 Desperate Housewives Rodney Scavo Episode: "Your Fault"
2010 90210 Spence Montgomery 3 episodes
2006–16 Bones Max Keenan 22 episodes




Amateur boxing record

Based on various sources.[32]

Amateur boxing record
Result Record Opponent Method Date Round Time Event Location Notes
Win 12-4 United States Frankie Lohman KO 1959 1 Munich, Germany
Loss 11-4 United States Tony Foramero PTS 1957 3 Golden Gloves Tournament Los Angeles
Win 11-3 United States Stevie Rouse KO 1957 1 Golden Gloves Tournament (Finals) Los Angeles
Win 10-3 United States Chuck Newell PTS 1957 3 Golden Gloves Tournament (Semi-Finals) Los Angeles
Win 9-3 United States Alvin "Allen" Walker KO 1957 1 Los Angeles
Win 8-3 United States Samuel Roland Foul 1956 1 Hollywood, Florida
Win 7-3 United States Leonard Wallace KO 1956 1 Los Angeles
Win 6-3 United States Eugene Liebert KO 1956 1 Los Angeles
Win 5-3 United States Felix Morse KO 1956 2 Los Angeles
Win 4-3 United States George Shay PTS 1956 3 Hollywood, California
Win 3-3 United States Edmund Dowe PTS 1956 3 Los Angeles
Win 2-3 United States Victor Fellsen KO 1956 1 Los Angeles
Loss 1-3 United States Dal Stewart PTS 1956 3 Los Angeles
Loss 1-2 United States George Shay PTS 1956 3 Golden Gloves Tournament Los Angeles
Win 1-1 United States J. Cecil Gray PTS 1956 3 Golden Gloves Tournament Los Angeles
Loss 0-1 United States J. Cecil Gray PTS 1956 3 Los Angeles


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  5. Ryan O'Neal profile, Yahoo.com; accessed June 22, 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 Ryan O'Neal at the Internet Movie Database
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  17. Taylor, Clarke (29 March 1981). "MOVIES: A 'FINE' TRY FOR LAUGHS... AT $12 MILLION". Los Angeles Times. p. m26.
  18. "For Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal, 45 years between love stories," The Boston Globe, January 28, 2016.
  19. California Births 1905–1995, familytreelegends.com; accessed June 22, 2014.
  20. Lee, Grant (28 August 1977). "Ryan O'Neal: A Love-Hate Story". Los Angeles Times. p. q1.
  21. dailybeast.com; accessed November 10, 2014.
  22. Stuever, Hank, "On OWN, ‘Ryan & Tatum's’ paper gloom", Washington Post, June 17, 2011
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  28. Graham, Caroline (October 7, 2006). "Why I Have To Be Strong For Farrah". Daily Mail. London, UK. Retrieved 2009-05-25. ...a disease now in remission but for which he still takes daily medication...
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