O’Neal’s son Patrick confirmed his death Friday with a post on Instagram. “This is just so hard for us. Ryan made such an impact and this will be difficult without him. This is and will be a huge void in our lives,” Patrick O’Neal wrote.
O’Neal was one the biggest actors of the late ’60s and early ’70s, on par with Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen and Robert Redford.
Patrick Ryan O’Neal was born on April 20, 1941, in Los Angeles, according to his website. He trained as a professional boxer before landing his first job in television as a stuntman. Later, in the 1960s, he got his first major role on the prime-time soap opera “Peyton Place.”
But O’Neal’s breakout role came with the film adaptation of the best-selling novel “Love Story,” in which he starred opposite Ali MacGraw. The performance garnered him an Academy Award nomination.
“Ryan was a very generous man who has always been there to help his loved ones for decade upon decade,” Patrick O’Neal wrote on Instagram. “I hope the first thing he brags about in Heaven is how 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.”