The Paper Moon star couldn’t deal with the changes his girlfriend of more than 20 years was going through at the time so he found comfort in the arms of younger actress Leslie Stefanson.
O’Neal tells Vanity Fair, “I believe Farrah was going through some kind of life change. I didn’t have a change of life. I was always a jerk. But they’re hard work, these divas; I was sick of it, and I was unappreciated. I just don’t think she liked me very much. So I excused myself, and I was lucky enough to meet this young girl. She was more a daughter to me than a lover, and my own daughter had flown the coop, so here was this replacement.”
The pair subsequently reconnected in 2001 after O’Neal was diagnosed with leukemia. The actor remained by her side throughout her battle with anal cancer up until her death in June.