The early days for O'Neill, who once was a jazz drummer, were the '60s in London, where the celebrated (Burton, Michael Caine) and the soon-to-be-celebrated (the Beatles, Rolling Stones) could usually be found after-hours in a club called Ad Lib. Friendships made there over a pint of ale remained strong even when O'Neill, after working as a photographer with the London Daily Sketch, moved on to the U.S. and became famous himself.
Most of his subjects share one trait, says O'Neill: They're shy and don't communicate easily with the camera. "Robert Redford is the shiest person I've ever photographed," O'Neill adds. "I asked him how he wanted to be shot, and he said, 'Anonymously.' He put on his sunglasses. That's how he'd like to be seen by the public. He's a very, very private man."
One not-so-shy subject was actress Sharon Tate, then pregnant, who cheerfully held baby clothes for a 1969 shot. Ten days later she was slaughtered by the Manson gang in Los Angeles. She had invited O'Neill to the party at which she was later murdered; he had declined due to jet lag.
O'Neill has also become known as the husband of actress Faye Dunaway, whom he met on assignment in 1971 while she was filming Doc. They have homes in London and New York. "I think we're a good team," says O'Neill. "I'm more outgoing. We're opposite in the sense that I like to work fast and make decisions. She'll take forever to make a decision." One decision they did make together: son Liam, now 5.
Dunaway is the family photographer, using a 35mm automatic camera she got as a gift from O'Neill. "I'm not a great one for taking pictures around the house," he says. "I do have to do Christmas and birthdays though—just to make sure they're done right."