A few months ago LUX&Ent magazine had the pleasure of interviewing legendary actor Ryan O'Neal at his gorgeous Malibu home for the first print issue of the magazine.
Ryan O'Neal being interviewed by Silvia Kal in his Malibu home
Today he and his co-star in the memorable film 'Love Story' Ali MacGraw were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was the first time in history that this event is conducted exclusively online, due to Covid restrictions. You can still see the ceremony here.
Today we want to share online the full article and interview (by Silvia Kal) for those who couldn't get their copy of the issue. Read below:
Actors who become legends… That is the case of Ryan O’Neal and that is why it was a must for me to get an interview with him for the very first issue of our magazine LUX&Ent.
O’Neal kindly accepted the interview and invited me to do it at his beautiful Malibu house.
Upon my arrival, his assistant opened the door. I walked in and there was Ryan with his two dogs, Mozart and Raven and a background of a gorgeous house with ocean views. As I walked into the living room, a huge painting of Farrah Fawcett caught my eye.
The house was impeccable, stylish and had a very open floor plan. It was sitting right on the beach.
Ryan welcomed me with a warm smile and a table with cheese, grapes, crackers, wine, and much more. “Are you hungry?” he asked, “eat whatever you want”. We talked for a little bit and then sat for the interview.
Ryan was born into show business as the son of writer, Charles O'Neal, and actress Patricia Callaghan. Nevertheless, he wanted to follow his own path and trained to become a professional boxer. He has a good sense of humor and when we talked about him being a boxer he said “I wasn’t very good”, which I know is not true since he had an impressive amateur fighting record—18 wins to 4 losses, with 13 knockouts. He competed in two Golden Gloves championships in Los Angeles.
When O’Neal was a teenager he and his family moved to Germany for a job his father got. This is where he landed his first job in the entertainment industry. “When I first started, I was in Germany. I was a ‘stellvertreter’, do you know what that is?” He said a very strange word I could not understand at all, but being from Spain myself, I thought it was some weird English word I had never heard before. I said, “a what?”, to which he responded “a Stand-in, it is the German word for Stand-in. I was the stand-in for the lead actor in a show called Tales of the Vikings”. It was during this first experience in the business that Ryan noticed the harder side of the industry and the rejection actors suffer constantly. “While I was working in the show a part came up of a young Viking and I said: hey, I can play this! I auditioned for it but I didn’t get the part… I was 18. My mother got the part of the boy’s mother. So, we were riding in the car back home and I said: I don’t like this business. If I can’t play the part of your son, who can! What can I do! She said: have a thick skin. Take it. Be happy your mother is working. So, I took it and kept learning…”
Later on, Ryan and his family returned to Los Angeles, where he landed some acting roles in different television series.
He had to quit boxing. “My producer said you have to either be a boxer or an actor but you can’t be both. So, I quit boxing after I turned 19. I wanted to do something strong and stay away from the stereotype that actors had back in the day of being weak. I wasn’t. I trained a lot. I even had a gym in Santa Monica, on 2nd street” says Ryan.
His big break came in 1964 when he played Rodney Harrington on the ABC prime-time soap opera Peyton Place. The series was an instant hit and boosted O'Neal's career and the career of cast member Mia Farrow. “Peyton Place was a town on the East Coast were everybody was sleeping with everybody else. The show lasted 5 years. Mia Farrow played one of my lovers. She was amazing. I still talk to her every once in a while. One of the last times we spoke I was in my car on the freeway and she was in hers on the same freeway next to me. We pulled over so we could talk. You can’t talk and drive, you know... I also talk to her sister, Tisa Farrow.
Ryan stopped as if he was remembering something and said, “do you want a story?” I said, “absolutely!”. He explained how “Mia and I were doing Payton Place and I used to take her out to lunch. We were walking on the FOX lot and there was a set where they were shooting a movie starring Frank Sinatra. We looked inside and she said: which one is Frank Sinatra? I said: I don’t see him. At that moment, the gate opened, and a golf cart drove in the set with four guys including Frank Sinatra. The next day she goes: guess who I met! Frank Sinatra! I go: yesterday you didn’t even know who he was and now you’ve met him already!? She said: yes, I went over to his sound stage. She went over there in her robe because she was supposed to be sick in the story. And 6 months later she was his wife. He adored her. But she got a part in a Roman Polanski movie called Rosemary’s Baby. The film was taking time to finish and Frank wanted her in a movie with him, so he said: you have to leave that shoot and come to do this movie with me. She said: I can’t, I’ve been working in this film for weeks and now I only have one more week to finish. He said: it’s gonna take you more than one week. She decided to stay and he divorced her for that. She had to fly down to Mexico to finalize her divorce. Sinatra didn’t even show up to sign the divorce papers, instead he sent his friend to do it on his behalf. It hurt her.”
