We aren’t sure what made Ryan O’Neal more famous: his role in the 1970s Love Story or his reputation for being the worst dad in Hollywood. Over the years, O’Neal’s issues with his children have been well-documented, as has his on and off relationship with the late Farrah Fawcett.
The former boxer’s acting career didn’t take off as he had hoped, so O’Neal took his aggressions out on anyone within reach, especially his family. Although O’Neal has tried to reconcile with his family and continues to act, the 80-year-old’s reputation still haunts him. Keep reading to see the rise and fall of Hollywood’s most questionable father.
Came Out Fighting
Born in Los Angeles, Ryan O’Neal was the oldest son of actress Patricia Ruth Olga and novelist and screenwriter Charles O’Neal. While he may not have come out of the womb kicking and punching, O’Neal started fighting at a very young age. His father built him his first boxing ring at age seven.
O’Neal was a natural in the ring and trained to be a Golden Gloves boxer at University High School during his teen years. Boxing was a good outlet for O’Neal to release his rage as he was hot-tempered early on. As he set off into adulthood, his love for fighting remained.
It Ran in the Family
Both of O’Neal’s parents were in show business, so it was only natural for him to be interested in acting. When his father moved the family to Germany for work, O’Neal attended the Munich American High School, but he soon grew restless. His mother saw that he needed something to do.
Patricia found her son a job as a stuntman on an American TV show, and it didn’t take long before O’Neal was bit by the acting bug. With his newfound passion, a whole world of opportunities blossomed before him. Luckily, he had two very useful connections to get him jobs.
A Harsh Temper
On the outside, O’Neal’s blond, clean-cut hair and bright blue eyes made him look like an innocent teenager. But his attractive features hid the fire that burned inside him. When he was 18, he got into a heated argument with someone at a party, but this wasn’t some small tiff.
O’Neal didn’t just yell at this person; he went on the attack. It must have been a pretty intense fight because he spent 51 days in jail. While this should have been a warning sign to those around him, everyone brushed it off. But the incident barely scratched the surface of what was to come.
Getting His Start
After graduating high school, O’Neal returned to the US, trying to make it in the acting business. He made his first TV appearance guest-starring on an episode of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. The guest role opened the door for him to appear on many shows like The Untouchables.
He appeared in nine different TV shows between 1960 and 1961. By 1962, O’Neal became a regular on NBC’s Empire, a modern-day Western, playing Tal Garrett. When the show was revived as Redigo in 1963, O’Neal turned down the opportunity to reprise his role. Instead, he went back to guest-starring.
The Golden Couple
When O’Neal was just 21, he married his first wife, actress Joanna Moore. Around the same time, he landed the role of Rodney Harrington on the series Peyton Place. The studio was looking for a young Doug McClure, and O’Neal was the perfect fit.
As he turned into a star overnight, O’Neal and Moore quickly became to talk of the town. Everyone looked up to the couple because they appeared to be so young and in love. However, looks can be deceiving because their life behind the scenes was far from perfect.
During their three-year marriage, O’Neal and Moore had two children, Tatum and Griffin. The kids grew up surrounded by the Hollywood lifestyle of excess. Unfortunately, the couple spent more time partying and doing drugs than taking care of their children, who were often forgotten at home.
O’Neal’s children often faded into the background as the young actor and his wife cared more about their social lives. But they weren’t just neglecting their kids; Tatum O’Neal said that friends and family abused her when her parents weren’t around.
The Relationship Fell Apart
As the couple’s partying ways spun out of control, Moore tried to fix her failing career by drinking and doing more drugs. As you might have guessed, it didn’t help her get more acting jobs, and their marriage went on a downward spiral.
Rumors started swirling that O’Neal was abusive to Moore, and life at home became increasingly toxic. In 1966, Moore packed her things and left with the children, but she could barely care for them. Her addictions raged on, and the kids hardly had food or a bathroom.
While his ex-wife and children were living in squalor, and his daughter was being beaten by her mom’s teenage boyfriend, O’Neal happily remarried in Hawaii. He quickly left his past behind and cozied up to his Peyton Place co-star, Leigh Taylor-Young. Together, they had a son named Patrick.
