Ryan O’Neal


  1. Keir Dullea, Bunny Lake Is Missing, 1965.    Producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger refused the studios demand for O’Neal and Jane Fonda (orAnn-Margret).Andinsisted upon the dullDullea and Carol Lynley.
  2. John Philip Law, The Sergeant, 1968.     Passed on having a hostile homosexual encounter on-screen with Rod Steiger.
  3. Al Pacino, The Godfather, 1971.
  4. Alain Delon, Scorpio, 1972.   Producer Walter Mirish fancied O’Neal and Rod Steiger for the spy thriller. His bombastic UK director Michael Winner insisted on Delon and Burt Lancaster – all three of them were Scorpios.

  5. Robert Redford, The Way We Were. 1973.  
    But then the Barbra Streisand-O’Neal What’s Up Doc went belly up. So did their affair…  and La Barb set her orbs on RR. When Redford played hard to get, Warren Beatty, Ken Howard, even Ryan O’Neal, were on producer Ray Stark’s new short list. They both made it clear. She:  “Redford – or no film.” He: “Sydney – or no film.”  “Bob was never ‘work’ in my mind,” said his director pal, Sydney Pollack. “We were co-conspirators, really, trying to understand Hollywood. I had a hunch Bob and Barbra would be magical together… She had a crush on him.” And RR was worried about her as a serous actress. “She had never been tested. I told Sydney: She will direct herself.”  Or as his agent Steffi Phillips summed up the enterprise, it an escalation of Sydney’s insecurity on top of Redford’s insecurity on top of Barbra’s inexperience.”  “I thought it was a good script, but he was, I felt, one-dimensional,”explained Redford. He was no happier after the first preview.  “I think we’d both have preferred a more political, Dalton Trumbo-type script, but finally Sydney came down on the side of the love story. We trusted his instincts, and he was right.” Barb licked her wounds and…  went back to O’Neal for  for The Main Event, 1979. More of a TKO.

  6. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.      The idea was fair – a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Eastwood, Richard Burton, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck.. Pus four of Katharine Kate’s previous co-stars – Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn – and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!).  (McQueen turned down her Grace Quigley in 1983).   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree.”

  7. Giancarlo Giannini,  L’Innocente, Italy-France, 1975.  Alain Delon rejected his beloved but ill  Luchino Visconti …  “I didn’t want to see Visconti diminished – in a wheelchair.  I loved and respected him too much for that.”  So no Delon and (ex-lover) Romy Schneider (a Visconti favourite… as, of course, was Delon).  No Ryan O’Neal and Julie Christie, either.  Nor Charlotte Rampling, another Visconti  favourite. He made do with Giannini and Laura Antonelli for what proved his 21st and final film. Folllowing a stroke, he died in 1976, ten months after the premiere at the ‘75 Cannes festival.

  8. Malcolm McDowell, Voyage of the Damned, 1975.  In a Nazi propaganda exercise – “Nobody loves Jews – so leave them to us”- Germany ships Jews to Havana, in the full knowledge that Cuba won’t accept them. Nor will any other nation. They return home, by which time WWII has begun, and of the 937 passengers, more than 600 die in concentration camps!  ThIs is no retread of Katharine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools, although similar and both featuring José Ferrer and Oskar Werner (in his final film here). No, this is a terrible true story, stuffed with stars, too many to deal with. Denholm Elliott has one scene, Orson Welles, four; luckier than the jettisoned Janet Suzman and Jack Warden.  A good guy this once, Malcolm McDowell was among the crew instead of (take a breath)… fellow Brits Jon Finch, Anthony Hopkins, Simon MacCorkindale, Ian McShane, John Moulder-Brown. Martin Potter and Hollywood’s  Keith Carradine, Jeff Conaway, Raul Julia, Martin Kove, Joe Mantegna, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford, John Ritter, John Travolta, Jon Voight.  
  9. Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.
  10. Sylvester Stallone, Rocky,  1976.

