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Ali MacGraw Remembers Her 'Charming' “Love Story ”Costar Ryan O’Neal After His Death: 'I Shall Miss Him'

MacGraw and O'Neal played a couple in the classic 1970 tearjerker

<p>Paramount Pictures/Authenticated News/Courtesy of Getty; David Livingston/Getty</p> Ryan O

Paramount Pictures/Authenticated News/Courtesy of Getty; David Livingston/Getty

Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw

Ali MacGraw is remembering her Love Story costar Ryan O’Neal, who died Friday at age 82.

"Working with Ryan, all those years ago, was one of the great experiences of my film career, and we remained friends ever after. He was a skilled actor, charming and funny too," said MacGraw, 84 — who played O’Neal’s girlfriend and wife in the 1970 classic romantic film written by Erich Segal —  in a statement shared with PEOPLE this weekend.

She continued, "I know that a huge part of my success was due to his generosity as my co-star. It has been devastating to know just how ill Ryan has been for many years now, and I was not surprised to learn that he had passed away yesterday morning."

MacGraw added that her "heart" went out O'Neal's children and loved ones, before she reflected on her more recent experiences with the late actor.

"Thankfully, he was surrounded by his son Patrick and a small group of lifelong, close friends," she said, adding, "My heart goes out to all four of his children and to the people who loved him most. Ryan and I worked together again several years ago with the road company for Love Letters. It was a wonderful experience, and I shall miss him and the fun we shared……and I pray that he will find Peace at last."

MacGraw starred as working class Jenny Cavilleri opposite O’Neal’s preppy Oliver Barrett IV. The two university students came from different backgrounds, but fell in love and married. Jenny and Oliver were about to start a family when they learned that MacGraw’s character was dying of an undisclosed illness.

<p>Paramount/Getty</p> Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in 'Love Story'

Paramount/Getty

Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw in 'Love Story'

The movie is responsible for millions of tears shed as well as the classic line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

In 2021, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film, the two actors reflected on their relationship and making the movie with PEOPLE.

"We had absolutely nothing in common," MacGraw told PEOPLE when asked about her chemistry with O’Neal. “He was a California kid, had been a movie star, was athletic."

Related: Paying Tribute to the Celebrities Who Have Died in 2023

Despite their differences, "We just clicked," MacGraw, a relative newcomer, remembered. O'Neal agreed, saying, "It was magic."

The script moved MacGraw, but she couldn’t predict how it would go on to become a cultural phenomenon. "I had no idea, up until the night we saw it," she said, "and the whole audience was crying at the end."

O'Neal recalled driving by the Village Theater in L.A.’s Westwood area along with a few friends "to see if there was a line," he said. "There was one all the way around the block and when we asked, 'Is this for this show?' They said 'No, it's for the next one.’ ”

<p>Art SEITZ/Gamma-Rapho via Getty</p> Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal

Art SEITZ/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal

One of MacGraw’s favorite scenes is when she and O'Neal played in the snow without any dialogue, she said.

Related: Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal Reunite to Discuss the 'Fast 50' Years Since Love Story's Release

"We were making snow angels and crazy stuff so that we'd loosen up and for somebody who doesn't know what she's doing, and that would be me, it's a very big relief because you are not thinking, 'Oh I forgot my line,’ ” she recalled.

When looking back on what made Love Story a success, MacGraw credited O'Neal, as well as director Arthur Hiller and other crew members behind the scenes.

"They all knew what they were doing," MacGraw told PEOPLE in 2021. "And so, because I've worked so long behind the camera and loved it, I have huge respect for that part of what makes a movie great. And all the pieces went together."

In 2015, the pair reunited for a production of Love Letters, the critically acclaimed Broadway play by A.R. Gurney, at Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

“It feels so great to be reunited,” MacGraw said at the time. “Our chemistry has not changed. We still feel the same about each other.”

<p>LEE CELANO/AFP via Getty</p> Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal

LEE CELANO/AFP via Getty

Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal

O’Neal agreed, saying, “We are more than friends. She is like my sister, only she had better lock her door at night so I can’t get in there. We have some unfinished business, and we are running out of time!”

The late star said he believed fate brought them together to do the play: “Working together again is a dream come true,” he said. “Ali is an original. She is giving and sensitive to others, and we have never had an argument or cross word all of these years.”

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