Childhood & Early Life
Kelly McGillis was born Kelly Ann McGillis, on July 9, 1957, in Newport Beach, California, to Donald Manson McGillis and Virginia Joan. Her father was a doctor while her mother was a homemaker. Kelly was a Scottish and Irish from her father’s side and Welsh and German from her mother’s.
Kelly moved to Los Angeles as a child due to her father’s job and spent rest of her growing up years there. Growing up in LA, the center of American entertainment industry, she also became attracted to the prospect of becoming an actress early on.
While she transformed herself very well as she reached adulthood, she claimed being overweight during her adolescent years, which somehow took a bad toll on her self-confidence.
She finished her high school graduation from Los Angeles and moved to Santa Maria to take professional training in acting. She enrolled into the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts at the Allan Hancock College.
She further made a big move and shifted to New York City to study acting in the Juilliard School. She did a lot of theatrical plays while she studied in Juilliard and graduated in 1983. By then, she had already begun auditioning for roles in films and television.
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She was lucky enough to not have to wait a long time to land her first on screen acting job. She made her film debut in 1983, playing one of the leading roles in the film titled ‘Reuben, Reuben.’ Although the film was only a moderate commercial success, it earned huge critical acclaim and a few Academy Award nominations.
In 1984, she made her television debut appearing in the TV film titled ‘Sweet Revenge.’ In the same year, she also appeared in one episode of the series ‘One Life to Live.’
She had a massive career breakthrough in 1985 when she appeared playing a lead role in the neo-noir crime thriller film titled ‘Witness.’ Also starring Harrison Ford in the lead role, the film was a massive critical and commercial success, receiving eight Academy Award nominations and winning two of them.
Her performance in the film further received huge critical appreciation as she ended up receiving a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance. With the success of the film, Kelly established herself strongly into the industry as a bright young actress.
Her next acting project was a universal success. She starred opposite Tom Cruise in the action drama film titled ‘Top Gun’ (1986), playing Charlie Blackwood (Charlotte 'Charlie' Blackwood). The film received mixed reviews but turned out to be a massive commercial success and has attained cult status overtime.
With these back to back huge successes, Kelly had a dream beginning that any young actor could imagine having. Offers began raining in on her.
In 1987, she was seen playing the lead role in the fantasy comedy film titled ‘Made in Heaven.’ Although the film was appreciated for its unique premise, it did not translate into good box office numbers. The film performed averagely on the critical scale as well.
After tasting failure with films such as ‘Unsettled Land’ and ‘The House on Carroll Street,’ she made a solid comeback in 1988 with the film titled ‘The Accused.’ She played the leading role in the legal drama film which was a massive critical and commercial success with Kelly’s performance being the center of praises directed towards the film.
As the 1990s, approached, she slowed down on the number of films per year. In the early 1990s, she appeared in a few films such as ‘Grand Isle’ and ‘The Babe.’ While in the late 1990s, she appeared playing supporting/major roles in films such as ‘At First Sight’ and ‘The Settlement.’
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She however, regularly appeared on the television throughout the 1990s. While she did not work in many television series,’ she appeared in many TV films in the 1990s, such as ‘Bonds of Love,’ ‘We the Jury,’ and the TV series ‘Dark Eyes.’
Her film roles further lessened in 2000s, as she appeared in only 4 films, such as ‘No One Can Hear You,’ ‘Supergator’ and ‘The Monkey’s Mask.’ However, none of her films managed to attain success either critically or commercially.
In the 2010s, she appeared in a few films such as ‘Mother of All Secrets’ and ‘The Innkeeper.’ Her television roles were limited to guest roles in series’ such as ‘The L Word’ (2008) and ‘Z Nation’ (2014).
Throughout 1980s and 1990s, she has regularly appeared on stage, playing key parts in plays such as ‘Don Juan,’ ‘The Sea gull,’ ‘Love for Love’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ among others.
Family & Personal Life
Kelly McGillis met Boyd Black during her Juilliard days and they began dating, eventually getting married in 1979. They divorced 2 years later in 1981.
Kelly then married Fred Tillman in 1989 and the couple had two daughters together before getting divorced, in 2002.
She came out as a lesbian in 2009 and stated that she was dating Melanie Leis since 2000. The couple broke up in 2011.
Kelly currently lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where she teaches acting.
She teaches acting at ‘The New York Studio for Stage and Screen NYS3’ in Asheville, North Carolina.
In June 2016, a woman named Laurence Marie Dorn broke into Kelly’s house and repeatedly assaulted her. Kelly applied for a gun permit following the incident.