  11. Nick Nolte, The Deep, 1976.   Richard Benjamin (who successfully switched from comedy to drama  inWestworld In 1973),  Jeff Bridges,  Paul LeMat,  Ryan O’Neal and Jan Michael Vincent were on casting directors Mike Fenton and Jane Feinberg’s list for  David Sanders. Plus TV star David Groh which led to people thinking of their TV favourites…  like Chevy Chase leading, inevitably, to Nolte – “the hottest thing on television,” said producer Peter Guber’s diary.
  12. Christopher Reeve, Superman, 1977.
  13. Jon Voight, The Champ, 1979.     Ryan wanted to co-star his son, Griffin,and repeat “the same gimmick,” as Italian director Franco Zeffirelli called it, of Paper Moon, made with daughter Tatum.
  14. Steve Railsback, The Stunt Man, 1980.    O’Neal was booked, Jeff Bridges and Martin Sheen campaigned, but Richard Rush fell for Railsback after his electrifying Charles Manson in Helter Skelter, TV, 1976.  
  15. Richard Chamberlain, The Thorn Birds, TV, 1983.    Hollywood jumped on Colleen McCullough’s  Australian Gone with the Wind when it  started selling 33 million copies in 1977. Tara was now Drogheda, an outback sheep farm, Scarlet was the poor Meggie and Rhett – well, Rhett was the sexiest priest around until Andrew Scott’s turned on Fleabag in 2019. Herbert Ross was set to direct Christopher Reeve in an epic movie, then Aussie film-maker Peter Weir with Robert Redford.  Ryan O’Neal was next in line. Finally, Chamberlain was Father Ralph de Bricassart In the most successful mini-series since Roots – even though it was all made in California (why not simply re-set it in Georgia?).  Meibourne’s Tristan Rogers (Scorpio in  the  General Hospital soap since 1981)  was briefly considered for the  randy cleric but Bryan Brown was the only Aussie star involved.  His character married the leading lady Rachel Ward. On and off-screen! 
  16. Sylvester Stallone, First Blood (Rambo), 1981. 
  17. Jack Nicholson Prizzi’s Honour, 1984.     “Do I ice her? Do I marry her?” Conundrum for Charley Partanna, hit-man for the Prizzi Family, when he falls for a fellow contractor: Irene Walker. Given the perversity of Hollywood minds, it is, perhaps, no surprise, that O’Neal and daughter Tatum were in the charts for the gun-toting lovers. Huston (who gave his daughter Angelica the better role of Maerose Prizzi), had five more Irenes and ten other Charleys in mind, so whether he ever actually envisaged the O’Neals together as the deadly duo, or to be couple with someone else, has never been explained and confirmed. Nor denied.
  18. Robert Redford, Out of Africa, 1985.     Among the many who had tried to weave Karen Blixen’s novel into a movie was Brit director Nicolas Roeg – aiming at Ryan and Julie Christe.
  19. Robert De Niro, Midnight Run, 1987.   There were 23 possibilites for the lean, mean skip-tracer (tracing felons who skipped bail) – on the run from the  FBI and the Mob after capturing Vegas embezzler Charles Grodin.  Who knew De Niro could be more subtle at comedy than… O’Neal (!), Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rourke, Kurt Russell, John Travolta, Jon Voight and even the musclebound Arnie and Sly – Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Director Martin Brest, that’s who.
  20. Kevin Costner, The Bodyguard, 1992.    “It took two years for my agent to sell the script,” said scenarist Lawence Kasdan, “and67 people passed on it, many of whom are still big names in the business. [Kasdan has this list of names framed in his office hall]. I wrote it for  McQueen. John Calley wasn’t able to get McQueen, but then John Boorman  got involved, which was great fun. He’s a hero of mine. I went to Ireland. We did a treatment for a new movie. He completely changed it, but I still loved him. It was going to be with Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross, but that never happened, either. Costner had read it while we were doing Silverado, before he was a star, and said: “I really want to make this movie.” Six years later, we both produced it.”



 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  20