Tatum O’Neal didn’t want to cut her hair. In fact, she sobbed when she had to chop off her locks for her movie debut in Peter Bogdanovich’s “Paper Moon.”
“It was so sad,” said father Ryan O’Neal, her agent and costar in the film, adding that his daughter’s hair was “her most prized possession.” Though the nine-year-old actress may not have been thrilled with the gamine look, at least she had an assortment of fetching cloches (by costumer Polly Platt) to offset it. In May 1973, the O’Neals spoke about about filming “Paper Moon,” which was released in the following year, and in which they played a father-daughter grifter duo in rural Kansas. A world-weary Tatum said of the experience, “It was alright.” And how was she taking the news that the picture was a critical success? “I feel just the same,” she said. “I’m not proud. I’m just tired.”
“She thought if she could see a movie in a day, it could be made in a day,” her father explained. “The day we finished, she said she never wanted to see a set again.”
Tatum did enjoy a few moments of fun while shooting the movie. She adopted a stray cat that served as her companion throughout filming. And when she wasn’t allowed to join the adults for evening outings, she found a way, hitchhiking into town. Ryan came across her playing the tambourine onstage at a local dance hall. “She told me she’d be going to Lawrence [Kansas] Friday night because she was going to play a gig,” he recalled.
While Tatum may not have been thrilled by her performance, Academy voters liked it enough to give her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress the following year. She remains the youngest person to have won the award.