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Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Shared Family Tragedy’ Starring Ryan O’Neal

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When Ryan O’Neal died Friday at age 83, the “Love Story” actor’s troubled personal life presented challenges to those who wanted to remember his positive qualities, which his family and his colleagues, included his “deadly combination” of charm, humor, good looks and talent.

It turns out that one of the most surprising but “graceful” tributes to this “complex” Hollywood star came from Francis Ford Coppola, who shared a particularly painful story with O’Neal. In 1986, Coppola’s 23-year-old son Gian-Carlo was killed in a boating accident involving O’Neal’s son Griffin.

American director Francis Ford Coppola attends the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

But on Instagram This weekend, Coppola praised O’Neal’s performances in three of the most memorable films of the 1970s – a decade in which Coppola sealed his auteur status as director of the first two films. Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”.

Ryan O’Neal has passed away, certainly deserving of praise for his excellent work in BARRY LYNDON, WHAT’S UP DOC and PAPER MOON,” Coppola wrote.

But the director then spoke movingly about a loss they both shared, albeit in different ways. “Our families are united in tragedy, which is another expression of love,” Coppola said. “Rest in peace, bless you Ryan.”

Gian-Carlo Coppola died during a production hiatus on his father’s 1987 military drama, “Gardens of Stone.” In the spring of 1986, Gian-Carlo worked as a crew member while the film was filmed in Washington, D.C., as well as in and around Arlington National Cemetery. O’Neal’s eldest son, Griffin O’Neal, played a supporting role as a friend of the film’s protagonist.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Gian-Carlo Coppola and Griffin O’Neal, now 59, decided to rent a speedboat and take it on the South River near Annapolis, in Maryland, according to reports at the time. O’Neal was driving the boat and trying to slip between two slower boats, not realizing one was being towed by the other, according to reports. His 14-foot boat struck the tow cable. While Griffin O’Neal was able to duck to safety, Gian-Carlo Coppola was struck by the tow cable and suffered a fatal head injury.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Actor Griffin O'Neal (R) attends Farrah Fawcett's funeral held at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral on June 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 30: Actor Griffin O’Neal (R) attends Farrah Fawcett’s funeral held at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral on June 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

At first, Griffin O’Neal claimed that Gian-Carlo was driving the boat, as reported by the Washington Post. After it was established that Griffin O’Neal was the pilot, he escaped manslaughter charges in a short non-jury trial, but was convicted of negligent operation of a boat. The Washington Post also reported. He was fined $200 and sentenced to 18 months of probation.

“It was an accident,” Griffin O’Neal said, according to the Post. “I’m so sorry this had to happen. I loved him so much. Ryan O’Neal expressed relief that his son was cleared of manslaughter charges, but said, “Our hearts go out to the Coppola family.” »

The trial received extensive coverage in the tabloid press, which also focused on Griffin O’Neal’s “fast-paced lifestyle” and his turbulent relationship with his father.

According to People magazine, Griffin O’Neal received 27 citations for speeding in 1982, according to the Washington Post. He also spent three days in jail on suspicion of stealing from a Los Angeles parking meter.

In 1983, Griffin and Ryan O’Neal fought and Ryan knocked out two of Griffin’s teeth. The younger O’Neal called police at his Bel-Air home, but then refused to press charges. the Los Angeles Times reported. Two days before Gian-Carlo Coppola’s death, Griffin O’Neal was charged in Arlington County with reckless driving and carrying a concealed weapon, the Washington Post reported.

More than 10 years later, Ryan and Griffin O’Neal were involved in another fight, which led to Ryan’s arrest for assault for firing a gun, although the actor claimed it was legitimate defense and that the charges were dropped. Vanity Fair reported in 2009.

Griffin O’Neal later said his struggle with drug addiction began when he was 9, as his father also used drugs and insisted he try cocaine when he was 11, he said. he told Vanity Fair. Griffin remembers his father being “abusive throughout my upbringing” and said he was “a very abusive narcissistic psychopath.”

For his part, Ryan O’Neal rapparently forbidden Griffin for attending the funeral of his late partner, Farrah Fawcett, in 2009, saying “he’s a bad guy.” Unsurprisingly, Griffin and Ryan O’Neal had been separated for many years. Griffin O’Neal told People in 2015.

As for Gian-Carlo Coppola’s death, Griffin O’Neal asked to be replaced on “Gardens on Stone” by another actor. His acting career was never great, as he also dealt with his substance abuse issues and multiple arrests for driving under the influence, which led to a 16-month prison sentence in 2011.

It is not immediately clear whether Francis Ford Coppola ever had contact with Ryan O’Neal regarding Gian-Carlo’s death. The director dedicated his upcoming film, “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” to his late son.

Coppola’s tribute to O’Neal seemed incredibly sweet to many followers on Instagram. One person wrote: “I have so much respect and admiration for you to write such a kind message knowing the loss you have suffered. Someone else said the message “exemplifies the true practice of magnanimity.” . . may your heart feel the powerful presence of gentleness and peace.

“The fruit of love is forgiveness,” someone else said. “What a beautiful message.”

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