MISERY OVER A HAPPY ENDING
When Ryan O’Neal visited Kubrick in England in 1973 to begin work on the period drama Barry Lyndon, he brought Kubrick a print of his upcoming film, Paper Moon, the con-artist-and-kid saga co-starring his daughter Tatum O’Neal (who won an Oscar for the part.)
“It’s a wonderful film,” McDowell said in his Q&A with O’Neal during the event.
“Well, he didn’t think so,” O’Neal replied. “He said, ‘There’s something wrong with the ending. There’s no reason on Earth that this little girl should leave with you. She has a chance at a real family!’
‘So I immediately called [director] Peter Bogdanovich and said we need to change the ending: ‘That’s what Stanley said!’
“[Bogdanovich] was stunned by this,” O’Neal went on. “And [Kubrick] showed me a way we could shoot it in two days, where she doesn’t get in the car and go away with him, and instead she stays with her aunt. I explained all this to Peter and said ‘I’ll do it for free, and Tatum will show up. We’ll do it.’”
Plans for a reshoot were in motion, but Kubrick began to suspect that maybe even his film sense could be off. “Stanley asked if he could see the movie again, this time with some of the crew from Barry Lyndon,” O’Neal said. “He noticed during the course of the screening that people were laughing, and leaned over to me and said, ‘I was wrong. It’s a comedy. She can go with him.’”
A dejected O’Neal told him: “‘Will you call Peter and tell him …?’”
McDowell later asked O’Neal if he had “fun” making Barry Lyndon. “Fun is probably not the right word, is it?”
O’Neal shook his head. “It was a stunning experience. I’m still not recovered,” the actor joked. “He was magnificent. He was breath-taking. I had a man-love for him.”
“Was it returned?” McDowell asked.
“With his black eyes,” O’Neal said.
“Yeah, those black eyes, man,” McDowell agreed.