Paul Dooley may have been a lovable dad on-screen like in Sixteen Candles, in real life he was estranged from his children for a long time.
In the recently released memoir, Movie Dad: Finding Myself and My Family, On Screen and Off, the actor, 94, claimed he suddenly lost contact with his daughter Robin and son Adam, via Page Six.
At the time, Dooley had divorced the children’s mom — his second wife, whose name he does not reveal — and would see Adam and Robin on a “regular basis,” including one month every summer.
However, the actor shared that after a “great summer,” he found a letter from his ex-wife in his mailbox which allegedly delivered some sad news for him. It read, “I’m leaving. I’m taking the kids. We’re not coming back.”
“I was devastated,” he told Page Six in an exclusive interview. “Naturally, I was in shock and I couldn’t believe my ears and I kind of was in denial and I thought, surely this won’t continue.”
Ironically, it was during this period of despair, Dooley was cast in movies in which he played fathers in, including Breaking Away, Sixteen Candles and Runaway Bride.
“I thought that was really strange,” he shared. “And I ask myself, what is it about me that makes me seem so fatherly? And I thought, having lost my children and having missed them, the yearning for them becomes so much a part of me that it could actually be felt by an audience.”
In the book, Dooley mentions that he hired private detectives to find his children but called off the search a year later because he didn’t want to ‘traumatise’ his kids another time.
“That might have traumatised them in such a way they’d never get over it, you know, probably hate me.’ So, I had to decide that I’m going to bite my tongue and see what happens.”
However, his kids reconnected with him 10 years later when they were around 18 years old. Dooley wrote in his memoir that his son reached out to him after finding his number in the New York phone book and the two arranged to meet in a hotel room.
“I did that because a reunion could have been traumatic for him,” he penned. “For me, it was more of a celebration. Within days he moved into my apartment. Our reunion was complete.”
According to the outlet, Adam now lives near Dooley in California. And while Robin lives on the East Coast, she makes regular trips to see her dad. Moreover, since 1984, the actor has been happily married to screenwriter and dramatist Winnie Holzman, with whom he shares daughter Savannah.