It's been 46 years since Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal starred in "Love Story," the 1970 blockbuster film based on the best-selling book by Erich Segal.
Now, the actors — she's 76, he's 74 — reunite to tour the country as another loving pair in A.R. Gurney's bittersweet two-hander, Love Letters. They play two childhood friends who maintain separate lives but remain close over the decades through their exchange of letters.
We caught up with the actors on the tour's latest stop, The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, CT. Having experienced their share of romance and commitments — MacGraw married three times and O'Neal married twice — we asked the pair for their relationship advice and if love still means never having to say you're sorry.
Tell the truth: "This takes tremendous guts when you're younger," says MacGraw. "Communicate clearly, without anger and be willing to compromise. Say, 'Here's who I am,' and, 'Here's an area that produces so much pain so please don't go there.' And then say, 'OK, your turn. What would you like me to not do?' I don't want to pretend to read someone else's mind and I know they can't read mine."
Be compassionate and forgiving: "We all screw up sometimes, and over the course of a long life you come to realize that some of those problems weren't the gigantic life-wreckers that we assigned them at the time." Appreciate the love of friends: "I just know that it's possible to have extraordinary friendships," says MacGraw. "I think its easier to maintain a friendship than a romance. That wild passionate piece in romance that sets up jealousy, insecurity and double-talk isn't there with friendships. I'm not in a relationship right now, but I have unbelievable friends: women friends, ex-lovers, gay friends, workplace friends. But what I want from friendship is intimacy. I don't feel like spending my time doing idle air-kisses at cocktail parties. Either I really want to connect, or I'd like to read a book."
"Look before you leap!" O'Neal says immeidately when asked for love advice. Given his checkered history of romances, he began flip and funny, but then he became more reflective. "You want someone who thinks you're funny, who thinks you're strong in bed, who thinks you could be a good father. These are many areas that you have to be prepared to succeed at if you want a strong love that's going to last."
Love does means never having to say you're sorry, says O'Neal. "Ali doesn't believe it, but I do. It just means: 1) You don't have much to say you're sorry for, and 2) If you do, she knows you're sorry.
Be like Ali MacGraw. "I fight with men. I fight with women. I'm just cross all the time," says O'Neal, "but I never fought with Ali. Never had a sharp word. She is so easy to get along with. She's very much as she looks: so endearing. I was mad she married some of the men she married. But never at her. ... And I had such as crush on her when we made the movie. We shot the film in chronological order so the last scene of me saying goodbye to her at the end was real. I knew, since she had a husband, it was the end of ever having that intimate relationship with her again. Until 46 years later. It came around again. It doesn't always, but it did this time."