"I needed him in my life. My dad was absolutely everything to me," the 59-year-old award-winning actress Tatum O'Neal shared.
Academy Award-winning actress Tatum O'Neal starred alongside her father, Ryan O'Neal, in the 1973 movie Paper Moon. For her incredible performance, she won an Oscar at age 9, still the youngest actress ever to do so. Despite the fame and recognition life was not easy growing up. O'Neal's parents had divorced by then and her mother Joanna Moore, also an actress, was a drug addict and unable to care for her children.
"It was a hard time," she told ABC News in 2011. "I lived a hard time. There was, you know, tremendous beatings and no food." She and her younger brother Griffin O'Neal were deprived of basic necessities, and she was hoping her father would rescue her.
"I did a lot of running away," she continued. "I was just waiting for my dad to save me -- please save me, please, you know, because I was getting hurt. I was getting in trouble. I wasn't going to school. My teeth were rotting. Like, that was really happening, you know, and I was suffering."
During that time Ryan O'Neal met actress Farrah Fawcett in 1979 while she was still married to actor, Lee Majors. After they split Ryan who had been married twice before meeting Fawcett couldn't help but feel an intense attraction towards her. He knew he was falling for her and falling hard. The actress separated from Majors in 1971 and divorced him in 1982. The new couple was madly in love and O'Neal made sure that his new love always felt special.
Ryan ended up moving out of the house where he lived with his daughter to move in with Fawcett. "[Tatum] felt I had abandoned her and gone on off with Farrah which is somewhat true," he said in the OWN documentary The O'Neals: Ryan and Tatum. "I was so in love with Farrah that I was blind, and so yeah, she got left at the curb but I always said just stay at the curb, I'll be back."
Later, Tatum accused her father of severe neglect. "He can say whatever he wants...he can make up stuff or say stuff," she said. "This is about forgiveness...this is about trying to shut a door and open another one. I don't know if it's going to work. It may or it may not, but I'm going to try."
Tatum also struggled with substance abuse and had become estranged from her father. Eventually, the father-daughter duo did reconcile despite a painful 25-year estrangement. "He was the first love of my life... I can love unconditionally," she said fighting back tears in her interview with CBS Sunday Morning in 2020. Tatum also confessed to PEOPLE that Fawcett's death played a "very big role" in her and her father’s reconciliation. "She brought us back together," she added. "He told me he's sorry. He's all I have in terms of family, and I needed him in my life. My dad was absolutely everything to me."
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by (L) Express Newspapers; (R) Kevin Winter