Tatum O’Neal. A Paper Life. New York: HaperCollins Publishers, 2004.
Tatum O’Neal filmed the movie “Paper Moon at age 8 and became the youngest person to win an Academy Award. She had met the director Peter Bogdanovich at her father Ryan O’Neal’s home. Ryan was starring in “A Paper Moon”. Bogdanovich thought Tatum’s “scrappy attitude” was what the role demanded. Ryan O’Neal has admitted he was a poor father and stated he hoped Tatum’s performing in the movie “would give her something she never had enough of --- love.” O’Neal discovered that memorizing lines at age 8 was difficult. She ad-libbed some things, such as when she was given water by a minister, she poured the water out, as she felt that was what her character would do.
“A Paper Moon” didn’t bring her love, she states She grew up abused, married a husband who had tantrums, became depressed and developed chemical dependencies.
Tatum’s parents were both actors They divorced after a tabloid told of Ryan’s affair with Barbara Perkins. Tatum lived with her mother. Her mother had her own problems and would take young Tatum to bars. Her mother often neglected Tatum and her brother Griffin. Ryan finally took Tatum away away with him but left Griffin with the mother,
Tatum O’Neal seldom went to school and could barely read at age 8. She found it difficult to memorize lines as she had trouble reading them. She claimed she didn’t like to rehearse so shoe would get “slate”, a statement that surprised Ryan and made him wonder where she learned that.
Tatum understood her part and identified with her character in “Paper Moon”. Her character smoked, yet they used lettuce rather than tobacco.
A line was changed from “Dentyne” to “Juicy Fruit gum” when it was realized Dentyne did exist in the 1930s, when the movie took place It took about 24 shots until 4 am for Tatum to get the new line correctly.
On Oscar night, Tatum’s grandparents took her. Ryan remained in England. Only Madeline Kahn, who was also nominated, attended from the movie “Paper Moon”. There was no celebratory party after her Oscar win. She di not hear from her mother and felt abandoned.
Tatum was next cast in “The Bad News Bears”. Tatum had earned $16,0000 making “Paper Moon” which grossed about $50 million. For “The Bad News Bears she was paid a record amount for a child actor of $350,000 plus a profit percentage, She learned how to pitch a baseball as she played a pitcher in the movie. She pitched daily for three months.
New laws required a tutor on the set, which she did not like.
When “Bad News Bears” drew more of an audience that did “Barry Lyndon”, which Ryan O’Neal starred in, Ryan got up and punched Tatum.
Sue Menger was Tatum’s agent. Tatum attended many of Menger’s parties where she met many actors and observed some of their drug usage.
Tatum appeared on Cher’s TV show Tatum finagled her way into staying with Cher for a few weeks.
Tatum became friends with 18 year old Melanie Griffin. She felt betrayed when her father started having sex with Melanie Griffin. Her father eventually kicked Melanie Griffin out and told Griffin to take Tatum with her. Tatum believes she stayed with Griffin for awhile because Griffin didn’t know what else to do with Tatum. Tatum eventually left and flew home on her own.
Tatum was glad to be cast in the movie “International Velvet” as it was filmed in England and she could be away from her father. She enjoyed filming the movie as the cast got along. She lost her virginity to a stuntman shortly after getting her first period. Tatum was upset that her father attended the movie premiere with a man she had told her father had molested her when she was younger.
Tatum next filmed the movie “Little Darlings”. She didn’t make any friendships on the set and mostly stayed in her room in-between takes.
When Tatum was hospitalized six weeks after a car accident where she had several skin grafts, the only “loving visit” she had was actor Walter Matthau. Her father did not visit. While hearing at home, she writes her father through her a script with the comment “You could do this piece of shit movie.” She did It was “Circe of Two” with Richard Burton. She felt “forced” to film a nude scene and was limping from her accident through the shoots. Richard Burton was nice but would get crude after drinking too much.
Her father left her, at age 16m with her 15 year old brother to move in with his girlfriend actor Farrah Fawcett. Her father even stated in “Vanity Fair” that “I had to make a choice between Tatum and this girl, and I chose Farrah. Tatum made me choose. I said that’s a bad idea. I sleep with this girl, Tatum, I don’t sleep with you.”
Tatum was in the move “A Certain Fury” directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal. Her father came on the set and attempted to direct her, which she found embarrassing. She insisted her father be taken from the set.
Tatum had two children with her husband John McEnroe, a professional tennis player. She didn’t appear in a move for three and a half years. She studied acting under Sandra Seacast to regain her confidence about acting. She tried for several movies but did not get them. She did an independent movie “Little Noises”. She then took more acting classes under Sandra Seacast.
Tatum starred in a TV miniseries “Woman on the Run”. Her father told her “you’re a terrible actor” which upset her greatly. It was the highest rated show on TV when it ran. She won for Best Actress at the Monaco Film Festival for this role.
Tatum struggled with drugs. She required several visits to rehab centers.