Francis Ford Coppola shares unexpected tribute to Ryan O’Neal after his death… as he says they were ‘united in tragedy’ after Coppola’s son Gian-Carlo was killed in 1986 boating accident involving O’Neal’s son Griffin


The legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has shared an unexpected tribute to Ryan O’Neal, who died December 8 at the age of 82.

The Godfather director, 84, posted a photo of the late Barry Lyndon star from his heyday while complementing his work in iconic films in his caption.

‘Ryan O’Neal has passed, deserving of praise certainly for his fine work in BARRY LYNDON, WHAT’S UP DOC and PAPER MOON,’ the Oscar winner wrote.

He then mentioned a sorrow the two Hollywood icons had shared for decades.  ‘Our families are united in tragedy, which is another expression of love. Rest in peace, bless you Ryan.’

The Outsiders director was referring to a 1986 boating accident involving O’Neal’s son Griffin that claimed the life of Coppola’s son Gian-Carlo at the age of 23. 

The legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has shared an unexpected tribute to Ryan O'Neal; pictured in June 2022

The actor died December 8 at the age of 82; seen in 2014

The legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has shared an unexpected tribute to Ryan O’Neal, who died December 8 at the age of 82. O’Neal’s son Griffin was involved in a 1986 boating accident that killed Coppola’s son Gian-Carlo

The younger Coppola was working as a crew member on his father’s drama Gardens Of Stone in the Washington, DC, area at the time when he and Griffin O’Neal, now 59, decided to rent a boat over the Memorial Day weekend.

O’Neal, who was driving the boat in the South River near Edgewater, MD, tried to glide between two slower moving boats, not realizing one was being towed by the other, causing his boat to run into the tow line between the two vessels.

O’Neal was able to duck for safety, but Coppola wasn’t as lucky. He was struck by the tow line and suffered a devastating head wound  

O’Neal received a minor shoulder injury in the collision

His agent, Barbara Lawrence, told the Washington Post the two men had met while making the film and decided to go boating on the holiday. 

Griffin had a small part in Francis Ford Coppola’s Garden Of Stone, but he dropped out after the accident and left acting a few years later.

The actor, who at first claimed it was Gian-Carlo driving the boat, was later judged not guilty of manslaughter, but he was convicted on a lesser charge of negligently operating a boat. 

He was fined $200 and sentenced to 18-months probation. 

During the trial, Griffin was at times accompanied by his father Ryan in court. 

Gian-Carlo’s girlfriend, Jacqueline De La Fontaine, was on the boat around the time of the crash. She was pregnant and later gave birth to their daughter Gia, now 36.

Like many members of her family, Gia went on to become a filmmaker.

Francis, who has received multiple Academy Awards and won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palm D’Or prize for The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, received condolences and praise for his gracious comments. 

‘A conflicted soul – Francis Ford Coppola – genius of our time- writes beautiful words in his memory,’ commented one fan.

The Godfather director, 84, posted a photo of O'Neal from his heyday complementing his work in iconic films and remembering they were both 'united in tragedy,' referencing the boating accident

The Godfather director, 84, posted a photo of O’Neal from his heyday complementing his work in iconic films and remembering they were both ‘united in tragedy,’ referencing the boating accident

Fans praised the Godfather director for his kindness and grace despite O'Neal's connection to one of his most harrowing tragedies

Fans praised the Godfather director for his kindness and grace despite O’Neal’s connection to one of his most harrowing tragedies

Fans were touched by what they called the director's 'sterling example,'

Francis was called a 'genius of our time'

Fans were touched by what they called the director’s ‘sterling example,’ and called him a ‘genius of our time’

Gian-Carlo Coppola (r) was killed at age 23 while riding in a boat  driven by Griffin O'Neal over the Memorial Day weekend in 1986 while working on Gardens Of Stone with his father.  Pictured here in New York in January 1986 with Roman Coppola, (l) and Francis Ford Coppola

Gian-Carlo Coppola (r) was killed at age 23 while riding in a boat  driven by Griffin O’Neal over the Memorial Day weekend in 1986 while working on Gardens Of Stone with his father.  Pictured here in New York in January 1986 with Roman Coppola, (l) and Francis Ford Coppola 

Francis later said Gardens of Stone 'cost me everything,' and that he would 'fantasize about having not made' the film, admitting 'I wouldn't have lost my son' (Pictured in Beverly Hills with his wife Eleanor and Gian-Carlo in April 1980)

Francis later said Gardens of Stone ‘cost me everything,’ and that he would ‘fantasize about having not made’ the film, admitting ‘I wouldn’t have lost my son’ (Pictured in Beverly Hills with his wife Eleanor and Gian-Carlo in April 1980)

Griffin O'Neal was found guilty of negligence in the death of Gian-Carlo Coppola and sentenced to 18 months probation and a $200 fine. He bowed out of Gardens Of Stone and left acting a few years later  (Pictured in London in 1987)

Griffin O’Neal was found guilty of negligence in the death of Gian-Carlo Coppola and sentenced to 18 months probation and a $200 fine. He bowed out of Gardens Of Stone and left acting a few years later  (Pictured in London in 1987)

‘Francis is a highly evolved human being. We should learn from his sterling example’ admonished another. 

Writer, producer and actress Regina Banali told the Youth Without Youth director, ‘Francis, that is very big of you. I really respect you even more for posting this.’

In a 2020 interview with Vulture, the acclaimed director said ‘There’s one movie I wouldn’t have made because it cost me everything, and that was one of the movies I made at a time when I had to make a movie every year to just keep my house and my household together,’ he stated.

‘I fantasize having not made Gardens of Stone,’ he admitted, adding, ‘I wouldn’t have lost my son.’



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