Love Letters

An Exclusive Interview:
Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw Back Together Onstage in ‘Love Letters’

By Jana Soeldner Danger

Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw

Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw

They were on-screen lovers 45 years ago in a tearjerker film that became a classic. Now Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, stars of the movie Love Story, are together again. They’ll be onstage in Fort Lauderdale this summer in a live performance of A.R. Gurney’s enduring romance Love Letters.

In the 1970 blockbuster movie, the two played Oliver Barrett IV, an upper-class Harvard law student, and Jenny Cavalleri, a working-class classical music student at Radcliff. The two marry despite objections of Oliver’s father, who cuts off his inheritance. They live happily until Jenny is diagnosed with a terminal illness. She eventually dies in her husband’s arms. Love Story was considered by the American Film Institute as one of the most romantic, and highest-grossing, movies of its time.

Love Letters is a very different romance, telling a story of first loves, lost opportunities and second chances. Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (O’Neal) and Melissa Gardner (MacGraw) are two young people from similar backgrounds who take very different paths in life. Although they marry other people, they cannot seem to let go of each other, and they maintain a 50-year friendship through a series of letters. Following a Broadway run, Gregory Mosher’s production of Love Letters will open at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on July 21 and continue through July 26. “It’s
really fun,” MacGraw said.  “Ryan and I have history and chemistry, and we really know each other, so it really rings true.”

“It felt like I was back in Love Story and hadn’t aged a day,” said O’Neal, 74. “It was magic.”

“The project attracted me because it’s moving, believable, a slice of life,” MacGraw said. “The message of Love Letters is much different than Love Story. Does it feel familiar? Yes. But it’s not the same story. This is a grownup take on love. The characters we play had lives, marriages and children. The underlying message is: If only they had said what they were really feeling.”

“It’s a love affair that missed the boat,” O’Neal added wryly.

Reminiscing Love Story
The Hollywood icons have many happy memories of making Love Story – and some not so much. They recalled a scene in Boston dressed in light clothing on a freezing winter day. “They wrapped us in blankets,” MacGraw said. “Then they pulled them off and said, ‘sorry, we have to shoot.’ Our teeth chattered and our hands were turned blue.”

Will acting onstage differ from acting in a movie? “I was onstage once, and it was the most paralyzing performance of my life,” she admitted. “But when it clicks, it’s thrilling. You feel the audience with you, and the experience becomes bigger than just people onstage.”

Could a story like Love Letters happen today in a world of emails and social media? “Letters that are written by hand have a different energy than ones written on a computer,” she said. “There’s an intimacy in them when we take time to really express ourselves. The characters wrote each other all the time; you feel their relationship in every single letter.”

“Letters can also be a wonderful way for a writer to tell a story. It’s a lovely theatrical device,” O’Neal said.

If Love Letters is a story of chances missed, would the actors change anything about their own lives? “I never waste my time with regrets,” MacGraw said.

“Doing the play is a real adventure, and we’re so lucky,” O’Neal said.

Tickets to Love Letters are available online at



Love Letters