O’Neal was only in his mid-twenties and already on his second married and third child. He was immature, and the relationship only lasted four years. O’Neal once again proved that he wasn’t ready to settle down. After the divorce, Taylor-Young refused to talk about O’Neal’s temper.
Not a Fan of Criticism
It’s rare to find someone in the public eye who hasn’t received bad publicity at least once or twice in their careers. While it happens to everyone, O’Neil wasn’t happy about an unflattering comment made by gossip columnist Rona Barrett. He wasn’t going to let it slide.
Barrett’s comments might have been rude, but O’Neal’s retaliation was uncalled for. He sent a package with a live tarantula inside. O’Neal was later heard bragging about his potentially deadly prank.
A Box Office Hit
Despite his vicious act, the world was about to fall head-over-heels for O’Neal. Beau Bridges, Jon Voight, and O’Neal were all approached for the same role, but O’Neal won the lead in 1970’s Love Story. It quickly became the world’s number one tear-jerker.
Not only was the film a huge hit, but it also took O’Neal’s career to the next level. His portrayal earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He also declared that he didn’t want to go back to television because making movies was more enjoyable.
He Took a Loss
O’Neal’s fee for Love Story was only $25,000. He was said to have an offer for another film that paid five times more but turned it down. In the end, O’Neal was angry because his co-star Ali MacGraw, whose husband was Love Story’s director, got a percentage of the film’s profits.
He didn’t ask for a percentage in his contract and missed out on a ton of money. O’Neal should have known better coming from a show biz family. He missed out on the profits but found other ways to reap the benefits of being a big movie star.
A Lady’s Man
After portraying a young, handsome man who loses his wife to cancer, O’Neal became a babe magnet. Women were throwing themselves at him, and he didn’t even have to put in much effort. O’Neal could’ve walked into a room and gotten any woman he wanted.
He was reportedly such a hot commodity that he stole French actress Anouk Aimee away from Albert Finney. The attention turned O’Neal into a total womanizer, but it wasn’t long before his past caught up with him, and he had to attend to his fatherly duties.
The Lesser of Two Evils
While O’Neal had been living his life freely, his ex-wife was out of control. Moore was guilty of neglect, and she lost custody of Tatum and Griffin. O’Neal was far from being “father of the year,” but he was a better fit to raise the kids.
O’Neal had no choice but to get on board with being a father and find a way to mix his career with parenthood. His big idea was to get his daughter into the acting business with him, and Peter Bogdanovich happened to be looking for a father-daughter duo.
His (Un)Lucky Day
When Paul Newman and his daughter dropped out of Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon, O’Neal and Tatum were offered the roles. O’Neal thought this was his golden opportunity to get an Oscar. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan.
In the film, O’Neal played a con man who uses his fake daughter to trick people for cash. It wasn’t much of a reach, given his parenting track record. Although his performance was convincing, Tatum stole the show. She received an Academy Award nomination, not O’Neal.
He Snubbed Her
As if O’Neal wasn’t already a bad dad, he resented his daughter’s success rather than supporting her. When Tatum won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, the ten-year-old got up to give an acceptance speech only to see her parents weren’t in the crowd.
O’Neal was so jealous of Tatum’s win that he refused to show up to the awards show. He was more focused on himself and his career. Even though he didn’t go to the Oscars, O’Neal made sure to use his daughter’s win to his advantage.
Using His Daughter for Fame
O’Neal saw that his star power was dimming, so he took his award-winning daughter as arm candy. He would take her out on the town to get into the hottest parties because she was more popular. The early exposure to a party lifestyle left Tatum with lasting scars.
The ten-year-old star was too young to be at these parties, but O’Neal needed his Tatum to keep his own status. He once took her to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, a place no daughter should ever have to go with their father.
An Unconventional Relationship
If taking Tatum to adult parties wasn’t enough, their relationship became even more questionable when O’Neal started dating Ursula Andress. Everything between O’Neal and Andress was great, but they had a problem in the bedroom; Tatum shared a bed with them.
Andress found it uncomfortable to share a bed with her boyfriend and his young child. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst thing to happen on O’Neal’s watch. He also let sketchy drug dealers around his underage daughter, and one of them assaulted her when O’Neal was gone.
