Movie Talk

‘Love Story’ stars reunite for Paramount Pictures’ 100th anniversary

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Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw - Then & Now (Photo: Paramount Pictures/MPTVImages.com)

Turning 100 means never having to say you're sorry.

Paramount Pictures, the last Hollywood movie studio to still be located in the actual area called "Hollywood," celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.  To mark the occasion, 116 actors, directors, producers and executives from the studio's history gathered for one photo for Vanity Fair magazine.

The event brought together some of the biggest box-office stars and most honored actors alive, from legends like Kirk Douglas and Mickey Rooney to fresh faces like Shia LaBeouf and Julianne Hough. There were three captains of the Starship Enterprise (William Shatner, Patrick Stewart and Chris Pine). And standing in the middle above them all were Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw, the stars of 1970's "Love Story."

[Exclusive: Interactive version of the Paramount anniversary photo]

It was only the second time in the last decade that O'Neal and MacGraw have reunited (they appeared on "Oprah" in 2010 to mark the film's 40th anniversary).  MacGraw, now 73, left California for New Mexico in 1994 after a wildfire destroyed her home. She devotes most of her time now to animal rights activism, but she told Yahoo! Movies that she was honored to be invited back to take part in the photo alongside her "Love Story" costar.

In an email interview, MacGraw said, "It was more than thrilling... and incredibly nostalgic.. to be a part of that extraordinary gathering of actors who had worked for Paramount, as I had. It seems utterly unbelievable to me that Ryan and I did 'that film' together so many, many years ago (when it feels like yesterday), and that we were privileged to take part in such a significant 'Graduation Picture' with all of those amazing actors."

Click to see an exclusive interactive version of the anniversary photo

The photo places MacGraw and O'Neal at the center of the collected group, standing high above the rest of the luminaries.  It's an appropriate placement, because without the success of their movie 42 years ago, there might not be a Paramount Pictures today.

By the mid-1960s, Paramount Pictures was floundering. It had suffered a string of expensive and embarrassing flops like the Lee Marvin/Clint Eastwood musical (yes, musical) "Paint Your Wagon." Paramount's parent company Gulf+Western was on the verge of dumping the entire film studio. But then young head of production Robert Evans convinced the board that they had a hit on their hands with the movie based on a runaway bestselling novel called "Love Story."

Author Erich Segal originally wrote "Love Story" as a screenplay, but after it was rejected by several studios he turned it into a novel. Evans, who was married to MacGraw at the time, greenlit the movie version with his wife in the lead (though, at age 31, she was already six years older than her character lived to be).

"Love Story" was a smash hit, bringing in over $100 million in the U.S. (in 2012 dollars, that's over $550 million, slightly less than "The Avengers" has earned).  It also received eight Academy Award nominations, including nods for MacGraw and O'Neal, and won the Oscar for Best Original Score. More importantly, it established Paramount Pictures as a leading studio again. It went on to make some of the most successful and acclaimed films of the era: "The Godfather," "Chinatown," "Paper Moon," "Harold and Maude," "The Conversation," "Marathon Man," and "Saturday Night Fever."

[Photos: 15 stars who are older than you think]

The years following "Love Story" saw tumultuous times for both MacGraw and O'Neal. Both have had turbulent relationships and other personal struggles that made them the target of public scrutiny. The 71-year-old O'Neal announced earlier this year he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and USA Today reported in May that he successfully underwent treatment for the disease (O'Neal declined our request for comment).

MacGraw concluded that the reunion with her costar for the anniversary picture was more than just another photo shoot for her: "Frankly, I felt very emotional about the whole experience, and it brought back life-changing memories for me."

Watch a behind-the-scenes look at shooting the Paramount anniversary photo:

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