Ali MacGraw and Ryan O Neal have reunited in a touring production of Love Letters, which opened in Beverly Hills Wednesday night

By Linda Marx
Updated October 16, 2015 01:05 PM
David Livingston/Getty; Inset: ITV/REX Shutterstock

As Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal reunited on stage this week to continue their national tour of Love Letters, they were delighted that their original Love Story film director, Arthur Hiller, came to watch them perform.

“He is a wonderful director who really made Love Story work,” O’Neal, 74, tells PEOPLE of the blockbuster 1970 film helmed by Hiller, now 91.

“We haven’t seen him for years, and it was wonderful to reunite and know that he came to watch us perform together here at the Wallis,” he continued, referring to The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.

Forty-five years later, the actors who loved and wept in Love Story, which became one of the highest grossing films in U.S. history, are touring the U.S in Love Letters, the critically acclaimed Broadway play by A.R. Gurney.

The stars, who opened their year-long tour of Love Letters in Fort Lauderdale in July, play a couple from similar backgrounds who meet while they are young yet take different paths in life. Throughout a 50-year friendship, marriages and families with other people, they can’t let go of that initial chemistry.

In real life, the spark between these two accomplished actors has not waned.

“The chemistry between Ryan and me has not changed,” MacGraw, 76, tells PEOPLE, reiterating comments she made this summer. “We have been friends for 45 years and the opportunity to do a national tour together is a giant gift.”

In Love Story, O’Neal and MacGraw played Ivy League college students from completely different backgrounds. They fell deeply in love, married and were about to start a family when they learned that MacGraw’s character was dying of cancer.

The script of Love Letters also offers audiences a large dollop of emotion, and the actors said they felt blessed to see friends and family in the audience during their Beverly Hills run, including O’Neal son’s Patrick and actress Katherine Ross.

The pair are enjoying the opportunity to work together again, even if there isn’t a great deal of spare time to catch up.

“We are incredibly grateful to be able to act together after all of these years, but we work on stage until 9:30 or 10 p.m.” says MacGraw. “After that we are tired, plus the end of the play is taxing emotionally.”

Agrees O’Neal: “We stagger back to the hotel and give each other a kiss good-night then go to bed.”

After two weeks of performances in Beverly Hills, the actors will travel to Boston, Hartford, Fort Myers, Dallas, Detroit, Buffalo and Baltimore.