He Blamed Her
Tatum gathered the courage to tell O’Neal about the assault. She assumed her father would console her, but O’Neal blamed his daughter for the horrific incident. He said she must have led the dealer on. To make matters worse, he kept the drug dealer on his payroll.
In O’Neal’s mind, he could get another woman pregnant and have another daughter, but a good drug dealer was hard to come by. Tatum felt betrayed by her dad, but not all of his friends and associates were out to harm her.
He Picked a Good One
When his relationship with Andress ended, O’Neal started dating folk singer Joni Mitchell. Tatum and Mitchell grew close and developed a mother-daughter relationship. They would shop and cook together, and Tatum finally felt like things could turn around with her father.
Mitchell said she and Tatum got along because they both loved O’Neal. Sadly, this window of happiness ended too quickly. Mitchell’s upcoming tour ended her relationship with O’Neal, and Tatum had to deal with her father alone. O’Neal wasn’t too upset, but Tatum felt lost.
Not the Best Advice
O’Neal’s parenting skills were less than subpar, and his advice put his daughter in danger. When teenage Tatum started to gain a few pounds, O’Neal was quick to step in and offer his “fatherly” advice. He thought she wouldn’t get jobs if she gained weight.
Since there were plenty of drugs lying around the house, O’Neal suggested that Tatum snort some of them to lose weight. His horrible advice enabled Tatum to go down a dark and dangerous path like her mother. He really shouldn’t have been allowed to procreate.
He Didn’t Care
Unless he was benefitting, O’Neal didn’t care about anyone, including his children. While Tatum struggled with drug addictions and an unstable home life, she made a nearly fatal decision and attempted to commit suicide by cutting her wrists.
Luckily, Tatum’s attempt didn’t work, and she survived. She was already at her lowest point, but her father made her feel even worse by saying, “You cut the wrong way.” O’Neal wasn’t even worried that she tried to kill herself. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only child of neglect.
He Used His Son as a Punching Bag
Like Tatum, O’Neal’s second child Griffin was also a victim of his father’s poor parenting. O’Neal liked to play pool with Griffin, but he hated losing. Whenever Griffin won, O’Neal would beat him up. He got so angry one time that he knocked his son’s teeth out.
Griffin didn’t hold back when he was later asked about his father. He said O’Neal was violent throughout his upbringing. He called O’Neal an “abusive, narcissistic psychopath.” O’Neal wasn’t just an abuser; he was also an enabler, offering Griffin drugs when he was only 11.
One of his many girlfriends was model and actress Anjelica Houston. The pair went to a party one evening, and Houston spent a little too much time in the bathroom for O’Neal’s liking. He suddenly became enraged, and the anger bubbled inside him.
In a fit of rage, O’Neal reportedly head-butted Houston, causing her to “see stars.” He then dragged her into the bathroom and continued his assault by hitting her in the head with an open hand. Houston quickly dumped him after the incident, and O’Neal moved on.
He Broke the “Bro Code”
When O’Neal’s friend Lee Majors was married to Farrah Fawcett, they were Hollywood’s “it” couple. Majors was worried Fawcett would be bored while he was away shooting a movie in Canada, so he asked O’Neal to take Fawcett on a date and keep her company.
When Majors asked, he thought the two would have dinner as friends, but he clearly didn’t know O’Neal very well. O’Neal followed instructions and asked Fawcett out. As a loyal wife, she told Majors, and he forbade her from going.
He Became Obsessed
Majors must have realized the potential catastrophe of his wife going on a date with O’Neal and changed his mind. Unfortunately, the idea was already in O’Neal’s mind, and he wanted Fawcett for himself. He couldn’t focus on another woman until he got her.
While O’Neal planned to seduce Fawcett, Majors was stuck in Canada. He was powerless to O’Neil’s scheme. Unfortunately, even the Six Million Dollar Man was no match for O’Neal’s womanizing ways. All he could do was call and tell O’Neal to leave his wife alone.
He Got His Way
It wasn’t much of a surprise when O’Neal got his way. Fawcett separated from Majors and went out on the town with her new lover. O’Neal, who had been reluctant to sell his Malibu home, finally made some moves to be closer to Fawcett.
