Love Story Actor Ryan O’Neal Dead at 82

Ryan O’Neal, who starred in Love Story and Peyton Place, died Dec. 8 at age 82. His cause of death has not been shared.

By Lindsay Weinberg Dec 08, 2023 10:47 PMTags
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America's love story with Ryan O'Neal will live on.

The legendary actor died Dec. 8, his son Patrick O'Neal shared on Instagram. He was 82.

"This is the toughest thing I've ever had to say," Patrick wrote. "My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us." 

He did not share a cause of death for the Oscar nominee, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001 and prostate cancer in 2012.

Born in 1941, Ryan rose to fame playing Rodney Harrington on ABC's Peyton Place from 1964 to 1969. He then made a splash on the big screen as preppy Harvard law student Oliver opposite Ali McGraw in 1970's Love Story, following it up with starring roles in Paper MoonBarry Lyndon and What's Up, Doc?.

In more recent years, he appeared on Fox's Bones as the dad of Emily Deschanel's titular forensic anthropologist, making his final film appearance in 2015's Knight of Cups and narrating the documentary Unity that same year. 

But for Patrick, Ryan was his all-time "hero."

"I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life," the sportscaster shared in a lengthy tribute. "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." 

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Ryan had divorced wife Joanna Moore—with whom he shares kids Tatum and Griffin—earlier that year and went on to marry Leigh, a union that lasted until 1974. He then found his longtime love in Charlie's Angels star Farrah Fawcett, welcoming son Redmond O'Neal in 1985.

"I used to ask her to marry me all the time," Ryan told Barbara Walters in 2009. "But... it just got to be a joke, you know. We just joked about it."

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The actor's relationship with Farrah—who died in 2009 at age 62—remains a source of pride in Patrick's eyes.

"Ryan never bragged. But he has bragging rights in Heaven. Especially when it comes to Farrah," Patrick noted. "Everyone had the poster, he had the real McCoy. And now they meet again. Farrah and Ryan. He has missed her terribly. What an embrace that must be. Together again."

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Despite knowing the former boxer is a true "Hollywood legend," Patrick also remembers his dad as "highly intelligent and an avid reader and journal writer" at home.

"He was so skilled at his craft, worked so hard, and just loved acting plain and simple," he wrote. "As a human being, my father was as generous as they come. And the funniest person in any room. And the most handsome clearly, but also the most charming. Lethal combo. He loved to make people laugh. It's pretty much his goal."

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And as a father, he continued, Ryan was "second to none." 

Calling him "the best and most loving and supportive dad," Patrick feels lucky to have shared so many precious memories with him. 

"We loved playing/watching sports together," he recalled. "Some great frisbee throws on the beach that would last all weekend long. For years. That was our bond." 

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As for Ryan's relationships with his other children, he famously costarred in Paper Moon with daughter Tatum, which earned her an Oscar in 1974 at age 10. While their father-daughter relationship allegedly became tense over the following years, Tatum shared in 2010 that Farrah was the one who "brought us back together."

"He told me he's sorry. He's all I have in terms of family, and I needed him in my life," Tatum shared, per People. "My dad was absolutely everything to me."

And for Patrick, he concluded, "I will share my father's legacy forever... My dad was 82, and lived a kick ass life."

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