Ryan O'Neal, Peyton Place Star, Dead At 82

Actor Ryan O'Neal died on December 8, 2023, at the age of 82, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. While a cause of death has not yet been publicly released, he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001 and with prostate cancer in 2021. His son Patrick O'Neal gave us a bit of insight into his father's last moments and his legacy in a series of touching tributes to his father on Instagram. In the first post, he wrote: "My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us. [...] My father Ryan O'Neal has always been my hero. I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life."

His first big break in Hollywood came with his role as Rodney Harrington on ABC's "Peyton Place," and he was nominated for an Oscar for the iconic 1970 drama film "Love Story." He and his "Love Story" co-star Ali McGraw were awarded stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a joint ceremony in 2021.

Ryan O'Neal's acting career peaked with Love Story

Ryan O'Neal, whose full birth name was Charles Patrick Ryan O'Neal, was born on April 20, 1941, in Los Angeles to movie and TV writer Charles "Blackie" O'Neal and actress Patricia O'Callaghan. He moved around as a child, living in, among other places, Mexico and Germany. 

It was in Germany that O'Neal got a job as a stuntman on "Tales of the Vikings." He got a taste for show business, moved to Los Angeles, and appeared in several guest episodes of TV shows during the early 1960s before his star-making role in "Peyton Place." He transitioned into film roles, most notably with the 1970 film "Love Story." A few years later, he starred with his daughter Tatum O'Neal in "Paper Moon," who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role at age 10.

Ryan acted in many other film and TV projects in every decade from 1970 to 2010, but none reached the same level of success as his earlier work. It wasn't 100% clear why. "I never figured it out myself," Sue Mengers, his former agent, told Vanity Fair in 2009. "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." His last role was playing Max Keenan in 24 episodes of "Bones" with his final appearance airing in 2017.

Ryan O'Neal had a complicated personal life

Along with his work as an actor, Ryan O'Neal was also an accomplished boxer. He was a member of the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame, and his son Patrick O'Neal, in one of his Instagram tribute posts to his father noted some of his boxing accomplishments, "he sparred 2 rounds with Joe Frazier in 1966, on national TV, with Muhammad Ali doing the commentary, and went toe to toe with Smokin' Joe."

When it came to his personal life, Ryan had a high-profile on-again, off-again 30-year relationship with Farrah Fawcett — their son Redmond was born in 1958. Before Fawcett, Ryan was married twice. First to Joanna Moore in the 1960s; their two children were Tatum and Griffin O'Neal. They split after a few years. His second marriage was to actress Leigh Taylor-Young; they met on the set of "Peyton Place," and they had one son, sports broadcaster Patrick O'Neal.

Ryan at times had a tumultuous private life and challenges with fatherhood. His son Griffin has spoken about the substance abuse that he witnessed in his family. In 2012, Ryan said on The Today Show that he didn't think he was a good father. Patrick seems to have anticipated some of the perhaps not-so-nice parts of his father's life coming up with his passing, as he wrote on Instagram: "I will share my father's legacy forever. I will not be deterred from outside voices that say negative things." Our hearts are with Patrick and all those impacted by Ryan's death.