Ryan and Tatum O'Neal on Reconciling: It's 'Tenuous'

Father-daughter duo Tatum and Ryan O'Neal reconcile after 25 years.

ByABC News
June 16, 2011, 9:43 AM

June 16, 2011 -- A reconciliation 25 years in the making is still tenuous, Tatum and Ryan O'Neal said today on "Good Morning America."

"It is, of course it is," Ryan said of he and his actress daughter's recent efforts to repair their relationship after a highly publicized, and highly dramatic, estrangement.

"It's a work in progress," Tatum, 47, added on "GMA." "Relationships are tricky."

A relationship so tricky that the Hollywood father-daughter duo found their best hope for reconciliation not in private, but under the bright lights of reality television.

The result is "Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals," a "docu-series" debuting this Sunday, June 19, on The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

"Let's have the conversation in a work setting and we'll find our way back that way," Tatum told "GMA" of their decision to open their lives once again.

"It was a way back when there weren't many paths," Ryan said of the show as a way to repair the father-daughter bond strained more than two decades ago after the "Love Story" actor left Tatum's mother, actress Joanne Moore, and began a stormy love affair with actress Farrah Fawcett in the mid-1970s, when Tatum was 15.

The documentary takes on those old wounds in the first episode, with Tatum saying, "He went to go live with Farrah, and I was just a kid. When I was 19, I ended up moving to New York. I was done being my dad's daughter."

In one emotional scene, Ryan, best known for his Oscar-nominated role in the 1970 tearjerker "Love Story," tells his side of moving out of the house where he lived with his daughter to move in with Fawcett.

"[Tatum] felt I had abandoned her and gone on off with Farrah which is somewhat true," O'Neal is shown saying in the OWN documentary. "I was so in love with Farrah that I was blind, and so yeah, she got left at the curb but I always said just stay at the curb, I'll be back."

"I thought I had all the pride," Ryan told "GMA" of what went wrong in his relationship with his daughter. "That broke our communication. We didn't have it so we drifted away from each other, unhappily of course."

In an interview on "LIVE! with Regis and Kelly" set to air Friday, for the first time, Ryan says he was in denial about his relationship with his daughter.

"It got a little bit raw at times and things that had been left unsaid -- but not for long, just twenty odd years -- suddenly were being said, and I was in denial, lots of denial," Ryan revealed.

'To Hell and Back'

So began a 25-year estrangement that left the father and daughter with only sporadic communication between them as they each endured their own hardships.

"If you're apart, you're apart," said Tatum. "He has his reasons and I have my reasons."

During their time apart, Tatum fell into a spiral of drug addiction that left her in-and-out of treatment and which caused her to lose custody of her three children with ex-husband John McEnroe.

In June 2008 she was arrested for illegally trying to buy crack cocaine off the streets near her Manhattan apartment. She pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with the arrest and agreed to attend a drug-treatment program.

"I feel like I've come from hell and back," Tatum said on "GMA." "Now I'm just trying to live with as much love in my life as possible.

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Ryan, in the years apart, continued an on-again, off-again relationship with Fawcett, with whom he has a son, Redmond, and faced his own troubles with substance abuse, illness and violence.

In 1983 the actor allegedly knocked out several of his son, and Tatum's brother, Griffin's teeth and, in 2007, he made headlines again when he fired a shot at Griffin, whose pregnant wife was hit in the head with a fireplace poker during the melee.

In 2001 he was treated for, and recovered from, chronic myelogenous leukemia.

While apart, neither was shy about discussing past grievances and their tumultuous past.