Love Story co-stars reunite in Cambridge, call Harvard a ‘character in the film’

Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal explain one of the movie’s most important scenes.

—Elise Amendola/AP

More than 45 years after the release of Love Story, one of the iconic romance films of the 20th century, the film’s two stars, Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, returned Monday to the setting of the movie: Harvard University.

The two arrived on the Cambridge campus in a red MG convertible similar to the one that O’Neal’s character drove in the film. They spoke for more than an hour at Harvard’s Kirkland House, lending some insight into what made the film and its location so special.

“A major turnaround point in the story was our walk through Harvard Yard,’’ O’Neal told the audience. “We did a number of takes, and every time we got it right.’’

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Seemingly, the scene O’Neal referred to is when O’Neal’s character, Oliver Barrett, and MacGraw’s character, Jenny Cavalleri, stroll through the campus, and Oliver, in fear of losing Jenny to a study abroad program, suggests that they get married.

“[Harvard] sort of stands for love—the class, the history, the incredible architecture,’’ MacGraw said. “Jenny really was a blue-collar character, and this was like her magic castle. And it’s a layer of Ryan’s character. Generations of his family had gone there. Their money was here.’’

O’Neal and MacGraw spoke fondly of their three months filming in Boston, and while they recalled being extremely busy for most of it, both agreed that part of the film’s spirit lay in its setting.

“[Harvard] was a character in the film,’’ O’Neal said. “Being on the campus, filming on the campus, being amongst the students—it helped a lot.’’

O’Neal and MacGraw will remain in Boston from February 2-7, starring in Love Letters, an A.R. Gurney play that typically features a rotating cast of two well-known actors, at Citi Shubert Theatre.

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June 22, 2017 | 7:46 AM