Kelly McGillis

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Kelly McGillis
Born Kelly Ann McGillis
(1957-07-09) July 9, 1957 (age 60)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.
Alma mater
Years active 1983–present
Notable work Witness (1985 film)
Top Gun
Made in Heaven (1987 film)
The Accused (1988 film)
Spouse(s) Boyd Black (m. 1979; div. 1981)
Fred Tillman (m. 1989; div. 2002)
Partner(s) Melanie Leis (2010–2011) civil union, annulled
Children 2
Website Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery

Kelly Ann McGillis (born July 9, 1957)[1] is an American actress. She has found fame for her acting roles in several films since the 1980s including: her role as Rachel Lapp in Witness (1985) with Harrison Ford, for which she received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, the role of Charlie in the film industry's blockbuster hit Top Gun (1986) with Tom Cruise, and the role of attorney Kathryn Murphy in The Accused [2] (1988), with Jodie Foster.

Early life[edit]

Kelly McGillis was born July 9, 1957, in Newport Beach, California, the daughter of Virginia Joan (née Snell), a homemaker, and Dr. Donald Manson McGillis, a general practitioner of medicine.[3][4]

McGillis was raised in Los Angeles, and attended the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California.[5] After graduating from high school in 1975, she moved to New York City to study acting at the Juilliard School,[6] where she graduated in 1983, Group 12.[5][7]



Her breakout role was that of an Amish mother in the 1985 film Witness with Harrison Ford, for which she received Golden Globe and BAFTA award nominations. Her next high-profile role was that of flight instructor Charlie in the 1986 fighter-pilot film Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer.[8]

In 1987, McGillis acted in the fantasy-comedy film Made in Heaven, directed by Alan Rudolph, which was produced by Lorimar Productions. The film also co-stars Oscar winner Timothy Hutton.[9]

McGillis played the part of caretaker for Miss Venable (Jessica Tandy) in 1988's The House on Carroll Street, which also starred Jeff Daniels, she overhears a suspicious conversation in the house next door and suspects that she's stumbled on a conspiracy to smuggle Nazi war criminals into the United States.[10]

After 1988's The Accused, she appeared in Cat Chaser with Peter Weller, a film she despised and which discouraged her from pursuing an acting career.[11][12] McGillis appeared in dozens of television and film roles throughout the 1990s before taking a break from acting for a few years.

In 1992's The Babe, McGillis played a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl who becomes Babe Ruth's (played by John Goodman) second wife. She prepared for the role by reading Billie Burke's autobiography about her career with the Follies, "With a Feather on My Nose".[13]

In 1999, McGillis co-starred with Val Kilmer (who plays Virgil, a blind man), for a second time as his over protective sister in At First Sight, with Mira Sorvino.[14]

She played the suspect in the disappearance of a young woman starring Susie Porter in The Monkey's Mask, an international lesbian cult film from 2000. The film is based on the verse novel of the same name by Australian poet Dorothy Porter.[15]


While at Juilliard she performed in William Congreve's Love for Love, directed by John Bletchley.[16]

Since her graduation, McGillis has performed live theatre, including classics by Chekov, Shaw, Ibsen, Shakespeare and O’Neill. She has often appeared in starring roles with the Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, DC.[17]

In 2004, she appeared in the stage play The Graduate as Mrs. Robinson, touring the United States.[18] McGillis starred in a Pasadena Playhouse stage production of Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman in May 2009, co-starring with Julia Duffy.[19]

She also appeared in a production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally, which toured the United Kingdom in 2010.[20]

Return to Film and TV[edit]

Personal life[edit]

McGillis married fellow Juilliard student Boyd Black in 1979, but the couple divorced in 1981,[29] she married Fred Tillman in 1989, and they have two daughters.[30] The couple divorced in 2002.[31]

McGillis came out as a lesbian in April 2009 during an interview with SheWired.[32][33] McGillis said that coming to terms with her sexual orientation has been an ongoing process since age 12,[34] and she was long convinced that God was punishing her for being homosexual with a rape incident;[32][33] in 2010, McGillis entered into a civil union with Melanie Leis, a Philadelphia-based sales executive; she and McGillis met in 2000 when Leis was a bartender at the "Kellys' Caribbean Bar Grill & Brewery"[35] in Key West, Florida,[36] which McGillis owned with her then-husband Fred Tillman.[37] The restaurant has been sold since June 2017. Leis and McGillis broke up in 2011.

