Tatum O'Neal on Her Dad, Aging and Addiction
By Nicki Gostin Posted Jun 15th 2011 02:35PM
Seven years ago, Tatum O'Neal published 'A Paper Life,' a shockingly honest memoir in which she recounted her Hollywood childhood, dysfunctional relationship with her father Ryan and her descent into drug addiction which caused her to lose custody of her three children with ex-husband John McEnroe. Now O'Neal, 47, has released 'Found: A Daughter's Journey Home,' and in it she recounts her near-relapse into drugs, a life-altering arrest and her attempt to repair a fractured relationship with a man stuck in the past. O'Neal opened up to me about her frayed ties with Ryan, plus her motivation for spending more time with him ("he's getting older and all alone" since Farrah Fawcett's death) despite his lack of a filter and history of hurting her. "He's only comfortable, I would say, with women who are much younger and so in some way I must threaten him," she said. "My Dad's chosen to be in a certain time zone and not evolve past it."
We also get into other ways she's repaired her life, including "amazing" relationships with her kids, overcoming her problem with other women, her prayers for half-brother Redmond and how her 2008 arrest for crack cocaine possession "embarrassed me enough to scare me straight."
How are you?
Getting through the day with book signings and interviews and interviews and more interviews.
Do you get sick of talking about yourself?
I do. I am already, but that's okay because I want to help sell the book.
It's about a journey. It's about finding yourself and also going home and finding what was your home, can it be again? What does it mean to be a daughter and what does it mean to be a daughter alone in the world? It's hard to put into five words or less. It's also about checking in with your parents. My life is kind of full and fun but you know my Dad is getting older and there's that thing where, 'Hey I guess I should go see my Dad because he's getting older and he's all alone.' It's not just that I wanted to rekindle a relationship it's like who does he have?
I loved your first book but I really loved this one because it was so personal. It was really brave of you to share so much.
It is very personal. Thank you for saying that. I really, really appreciate that. Both books were difficult to write and this book was difficult to write for different reason. Number one, I was rushed because I was shooting the show with my Dad and number two, I wanted to be honest but at the same time I didn't want to disrupt the relationship I was forming with my Dad. We shot the show and I tried to get the outcome I was hoping for, like a good outcome, but the problem is sometimes his behavior stopped me from being able to write truthfully because some of the stuff doesn't make him look good.
I interviewed you for your first book and you seemed so angry. You sound like a completely different person.
Oh, I am. I am such a different person. I really am in a different place. I think I really was angry. I think that has a lot to do with why I kept on using drugs. I think that does kind of precipitate trying to change the way you feel because it's not fun to feel angry all the time but I apologize.
No, no you were not rude. I just hear in your voice now how much happier you sound.
Well I'm sure I was defensive because that's how I grew up to be. I've definitely changed about a billion percent.
Have you forgiven your Dad?
I forgive him all the time. He doesn't stop doing the stupid stuff but at the same time I have a boundary now. I have conditions and things that I kind of had to learn growing up away from him to be the woman that I am and want to be. I realize in going back to my Dad that I am the oldest female that he hangs around with so he's not hearing conversations that are relevant or about women in his age group. He's only comfortable, I would say, with women who are much younger and so in some way I must threaten him. That's just so weird that my Dad's chosen to be in a certain time zone and not evolve past it. It just seemed the right time to check in with my Dad, I don't know.
It's good but again I'm always trying to make sure he doesn't cross boundaries. He seems to have no boundaries with conversations with me, or trying to get me to do stuff. It has to do with him thinking I'm 10 and he can do whatever he wants.
I think when people are famous for a really long time they lose touch with reality.
Oh my God, that is so true. I mean he's the only long term movie star I've been around -- I think he only thinks of himself as a movie star. He couldn't figure out I had to go to school and the responsibility to take care of me. It didn't register at all.
When you had your big rift with your Dad when he moved in with Farrah, I also think that was because he couldn't cope with you as an adolescent.
You are dead on, so congratulations. Factoring before Farrah, which nobody really knows, I was turning into a woman before he met Farrah and things were going to shit, I mean they were really turning badly so he found an escape with Farrah and he took it and that's fine and we (her and brother Griffin) made it the best way we could. But it was absolutely his inability to deal with me as a young woman and to hear me and to accept me and it was a very difficult time for me. He was my primary parent and I hadn't anyone else in my life. The people I did have hurt me a lot so when I got to him I was very dependent on him.
How is your relationship with your kids?
My relationship with my kids has always been amazing. It was just the times when I was using drugs. It was just very, very painful and there was a lot of disruption but it couldn't be better. My son Kevin hosted a book party dinner for me last year. He's a novelist and my son Sean lives with me in L.A. and my daughter Emily is in college in San Francisco.
You write about how you always had trouble making female friends. Has that changed?
Completely. I realized at a certain point the profound effect that women could have on me. That it was okay to let myself feel like a woman, that I could learn, that I could be loved, that I could love. I was completely shut down, I was scared because I had been so hurt. It took that long, now I've got so many women around me. I'm doing so many things now that if I can in my own little way in helping women get sober or women who have been in abusive situations.
You say that getting arrested for buying crack cocaine in 2008 was the best and worst thing that happened.
It stopped me from going on the run that I could have gone which could have killed me and it also embarrassed me enough to scare me straight. It also had a more profound effect and I'm still trying to figure out what that was besides stopping me from using. It was some sort of God moment and I'm still trying to work that into how it fits into my life. But it was a big moment there and I think it has to do with having the worst thing happen to you and being made an example of and teased by the media and then walking through it with dignity and grace and being okay. It's not like I'm a bad person, I didn't try to hurt anyone, I just tried to do something illegal that hurts myself and ultimately hurt my kids.
I love that Cher was your fashion icon growing up.
Fashion is the last thing I have. I drink coffee and I love clothes so that means I have to keep working. Thank God I have something I love besides my children. I love people who have their own style, that aren't styled by stylists. In the day when I grew up you didn't have girls being styled going out to events, they styled themselves. I think it's interesting to have your own take on how you look. How you look is an expression of who you are in a big way.
I loved how you talked about aging gracefully.
Man are people going to town with their faces like ... what the hell? I can't stop staring at a certain older actress when I go to the gym. I want to say, 'Why are you showing your ass?' I think because I grew up with my mother who had severe aging issues, I wanted to understand it and be as okay with it as I can. I don't want to ever deform my face.
So no botox?
If the time comes when botox is needed I don't mind doing it but the later I wait the better. I'm not 1000% against it because a little goes a long way but at the same time people know my face, I don't want to ever be unrecognizable where people are like, 'What the hell?' There was a time in my life where I was and that was when I was on drugs and I'd lost so much weight and no one recognized me. It was a really scary time for me. Friends didn't recognize me. I don't want to perpetuate the idea that it's better to be young than grow into my 47 year-old self and try and back pedal to my 27 year-old self. I'm a much better woman now.
Everyday we pray for him. We believe he's doing okay. I haven't seem him in a bit. Everyone's on their own path and I just pray for him that he wants to get sober and that I don't know for sure. I hope he does.
More Q&As From Nicki Gostin: Neil Patrick Harris, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Ferrell and Paul Reiser
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