Ryan O’Neal: Love Story star and Oscar nominee dies aged 82

Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in Love Story (1970)
Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in Love Story (1970) - ALAMY

The actor Ryan O’Neal, who became famous almost overnight for his role in Love Story, has died aged 82.

O’Neal’s son, Patrick, announced the actor’s death on social media, but did not give a cause.

“My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us,” he wrote.

While the Hollywood actor’s career stretched over half a century, he was perhaps never more famous following his appearance in the 1970 romantic hit Love Story, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

In the film, which was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, O’Neal plays opposite Ali MacGraw, who is dying of cancer. The film, directed by Arthur Hiller, was based on a novel by Erich Segal, who wrote the screenplay.

It would be O’Neal’s only academy nomination and turned him into Hollywood royalty in the early 1970s, where he started a decades-long relationship with Farah Fawcett.

With Farrah Fawcett in 2003
With Farrah Fawcett in 2003 - REUTERS

At that time, he worked with some of that era’s most famous directors, including Peter Bogdanovich on Paper Moon and Stanley Kubrick on Barry Lyndon.

The official Twitter page for Kubrick said: “We are deeply saddened to hear that the Oscar nominated, 60-year acting veteran, Ryan O’Neal has passed away.

“To us he will always be remembered as the loveable cad Barry Lyndon.

“Of his experience working with Stanley, Ryan said ‘it was magnificent, you never really get over an experience like that, working with someone like him’.

He later starred in What’s Up, Doc? in 1972 with Barbra Streisand and they met again on-screen seven years later in The Main Event.

On Twitter, two-time Academy Award winner Streisand said: “So sad to hear the news of Ryan O’Neal’s passing.

“We made two films together, What’s Up, Doc? and The Main Event. He was funny and charming, and he will be remembered.”

O’Neal continued to act into his his 70s in the 2010s, appearing for stints on Bones and Desperate Housewives.

He was also known for his long-time relationship with Fawcett.

Twice divorced, O’Neal was romantically involved with Fawcett for nearly 30 years, and they had a son, Redmond, born in 1985.

The couple separated 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.

In the 1960s O’Neal played minor  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.

He transitioned to the big screen with 1969’s The Big Bounce, which co-starred his then-wife, Leigh Taylor-Young. But it was “Love Story” that made him a major movie star.

Patrick Ryan O’Neal was born on April 20, 1941, in Los Angeles, the older son of novelist-screenwriter Charles “Blackie” O’Neal and actress Patricia Callaghan

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, a decade after he was first diagnosed with chronic leukaemia.

In his post on Instagram, O’Neal’s son wrote: “My father, Ryan O’Neal, has always been my hero. He is a Hollywood legend. Full stop.”