McGillis worked full-time with drug addicts and alcoholics at Seabrook House Drug Alcohol Rehab Center, a rehabilitation center in Bridgeton, New Jersey, when she and Leis shared a home in Collingswood.[38]

McGillis currently lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina, she teaches acting at The New York Studio for Stage and Screen NYS3 in Asheville, North Carolina.[39]

June 2016 Attack[edit]

McGillis was reportedly assaulted by a stranger who broke into her North Carolina home on June 17, 2016,[40] she said the attack, as well as others she has experienced in the past, has led her to decide to apply for a concealed carry gun permit to protect herself.[41]


McGillis is set to star in crime thriller Annie Cook, which Angel Grace Worldwide will introduce to international buyers at the Cannes Film Market.[42]

McGillis filmed Mother of All Secrets in early 2017 in Bermuda and that trailer has already been released.[43][44]



Year Title Role Notes
1983 Reuben, Reuben Geneva Spofford
1985 Witness Rachel Lapp
1986 Top Gun Charlotte 'Charlie' Blackwood
1987 Made in Heaven Annie Packert / Ally Chandler
1987 Unsettled Land Anda
1987 Santabear's High Flying Adventure Missy Bear (voice) Short
1988 House on Carroll Street, TheThe House on Carroll Street Emily
1988 Accused, TheThe Accused Kathryn Murphy
1989 Winter People Collie Wright
1989 Cat Chaser Mary DeBoya
1989 Rabbit Ears: Thumbelina Storyteller Video short
1991 Grand Isle Edna Pontellier
1992 Babe, TheThe Babe Claire Merritt Ruth
1994 North Amish Mother
1998 Painted Angels Nettie
1998 Ground Control Susan Stratton
1999 At First Sight Jennie Adamson
1999 Settlement, TheThe Settlement Fake Barbara / Ellie
2000 Monkey's Mask, TheThe Monkey's Mask Prof. Diana Maitland
2001 No One Can Hear You Trish Burchall
2001 Morgan's Ferry Vonnie Carpenter
2007 Supergator Kim Taft
2010 Stake Land Sister
2011 Innkeepers, TheThe Innkeepers Leanne Rease-Jones
2011 What Could Have Been Margaret
2013 We Are What We Are Marge
2013 Tio Papi Elizabeth Warden
2014 Grand Street Isabelle
2015 Blue Ms. Hutcherson
2017 Mother of All Secrets Rose Lewis Post-production
2017 Julie Loves to Gamble Victoria Gardner Announced
2018 Annie Cook Annie Cook Announced


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Sweet Revenge Katherine Dennison Breen TV film
1984 One Life to Live Glenda Livingston TV series
1985 Private Sessions Jennifer Coles TV film
1986 Santabear's First Christmas Narrator (voice) TV film
1992 Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal Framing Mrs. Joel McKelvey TV film
1993 Bonds of Love Rose Parks TV Film
1994 In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride & Madness Susie Lynch TV film
1995 Dark Eyes Mila McGann Unsold TV pilot
1995 Remember Me adapted from the novel by Mary Higgins Clark Menly Nichols TV film
1995 Out of Ireland Narrator, documentary film PBS film
1996 We the Jury Alyce Bell TV film
1997 The Third Twin Dr. Jean 'Jeannie' Ferrami TV film
1998 Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister Jamie Marshall TV film
1998 Perfect Prey Audrey Macleah TV film
2000 Wild Thornberrys, TheThe Wild Thornberrys Winema (voice) "Pack of Thornberrys"
2000 Outer Limits, TheThe Outer Limits Nicole Whitley "Final Appeal: Parts 1 & 2"
2000 Buzz Lightyear of Star Command Gorgeous Woman (voice) "Planet of the Lost"
2006 Black Widower Nancy Westveld TV film
2008 L Word, TheThe L Word Col. Gillian Davis "Lesbians Gone Wild", "Lay Down the Law"
2014 Love Finds You in Sugarcreek Bertha Troyler TV film
2014 Z Nation Helen "Sisters of Mercy"
2017 An Uncommon Grace Elizabeth Conner Hallmark Channel

