Tatum O’Neal’s father meant everything to her as the girl who starred alongside Ryan in the 1973 movie “Paper Moon.” But as she grew older, their relationship became “very toxic.”
At the age of nine, Tatum became the youngest actress to win an Oscar, but the preceding years was as horrifying as Tatum’s later years was painful.
Ryan O’Neal and Tatum’s mother, Joanna Moore got divorced years before she starred with him in “Paper Moon.” Tatum and her younger brother, Griffin lived with their mother, a drug addict that couldn’t take care of them.
Sometimes days went by without food while locked in the house, while her mother’s 15-year-old boyfriend beat her.
“We went to the bathroom on the floor. We did a lot of crazy things because we didn’t have any guidance at all. It was a hard time,” Tatum said. “I lived a hard time. There was, you know, tremendous beatings and no food.”
Through it all, Tatum started acting out while she hoped that her father would save her from the situation she found herself in.
"I did a lot of running away. 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," she added.
Ryan eventually stepped in and took Tatum everywhere with him. Her casting in “Paper Moon” came from Ryan’s suggestion and stunned viewers with her remarkable performance.
However, it's during this time, that Tatum’s relationship with her father began crumbling. "In the long scenes, I wanted to make sure my dad wasn't mad at me, and sometimes he was. Because I'd miss a take for 30 takes or something, you know, and we had to turn around. I mean, I was difficult at times to work with, I'm sure. You know, I was eight years old," she said.
When Tatum entered her teens, the relationship with her father deteriorated further. Not being his little girl anymore, Ryan “had no idea” how to have a relationship with his daughter, which only brought about feelings of insecurity within Tatum.
"I think as I grew breasts and kind of became a young woman, I think he just got weirded out and kind of started to struggle with me, it seemed a lot," she explained. "I started to get unbalanced, and I started to feel insecure, and I started not to know where to turn."
Then at 15, Ryan met and fell in love with Farrah Fawcett, and moved out of the house to be with her. Two years after, Tatum tried to commit suicide. "It's a memory that I have of a very, very, very toxic life, of a very difficult life," she said.
Five years later in 1986, Tatum married the tennis champion, John McEnroe at the age of 22, but their marriage fell apart three children and nine years later.
After her failed marriage, Tatum turned self-destructive and became addicted to heroin. "The drugs that I liked to do, not painkillers, that's not what I'd like to do. I'd rather do heroin or crack, something of that nature. Something really illegal, something really destructive," Tatum added.
In June 2008, she landed in jail after she got caught trying to buy cocaine in Manhattan. A month later, she pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and agreed to enter a drug-treatment program.
During an interview with Vanity Fair for its September issue in 2009, Ryan spoke of being a “hopeless father” and his regret of having children.
“I was in touch with them for years, and I was a mess. I’m not in touch with them now, and I’ve never been happier. A couple of them I would take back,” he told the publication.
The autobiography, “A Paper Life” which Tatum released in 2004, didn’t sit well with Ryan either. Therein she had detailed her dysfunctional relationship with her father, and he made no secret about his feelings regarding the book.
“She wrote a book—b***h! How dare she throw our laundry in the street for money!” Ryan fumed to Vanity Fair. However, Farrah Fawcett’s death in 2009 played “a very big role” in bringing Tatum and her father closer together.
“He told me he’s sorry. He’s all I have in terms of family, and I needed him in my life,” she told PEOPLE at the time. “My dad was absolutely everything to me.”
On Valentines Day in 2018, Tatum paid tribute to her father with a sweet picture of them both that she posted with the caption, “Dear Daddy, Happy St. Valentine’s Day! ♥️ I found a picture of us in better times. I want to tell you that I am me because of you, and I mean all my good qualities.”
During an interview with the Los Angeles Times in May 2018, Tatum shared how she learned many things from her father, but that she learned about the good things by herself.
“I think my dad got sick of being the caretaker. I think he wanted his own life and his own career and his own stuff. I’m over it now. I wasn’t for a while. He’s never really forgiven me for talking about it. I hope one day, he will be able to let us be close again. It breaks my heart, actually,” she said.
In a related story, Ryan O’Neal opened up about his relationship with Farrah Fawcett ten years after her death from cancer.
Even though the couple split up for a while, Farrah became the woman Ryan loved every day of his life.
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