As a result of moving, Tatum was left to fend for herself. Of course, O’Neal was too preoccupied with his new girlfriend to worry about where his daughter would live. He turned his back on her again, but Fawcett could only take so much of O’Neal’s attention.
Trying to Control Her
Fawcett was always regarded for her beauty. The famous picture of her in a red swimsuit made men go crazy. However, O’Neal thought he knew what was “best” for her and tried to give Fawcett some beauty tips. He told her to wear less makeup.
She was kind enough to give it a try, but Fawcett’s manager quickly told her she looked tired. O’Neal took it personally and nearly jumped across the table to strangle him. He always thought he was right about everything and didn’t want anyone to tell him otherwise.
Giving Fatherhood Another Try
While he had already failed at being a father for his first three children, O’Neal was excited to have a child with Fawcett. Maybe he wanted to prove himself or thought this child would turn out better because Fawcett wasn’t plagued with addiction issues like his ex-wife.
In 1985, Fawcett gave birth to their son Redmond James. O’Neal seemed to be ready to be a good dad, but his parental skills dipped to an all-time low. Sadly, O’Neal’s child with Fawcett struggled more than his other siblings.
His Son Suffered
By the time Redmond was a teenager, O’Neal was already offering him drugs. As a result, he ended up bouncing between 13 different rehab centers. Redmond also ran into trouble with the law for possession charges, thievery, and attempted murder.
Just when we thought O’Neal couldn’t do any worse as a father, he proved everyone wrong. At one of Redmond’s hearings, the state ruled that he was incompetent to stand trial. Instead of trying to help his son and make up for the years of bad parenting, O’Neal looked at him with disappointment.
Between letting his son live on the streets and calling him a “poor, stupid boy” to the press, O’Neal had time to be a terrible partner. O’Neal should have been counting his lucky stars to have a woman like Fawcett, but he cheated on her anyway.
Fawcett walked in on O’Neal in bed with Leslie Ann Stefanson. He was caught in the act, and he tried to make a bizarre excuse. O’Neal told Fawcett that Stefanson was more like a daughter than a lover. Fawcett couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
He Refused to Take the Blame
In true O’Neal fashion, he refused to take responsibility for his actions and tried to blame Fawcett. He said her menopause “cramped his style.” Whatever she was going through, it was a turn-off for O’Neal. He said he was done with divas and broke up with Fawcett.
The only diva in that two-decade-long relationship was O’Neal, but he wouldn’t take accountability for any of his wrongdoings. While Fawcett was angry and devastated, it wouldn’t be the end for this couple as tragedy had a way of bringing them back together.
In 2001, O’Neal was diagnosed with leukemia. Although Fawcett wasn’t his girlfriend anymore, she quickly came to take care of him until he went into remission. Unfortunately, their medical worries didn’t end with him as she was also diagnosed with cancer in 2006.
While he might have been horrible to her in the past, O’Neal stepped up to the plate when Fawcett needed him. Given their shared experiences, the two reunited and started dating again. But there wasn’t a happily ever after because O’Neal didn’t change his habits.
He Ruined Everything
O’Neal stuck by Fawcett’s side throughout her cancer treatment and wanted to celebrate her recovery and 60th birthday. He planned a big party, and it was lovely until Fawcett went to bed. O’Neal and his friends wanted to keep the party going, and things went south.
He and his son Griffin got into an argument after Griffin allegedly attacked his father with a fireplace poker. While Fawcett was trying to sleep upstairs, she was startled by the sound of a gun going off downstairs. When the police arrived, it was a mess.
He Tried to Shoot His Son
And the “Father of a Lifetime” award goes to… anyone but O’Neal. When he told the police what happened, he said he shot at Griffin in self-defense. O’Neal claimed Griffin went on a rampage and injured his pregnant wife.
O’Neal said he thought the gun would scar Griffin, but everything went wrong. The police arrested him but later released O’Neal on a $50,000 bond. While it was another blow to his record as a parent, O’Neal surprisingly had bigger things to worry about than an arrest.
He Lost His Love
In 2007, Fawcett shared that her cancer had come back after three months of remission. It had spread to her liver this time. The prognosis didn’t look good, and O’Neal didn’t want to lose her, so he decided to propose to Fawcett.