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association


Nominated work Result

1986 Golden Globe

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Witness Nominated



Best Actress

Witness Nominated


Bravo Otto Best Actress

Top Gun



Bravo Otto

Best Actress

Made in Heaven Won

1987 Golden Ciak Best Actress Made in Heaven Won

Bravo Otto Best Actress The Accused Bronze


  1. ^ According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905-1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California, at
  2. ^ "Cover Story: Memoir of a Brief Time in Hell – Vol. 30 No. 20". 1988-11-14. Retrieved 2017-06-29. 
  3. ^ "Kelly McGillis Biography (1957-)". 
  4. ^ "Miss Snell Picks Date". Los Angeles Times. December 10, 1955. 
  5. ^ a b Stark, John (February 18, 1985). "Kelly McGillis Plays the Amish Love of Harrison Ford in Witness—and Kisses Waitressing Goodbye". People. 
  6. ^ McGillis, Kelly (November 14, 1988). "Memoir of a Brief Time in Hell". People. 
  7. ^ Cruz, Alicia (May 23, 2011). "'Top Gun' actress Kelly McGillis working for N.J. rehab, enjoying life". Archived from the original on February 12, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Lesser-known facts about 'Top Gun' that will take your breath away". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2017-05-22. 
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Made in Heaven Movie Review & Film Summary (1987) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2017-06-29. 
  10. ^ "The House on Carroll Street (1988) for Rent on DVD - DVD Netflix". Retrieved 2017-06-29. 
  11. ^ Hasted, Nick (March 29, 2001). "Kelly McGillis: The star who threw herself to earth". The Independent. Archived from the original on October 24, 2011. 
  12. ^ Davis, Steven Paul (2001). The A-Z of Cult Films and Film-makers. Batsford. ISBN 978-0-7134-8704-6. 
  13. ^ Gerstel, Judy (April 26, 1992). "Kelly McGillis takes 'vacation' with 'The Babe'". 
  14. ^ "Val Kilmer - At First Sight - Interview with Mr. Showbiz". 2005-12-21. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  15. ^ Scott, A. O. (2001-07-27). "FILM IN REVIEW; 'The Monkey's Mask'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  16. ^ Stotsky 2000, p. 262.
  17. ^ "Mountain Xpress". Mountain Xpress. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  18. ^ Shana Honig Journalism Student, Syracuse University (2012-07-09). "What Does This 'Top Gun' Bombshell Look Like Now?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  19. ^ "McGillis, Duffy, Lee, Pierson Are Greedy Brood in Pasadena Little Foxes, Opening May 29". Playbill. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  20. ^ "Kelly McGillis Net Worth". 
  21. ^ Greg Archer Author, Journalist (2014-05-29). "Kelly McGillis: 'I Have to Be True to Myself'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-12. 
  22. ^ Kelly McGillis a Top Gun in Stake Land
  23. ^ "Massive Set Visit Report: A Trip to 'Stake Land' - Bloody Disgusting!". 14 April 2010. 
  24. ^ "IFC Infected by Cronenberg's Antiviral - Dread Central". 6 June 2012. 
  25. ^ "Indian Star Rallies Celebrity Support For Cancer Movie". 8 October 2009. 
  26. ^ "Awaken to Another American Horror Story: Asylum Promo Teaser - Dread Central". 14 September 2012. 
  27. ^ "An Uncommon Grace | Hallmark Movies and Mysteries". Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. Retrieved 2017-06-04. 
  28. ^ "McGillis in Mother Of All Secrets". Retrieved 26 May 2017. 
  29. ^ Mottram, James (February 21, 2014). "Kelly McGillis: 'I would cameo in Top Gun 2'". The Independent. Retrieved July 12, 2016. McGillis moved to New York in 1979 to study acting at the prestigious Julliard [sic] drama school, the same year she married fellow student Boyd Black. It was short-lived, the couple divorcing in 1981 
  30. ^ "McGillis leaves Hollywood for Key West". 1993-05-04. Retrieved 2017-05-23. 
  31. ^ "Revealed: How rape made Top Gun star Kelly McGillis walk away from Hollywood". Mail Online. Retrieved 2017-07-01. 
  32. ^ a b Jarchow, Boo (April 30, 2009). "Kelly McGillis Says She's Gay on SheWired's 'Girl Rock'". SheWired. Here Media. 
  33. ^ a b Broverman, Neal (April 30, 2009). "Top Gun Star Comes Out: Not Tom". The Advocate. Archived from the original on May 2, 2009. 
  34. ^ Archer, Greg (2014-05-29). "Kelly McGillis: 'I Have to Be True to Myself'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-07-01. 
  35. ^ "Pan Am's First Office". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 2017-06-17. 
  36. ^ "Kelly's Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery (Key West, FL): Top Tips Before You Go - TripAdvisor". Retrieved 2017-06-16. 
  37. ^ Schwartz, Paula (September 15, 2010). "Kelly McGillis, Melanie Leis". The New York Times. 
  38. ^ Nutt, Amy Ellis (April 18, 2011). "Kelly McGillis traded Hollywood for Collingswood - and a contented existence". The Star-Ledger. pp. 23, 25. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  39. ^ Doty, Meriah (February 9, 2013). "Kelly McGillis recalls 'Top Gun' love scene and 'a lot of partying' while filming". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved July 12, 2016. 
  40. ^ Puente, Maria (June 24, 2016). "'Top Gun' actress Kelly McGillis attacked at her North Carolina home". USA Today. 
  41. ^ "Top Gun actress Kelly McGillis reveals she was gang-raped". Christian News Today. Retrieved 2016-06-27. 
  42. ^ Mitchell, Robert (2017-05-12). "Cannes: ‘Top Gun’ Star Kelly McGillis to Play Midwest Crime Queen in ‘Annie Cook’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2017-05-22. 
  43. ^ "Mother Of All Secrets Trailer". Retrieved 26 May 2017. 
  44. ^ "Trailer For New Thriller Features Bermuda -". 2017-06-26. Retrieved 2017-06-29. 

External links[edit]