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Tatum O'Neal returns to the spotlight

Tatum O'Neal
Tatum O'Neal

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PARK CITY, Utah (CNN) -- Tatum O'Neal shot to stardom as the child star of "Paper Moon," for which she won an Oscar. To this day, she's the youngest person ever to get an Academy Award.

But O'Neal had some tough years after she grew up -- few parts, a drug abuse problem, and marriage to John McEnroe, played out in the public eye, that ended in divorce.

But after taking some time to be a full-time mother to her three children, she's been on the comeback trail. Her new film, "The Technical Writer," was shown at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this week.

CNN's Paul Clinton talked with O'Neal about the film and her life.

PAUL CLINTON: So congratulations on having your film in Sundance. What's the title and tell me about it.

TATUM O'NEAL: It's called "The Technical Writer," and it's about an agoraphobic reclusive technical writer who ... it's sort of about him and this married couple that moves in to the building that he lives in, and sort of makes this pact to draw him out of his basement and into a threesome in their marriage.

CLINTON: Oh! So it's your typical Sundance movie.

O'NEAL: Not exactly for the masses.

CLINTON: Now you made a movie last year also.

O'NEAL: Yes I did, "The Scoundrel's Wife," and that just got picked up. And I just made a movie with James Franco. He directed a little short that I'm in with Thomas Jane.

CLINTON: Tatum O'Neal is back!

O'NEAL: That's right, gotta work. Gotta work!

CLINTON: Now, you were gone for awhile.

O'NEAL: Yeah, I had a bunch of kids. Three beautiful kids. Kevin, Sean and Emily. 16, 15 and 11.

CLINTON: And also you had a marriage.

start quoteI'm from an acting family and they say I'm good at it, so I should just keep doing it. end quote
-- Tatum O'Neal on acting

O'NEAL: I was married for 10 years and divorced.

CLINTON: Now, unfortunately being in a position [where you won] an Academy Award at 10 years old, and being Ryan O'Neal's daughter, you lived your life on the world stage. Was that difficult for you?

O'NEAL: I think that it's been good and bad. There's been many good things about it and then there has been some public -- you know -- missteps. And it's a bummer to have it all be public.

CLINTON: Is it of the equation that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?

O'NEAL: I think that everyone has a journey and that mine, unfortunately, just played out on a public stage.

CLINTON: Well, now you're back acting. Is that because you just really want to do it? When you were younger you acted just maybe because you were put into it.

O'NEAL: My dad was an actor. My mother was an actress. My grandparents were an actor and a writer. I'm from an acting family and they say I'm good at it, so I should just keep doing it. I'm really good -- I like it.

CLINTON: So you feel like it's in your blood. This is what you want to do?

O'NEAL: Well this has always been what I wanted to do. But I just needed to grow up. I was 8 years old when I did "Paper Moon." So I needed to grow up and find myself -- which I certainly have over the years. And I needed to work on my technique as an actress so that I had something to fall back on. What you have as a kid is not the same techniques that you need as an adult actress.

CLINTON: Did you take any acting training?

O'NEAL: Oh yeah, yeah. I've been studying in New York for 10 years, actually.

CLINTON: So it's much different acting as an adult than as a kid?

O'NEAL: Totally. Not totally because some people can do it. Some people never take classes. It's just important to practice anything. Whether you're a speed skater or an actor.

CLINTON: Now when you were a child actor did you know all the child labor laws? Did you know exactly how long you had to be on?

O'NEAL: No, no no. They didn't have any of that during "Paper Moon." I worked all night and all day. I missed my three hours of schooling mostly like ... every day. I don't think they enforced [the rules] so well. You know, you probably wouldn't have had the performance either. I didn't audition for it either, and if I had I wouldn't have gotten it probably. Because I didn't act before.

CLINTON: So what's the Sundance experience been for you?

O'NEAL: It's been really fun. I've been having a blast.

CLINTON: It's a lot of work though, isn't it?

O'NEAL: Yeah, but I had some time off. I like it! I'm having fun!

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