"We had absolutely nothing in common," says Ali MacGraw when asked about her chemistry with Love Story costar Ryan O'Neal. "He was a California kid, had been a movie star, was athletic."
Ask O'Neal the same question and he says, jokingly, "They had to drag me away from her."
50 years after Love Story opened in February 1971 and became a worldwide phenomenon, the stars agree they had something unique. "We just clicked," MacGraw, 81, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.
O'Neal, 79, concurs: "It was magic."
To mark the film's 50th anniversary, Paramount is releasing a restored limited edition Blu-ray of the romance and both MacGraw and O'Neal will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 12.
For more about MacGraw and O'Neal, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
The film, about preppy Harvard student Oliver Barrett IV (O'Neal) who falls in love with Radcliffe student Jenny Cavilleri (MacGraw) from working class Rhode Island, was a box office smash and turned the two actors into superstars overnight.
It was MacGraw who first read the script and told her boyfriend (and soon-to-be husband), Paramount chief Robert Evans, that she wanted to play the part of Jenny who dies at the end of the film of an undisclosed illness.
But it wasn't until the movie's premiere in Dec. 1970 that she had any idea it was going to be that big. "I had no idea, up until the night we saw it," she says, "and the whole audience was crying at the end."
RELATED: Love Story's Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal Will Be Honored with Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
O'Neal remembers driving by the Village Theater in Westwood, along with a few friends, "to see if there was a line," he recalls. "There was one all the way around the block and when we asked, 'Is this for this show?' They said 'No, it's for the next one.' "
From then on, he was greeted by the soaring theme from Love Story every time he entered a restaurant.
Looking back, MacGraw says, "Suddenly I was a movie star and that's a shocking experience. I think the biggest accomplishment of my life has been that I survived [being] flavor of the year."
One of her favorite scenes is when she and O'Neal played in the snow without any dialogue. "We were making snow angels and crazy stuff so that we'd loosen up and for somebody who doesn't know what she's doing, and that would be me, it's a very big relief because you are not thinking, 'Oh I forgot my line,' " she says.
But it may have been that they were just themselves that made it all work. "The movie still touches people and that's kind of amazing," says MacGraw.
Adds O'Neal: "Sometimes you are just kissed with luck and that's what happened for Ali and I."
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