Tatum O’Neal, Child Star: Then And Now

Entertainment | January 9, 2019

Thirteen-year-old actress Tatum O'Neal, pictured at the Dorchester Hotel, 25th August 1977. Source: (Photo by Harry Fox/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Tatum O'Neal's performances in Paper Moon (1973) and The Bad News Bears (1976), films she made before turning 13 years old, made her a child star, a critically acclaimed actress and America's young sweetheart. O'Neal was born in 1963, to actors Ryan O’Neal and Joanna Moore, and clearly had acting in her blood. Like many child stars, O'Neal has lived a life of well-documented highs and lows: critical acclaim, addiction, estrangement from family, and a volatile high-profile marriage (to tennis star John McEnroe). Former child star Tatum O'Neal has always fascinated the American public, and continues to do so today.

Tatum O’Neal. Source: (hindustantimes.com)

From the start, Tatum O’Neal was an American sweetheart on the big screen, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1974.

Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon. Source: (bigeddyfilmfest.com)

Tatum O'Neal portrayed Addie Loggins in Paper Moon (1973). O'Neal played opposite her famous father in the now classic movie and was only 8 years old when filming began. Ryan O'Neal portrayed a man who made his living taking advantage of people, and Tatum portrayed a kid turned con artist. Tatum O'Neal won an Academy Award for her role in that film earning her the status of the youngest actor to ever win an award in the history of the Academy, a distinction she still holds. After her stellar performance, she was in high demand in Hollywood.

O'Neal also won a Golden Globe Award for New Star Of The Year (Actress) in 1974.

Tatum O’Neal in Bad News Bears. Source: (youtube.com)

O'Neal's second film, The Bad News Bears, was also a classic, and a highlight of her childhood acting career.

Following her early success, O’Neal went on to star in other films including The Bad News Bears (1976), Nickelodeon (1976) and International Velvet (1978). She was an exceptional child actor so it was no surprise that she kept busy filming in Hollywood.

Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal in Little Darlings. Source: (platinumfallacies.tumblr.com)

Hollywood couldn’t get enough of Tatum O’Neal, and her career continued into young adulthood and beyond.

After O’Neal grew out of "little girl" roles, she went on to star and appear in films including  Little Darlings (1980) and Circle Of Two (1981). That’s also about the time she began appearing on TV shows and series including Faerie Tale Theatre and CBS Schoolbreak Special. It was also around this time that she was known to hang out with Michael Jackson.

John McEnroe and Tatum O’Neal/Wedding. Source: (chron.com)

Tatum O'Neal and tennis star John McEnroe were married in 1986 after dating for two years. In the less than ten years they were together, they had three children.

Tatum O'Neal's later work includes appearances on Sex And The City, 8 Simple Rules and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

In the mid-'90s, following a performance in the Jean-Paul Basquiat biopic Basquiat (1995), Tatum O’Neal took a break from acting. She later began appearing in guest-starring roles on network television beginning in the early 2000s including some highly rated sitcoms and dramas.

Tatum O’Neal on Dancing With The Stars. Source: (photogramas.com)

In 2006, Tatum O’Neal competed on Season Two of Dancing With The Stars, placing No. 9.

Tatum O’Neal and Ryan O’Neal. Source: (nydailynews.com)

O’Neal and her father Ryan suffered a strained and broken relationship that lasted over 25 years. In 2011, they reconciled and briefly starred in a series on Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in a reality show called Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals.

Tatum O’Neal on the Today Show (2018). Source (today.com)

O'Neal's most substantial TV work in recent years has been the lead role on the MyTV series Wicked Wicked Games and a recurring role on Denis Leary's FX series Rescue Me throughout its seven-season run. In 2018, Tatum O’Neal appeared God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness. Although she is still acting, O’Neal has not been without her demons. Throughout her career, she has struggled with addiction, relationship, and social issues. Often child stars find themselves in that same spot. Fortunately, she has overcome many of these and has a bright future. Looking at her today, she still has that same fresh, innocent look she had as a child.

Tags: child star | Tatum Oneal

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.