Kelly McGillis flew through everyone’s danger zone with her breakout role in the 1986 US propaganda film disguised as a blockbuster Top Gun. Making a massive splash as Charlie, the flight instructor and love interest to Maverick (other than Goose), where has the actress ended up these days?
A Step Into Her Career
Kelly says she lived a rather lonely and isolated childhood, born in July of 1957 in California’s Newport Beach area, she would go on to live in the LA area before dropping out of high school in 1975.
From there Kelly would pursue her dreams of acting, packing up and heading for New York City to study at the Julliard school, where she would end up graduating in 1983.
A terrible act of violence and assault occurred in 1982, as Kelly and her roommate at the time were both subjected to abuse and assault during a break-in.
This would happen not long after her short-lived marriage to husband and fellow student Boyd Brook in 1981.
Kelly kept pushing on despite the traumatic experience and would land a role in the Oscar-nominated comedy Reuben, Reuben in 1983.
The Danger Zone
Although the film was a success it wasn’t enough to keep her consistently working in Hollywood, pushing the actress back to waiting tables in between stage shows and auditions, soon landing a leading role alongside Harrison Ford in the 1985 classic Witness.
That would become the true push needed, landing her a role in an upcoming feature-length Air Force commercial, Top Gun, alongside a young(?) Tom Cruise.
Top Gun would go on to wild success, reinforcing Cruise and Val Kilmer as leading men, and Kelly McGillis would get her pick of roles as a female lead for the remainder of the 80s.
While she would shy away from the more blockbuster-style films of her Top Gun co-stars, she would get a chance to show off her dramatic skills alongside fellow heavy-hitting up-and-comers like Jodie Foster and Jeff Daniels.
Kelly McGillis and Jodie Foster would both receive praise for their roles in The Accused, with McGillis channeling the rage she felt at her own experience similar to the film’s plot, where a district attorney has to prove that… a girl didn’t want to be assaulted? To think you have to spell that out for some people.
She would sour on acting after her experience with the film Cat Chaser in 1989, leading to a step back from Hollywood, appearing mostly in television movies and features that were less than bearable throughout the 90s.
She would continue taking part in stage productions instead, leading many critically acclaimed on and off-Broadway shows.
The early 2000s would see her leave Hollywood for a hiatus, with the actress going through a divorce in 2002 from Fred Tillman whom she had been married to since 1989.
The two have two kids together and also owned a bar in Key West, Florida where Kelly would meet her girlfriend Melanie Leis. McGillis and Leis would eventually enter a civil union in 2010, only a year after she publicly came out as lesbian. The union would only last a year.
Despite the struggle and turmoil, Kelly would make a return to Hollywood in 2008 with two episodes of drama The L Word before hitting a triple of cult classic horror films with The Innkeepers and Stake Land in 2011 followed by We Are What We Are in 2013.
Though they were all fairly low-budget indie productions, The Innkeepers and Stake Land are especially well regarded by the horror community today, with director Ti West of Innkeepers making the recent X trilogy.
Where is Kelly McGillis Now?
Kelly would continue acting across television films and guest spots on cult series like Z Nation (it’s like the anti-Walking Dead). She would stick to the stage for the most part as well as pursue other venues, notably becoming a licensed counselor for victims of substance abuse.
To date, she still works with those recovering from substance dependence and abuse in her current hometown of Asheville, North Carolina.
While she wasn’t invited back for the blockbuster sequel Top Gun: Maverick in 2022, she seemed to keep good humor about it, saying it. was probably of her aging as opposed to newly cast love interest Jennifer Connelly, who uses the same skin routine as Keanu Reeves.
Though the film’s director would insist this wasn’t the case and that they just wanted to open up new storylines for the characters.
Kelly seems to have settled into a semi-retirement from Hollywood, instead opting to stay and teach the medium in her hometown of Asheville, North Carolina at the New York Studio for Stage and Screen’s local school.
She would experience a scare in 2016 that was all too familiar, with a stalker breaking into the actress’s home while she was out. Thankfully, things were settled quickly and the intruder charged.