Fawcett went through harsh treatments, but the cancer was too strong. Before she and O’Neal could make it to the altar, Fawcett died on June 25, 2009. The priest was on his way to officiate the wedding when she took her last breaths. He was devastated.
In the midst of Fawcett’s cancer treatments, O’Neal faced felony drug charges. He was arrested with his son Redmond in 2008 when police came to his home to check on Redmond, who was on parole. They found drugs in the house, and he was arrested.
While Fawcett was dying, O’Neal pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to an 18-month rehab program. Meanwhile, Redmond was sent back to jail for his father’s drugs. It wouldn’t be the last time O’Neal’s son was behind bars.
Not Even a Funeral Could Stop Him
Most people would have been grief-stricken at their fiancé’s funeral, but O’Neal saw it as an opportunity to pick up women. At the ceremony, a blonde woman he didn’t recognize hugged him to offer her condolences. O’Neal responded by hitting on the woman.
He asked her, “Do you have a drink on you? You have a car?” However, when he stopped to look at the woman, he realized it was his daughter Tatum. O’Neal hadn’t seen her for over five years, so he didn’t recognize her. That was an awkward reunion.
He Realized His Faults
Although O’Neal and Tatum have tried to reconcile, he realized he was never father material. He admitted, “I don’t know why. I don’t think I was supposed to be a father. Just look around at my work – they’re either in jail, or they should be.”
O’Neal’s children all bear scars from his poor parental guidance. Tatum, Griffin, and Redmond have all battled addiction, aggression, and dealt with loss. The only child who has nice things to say about O’Neal is Patrick, his son with Taylor-Young. He was lucky enough to have a good mom.
Someone on His Side
His third child, Patrick, grew up to become a sportscaster for Fox Sports West. He wrote an article for The Huffington Post in defense of his dad. In the article, Patrick called O’Neal his hero and thanked him for everything he had done for him over the years.
O’Neal’s other children probably wondered if they had the same father as Patrick because they didn’t see him in the same light. At least O’Neal could say he did right by one of his children. We wonder if O’Neal paid him to write that.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, O’Neal’s career was practically done. However, in the mid-2000s, he got a second chance at being a successful actor. Between 2006 and 2017, O’Neal played Max Keenan on Bones. He guest-starred in 24 episodes of the hit series.
He also had a recurring role on 90210 and stared in the films Slumber Party Slaughter and Knight of Cups. While he never reached the same level of fame he had in the ‘70s, the small roles gave him some time in front of the camera again.
Try to Reconcile
After years of dealing with her father’s abuse and neglect, Tatum tried to reconcile with O’Neal in 2011. They attempted to restore their broken father-daughter relationship after 25 years in front of the cameras for a reality show called Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neals.
The series premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network and only ran for nine episodes. O’Neal produced it, but it was reported that their mending was only for the cameras. O’Neal then blamed Oprah for further distancing him from his daughter.
After beating leukemia in 2001, O’Neal was diagnosed with stage II prostate cancer in 2012. He dealt with his health privately and announced that the doctors were positive of a full recovery. However, his friends have stated that he is not doing well in recent years.
The 80-year-old has mainly stayed out of the spotlight over the past few years, but people close to O’Neal have said he has lost weight and can’t walk without a cane. O’Neal has battled cancer, diabetes, heart issues, and sepsis. The years of drugs and alcohol have caught up with him.
After 17 years away from Tatum, O’Neal and his daughter reunited in 2020. O’Neal looked frail as he posed beside his daughter and grandchildren. His grandson Sean posted the photo on Instagram, sharing that they hadn’t all been together with O’Neal since 2003.
In February 2020, Tatum posted a few photos with her father, and it seems like they have moved past their terrible history. As his health declines, she said she wishes him nothing but happiness and health, and she is happy that her children can be around him.
Where Is Ryan O’Neal Now?
The soon-to-be 81-year-old is still alive and working. It was announced that he would star as Detective O’Connor in the movie The Waste Lands. There has not been an announced release date, and we don’t know if production started, but, hopefully, he will make it.
Despite his stagnant career over the past few decades, O’Neal still has a net worth of around $20 million. In 2009, he said he made a lot of money in real estate, so most of his money may have come from that over the years. O’Neal might not be the best man, but at least all of his children are alive.