After working in other films, in 1970 Ryan made the forever remembered movie, Love Story, which will have its 50th anniversary in December this year. He starred opposite his now long time dear friend Ali MacGraw in this romantic heartbreaking film that as Ryan says “even I cried when I saw it”.
In the film O’Neal played Oliver Barrett, a role he got after auditioning against 300 other actors. “They were testing people for my part. I thought the audition had gone very well. But days went by and I hadn’t heard from anyone, so I thought I hadn’t gotten it… Weeks later they called me telling me I got the part. So, I had to immediately get in a plane and learn how to ice skate. I didn’t know how to ice skate! And I was playing a hockey player! So, I flew to New York and got a couch. I had two weeks to learn. The first scenes we shot were the hockey scenes and I was like, oh, no...”
In order to get a part, sometimes we say we know how to do things that in reality we don’t, but if we get the part we are willing to quickly learn after. So, I asked Ryan if they asked him if he knew how to skate and he said yes, to what he laughed and responded “Of course!! And then I kept falling on the same leg. I got a huge bruise.”
This is the role for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and his first Golden Globe nomination.
“It was an honor to be a part of this movie because when we made it we didn’t know that it’d have this kind of lasting romantic reaction to people, but it did.” O’Neal said.
His second Golden Globe nomination came with the critically acclaimed hit Paper Moon where he worked with his real-life daughter Tatum and for which she won the Academy Award.
The list of films, TV shows, and iconic actors and directors Ryan has worked with is endless… He starred opposite Barbra Streisand twice, in What's Up Doc? And the hit The Main Event, a popular boxing comedy.
He worked opposite Katharine Hepburn in The Man Upstairs, a comedy-drama where Hepburn plays an elderly woman who discovers an escaped convict (O'Neal) hiding in her attic.
Ryan mentioned “Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn were really wonderful. Lucky me.”
Ryan O’Neal was directed by Stanley Kubrick in the movie Barry Lyndon, a period drama film that recounts the early exploits and later unravelling of a fictional 18th-century Irish rogue and opportunist who marries a rich widow to climb the social ladder and assume her late husband's aristocratic position. The film won four Oscars.
“Working with Kubrick was fascinating and hard. He’d do fifty takes on every scene… So, I’d say: what do you want me to do differently? and he’d say: nothing, do it just like that. And that was on every scene. It took us a year to complete the film and I was there for a year and 3 months because I had wardrobe fittings. I wanted to please him. Everybody wanted to please him…”
Most recently we saw O'Neal on TV with a recurring role on the hit crime drama Bones, but when I asked him if he prefers to do film or TV he said “I prefer to do film, because on TV they shoot very fast, so films have better quality, and I prefer beauty versus quantity.”
In his personal life, it is very well-know his love story with actress Farrah Fawcett. They had a son, Redmond O’Neal, in 1985, but never got married "Farrah and I were rebels like that" said Ryan. In 2001 O’Neal was diagnosed with leukemia, and Fawcett took care of him. “The day of my 60th birthday I got a call from the Dr. saying that I had leukemia. I was completely shocked. I called Farrah and when I told her she started to cry.” Ryan said.
Years later, in 2006, it was Farrah the one who got the news that she had cancer… O'Neal supported Fawcett as she battled her own cancer and as he stated “her illness brought us closer together” until she lost her battle to cancer in 2009.
Before Covid, Ryan O’Neal was doing the Broadway play Love Letters, with his Love Story co-star Ali MacGraw. “Ali and I have been friends for almost 50 years and before the pandemic we were doing a play together, Love Letters. She’s a terrific woman. The play is related to the movie in a way. It’s a Broadway play where I read letters that she wrote to me and she reads letters that I wrote to her. In the play, we met when we were five years old and the first letter is one I wrote to her parents thanking them for inviting me to her fifth birthday party. And as we get older the letters became more mature and involved. But she had a hard life. I didn’t. I was a senator and a congress man and she was this wild lifer. She got married, then divorced, she got a child who left her… And I kept trying to get us closer but she was wild and I wasn’t. In real life she quit acting until we did the play. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She didn’t like the industry life...”
As we were finishing the interview, Raven, the smallest dog ran into the house from the deck and tried to jump on Ryan’s lap. “You wanna come up here? Come!” he said while helping her out.
Growing up in Madrid I always heard my mom talking about Ryan O’Neal and how he was the most handsome man she had ever seen, but little did she know one day I was going to end up chatting with him in his house in California. Now I can say that O’Neal is not only one of the greatest actors in history but also a sweet, caring, gentle, funny man, grateful for what he got in life and wanting to help others.