Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal revealed for the first time in an interview how much practice it took to get those “Love Story” kissing scenes right. The stars also talked about love and loss during their recent Harvard reunion, 45 years after “Love Story.” Watching the now 76-year-old McGraw and 74-year-old O’Neal together makes it evident that the special chemistry between the two actors is still present.
Monday’s reunion at the Ivy League campus was part of a national tour that the former “Love Story” stars are undertaking in order to promote their play “Love Letters,” according to a February 2 Entertainment report. The 1970 “Love Story” movie actors’ new play began with a one-week engagement at Boston’s Citi Shubert Theatre on Tuesday. “Love Letters” is the story about a man and a woman who keep in touch with 50 years of letters.
During their Harvard University visit, which featured MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal arriving in an MG convertible (similar to the one featured in “Love Story”), the couple reflected on their hit movie, their long careers, and the love and loss that both have experienced during the past four decades.
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” laughs O’Neal when asked what love is all about. Of course, “Love Story” fans know all too well that O’Neal is referring to those words that working-class Radcliffe student Jenny (played by MacGraw) told that Harvard prep Oliver when she was dying.
Ali MacGraw, who says that nobody ever expected “Love Story” to become so famous and that she was stunned herself, laughs when O’Neal shares that his lips were all bruised from the” test kissing” they had to do for the movie. “Oh please,” she says as O’Neal appears to be completely serious.
O’Neal says “this is true, I swear to God.” To which MacGraw answers surprised and in a serious tone, “Really?”
Since “Love Story,” both Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal lived true-life tragic love stories. O’Neal lost the love of his life, Farrah Fawcett, from cancer in 2009, and he himself was diagnosed with leukemia and prostate cancer in 2001 and 2012. McGraw had to face alcohol addiction and shared her treatment at the Betty Ford Center in her recent autobiography, Moving Pictures.
“The role of Jenny in ‘Love Story’ brought Ali MacGraw stardom. She married producer Bob Evans and bore him a son, but after two years she left Evans for Steve McQueen. McQueen was a troubled man who longed to live simply, almost reclusively, with his wife barefoot and pregnant. At his insistence MacGraw gave up acting at the peak of her fame, making a decision from which her career never recovered. When the tumultuous marriage ended after six years she was not much in demand, and what acting she did, for example in television’s ‘Dynasty’, was ridiculed – justly, she felt. A lifelong pattern of destructive love affairs continued and her depression was abetted by unacknowledged alcoholism.”
Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal say in agreement that having lived a life of love and loss has made them “sadder.” MacGraw says that “It’s the reality of life and as we get older, this is more and more part of the story.” Looking back at “Love Story,” his new play “Love Letters,” and his own life, O’Neal comments that “there is a feeling, that great love stories, they don’t end up together. That’s the heartbreak of love.”