Tatum O'Neal Talks About Her Drug Abuse, Chaotic Childhood and Forgiving Estranged Father

Actress talks about her drug abuse and relationship with her estranged father.

ByABC News
June 14, 2011, 9:48 AM

June 14, 2011— -- Academy award-winning actress Tatum O'Neal was once the little girl with the gritty voice and the big attitude in the 1973 movie "Paper Moon" with her father, Ryan O'Neal, starring alongside her. But while everything seemed glamorous on film, off-screen the former child star says her life became "very toxic."

Winning an Oscar at age 9, still the youngest actress ever to do so, Tatum O'Neal told "Nightline" anchor Cynthia McFadden that by the time she was in her teens she was using drugs and alcohol, had been molested several times by family friends and had tried to commit suicide.

"I had already tried to cut my wrists," O'Neal said. "I was 13. I had tried to commit suicide twice already."

In her new memoir, "Found: A Daughter's Journey Home," a follow-up to her 2004 New York Times best-selling memoir, "A Paper Life," O'Neal, 47, openly talks about her addictions, struggles with living in the public eye and her strained relationship with her parents. "Found" is in stores Tuesday.

Read an excerpt of Tatum O'Neal's "Found" HERE.

While her father appeared handsome and charming on-screen, Tatum O'Neal described a rocky relationship with Ryan O'Neal that started when she was still a child.

"In the long scenes, I wanted to make sure my dad wasn't mad at me, and sometimes he was," she told McFadden. "Because I'd miss a take for 30 takes or something, you know, and we had to turn around. I mean, I was difficult at times to work with, I'm sure. You know, I was 8 years old."

Living with her mother, Joanna Moore, and little brother, Griffin O'Neal, for those first eight years of her life had been chaotic and painful. O'Neal's parents had divorced by then and her mother, also an actress, was a drug addict and unable to care for her children though they lived with her anyway.

"We went to the bathroom on the floor," O'Neal said. "We did a lot of crazy things because we didn't have any guidance at all."

Living in a real house of horrors, O'Neal said there were days when she and her brother weren't fed, but they were locked inside the house, played with fire and even jumped off the roof. O'Neal also said that at the time, her mother had a 15-year-old boyfriend, who would beat her.

"It was a hard time," she said. "I lived a hard time. There was, you know, tremendous beatings and no food."

"I did a lot of running away," she continued. "I was just waiting for my dad to save me -- please save me, please, you know, because I was getting hurt. I was getting in trouble. I wasn't going to school. My teeth were rotting. Like, that was really happening, you know, and I was suffering."

Finally, Ryan O'Neal did come to her rescue, she said, and they went everywhere together. It was he who suggested she play the part of Addie in "Paper Moon." Her fearless performance stole the film and won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1974, a stunning moment in her budding career but neither of her parents attended the event.

"I was with my grandparents. My dad was making a movie in Ireland at the time," O'Neal said. "I don't know where my mother was actually...but by then she wasn't even allowed really to be next to me because things had really separated, because now I was my dad's girl. So I couldn't even have invited her if I wanted to. That was where things got really hard."