What happened to Kelly McGillis, the flight instructor and girlfriend of Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun’?

The interpretation caught the attention of Kelly McGillis (Newport Beach, California, 1957) since she was a child. After dropping out while she was still in high school, she enrolled at the prestigious Juilliard School of Drama. Like many other actors, at the beginning she earned her living working as a waitress and between casting and casting in 1983 she made her film debut with the comedy Reuben, Reuben next to Tom Conti.

Right after he made the leap to television with Sweet Revenge Until his big break came. sole witness (1985) with Harrison Ford. Under the orders of Peter Weir, she played a young widow from an Amish community whose son is a witness to a murder. Ford was the detective tasked with investigating the case and protecting the mother and child.

Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in 'Bone Witness'

Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in ‘Bone Witness’

Paramount Pictures

Her work in the film as the innocent Rachel Lapp brought her a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress and her name began to be heard among the most prominent producers in Hollywood. One of them, Jerry Bruckheimer, signed her up for her next project, Top Gun: Air Idolsa film built on the glory of the American army that became a total box office success since its premiere in American theaters on May 16, 1986.

Under the direction of Tony Scott, she played Charlie Blackwood, the attractive flight instructor who fell in love with the handsome and rebellious Maverick who was brought to life by a Tom Cruise with a leather jacket, dark glasses and a tremendous desire to conquer the world at the controls of a F-14. McGillis, five years older than Tom and eight centimeters taller -she is 1.78m-, had to act somewhat stooped to not clash as a couple in the film.

TOP GUN, Kelly McGillis, Tom Cruise, 1986, (c) Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection 1980s movies 1986 movies Arm around neck Bare shoulder Cruise,tom Leather jacket McGillis,kelly Movies Patches Patch

Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun’


This second success in her budding career made her a sex symbol, but being recognized on the street didn’t go well for her. “She made me more suspicious,” she once said. She was about to get into the skin of the tormented Madame de Tourvel of dangerous friendships. However, the all-powerful film critic Pauline Kael convinced director Stephen Frears to go with another emerging blonde: Michelle Pfeiffer.

After appearing with Timothy Hutton in the romantic fantasy Made in heaven (1987), by Alan Rudolph, and accompany Jeff Daniels in the intrigue tape The Carroll Street HouseMcGillis received an interesting and risky proposal based on real events, that of being a young woman who suffers a gang rape in a bar in defendants (1988). A role that she rejected due to a traumatic episode that happened to her at the age of 24.

The success of ‘Top Gun’ made her a ‘sex symbol’ and made her more distrustful

And it is that in 1982 she was sexually assaulted along with a friend by two men who entered her house armed with knives, a situation that left her traumatized for a long time and plunged her into a spiral of self-destruction with drugs and alcohol involved. Finally, Jodie Foster took on the role of Sarah Tobias, with which she won the Oscar for best actress, and Kelly reserved her lawyer Katherine Murphy, her third character most remembered by the audience.

After the judicial drama of Jonathan Kaplan he put himself under the baton of Abel Ferrara in the thriller the cat hunter, with Peter Weller co-starring. The shoot was real hell for Kelly. She got on so badly with the filmmaker and Weller that as soon as she finished production she stormed out. “If this is what acting is going to be like, I won’t do it. On the last day of shooting, I said: Are you done with me? Yes, she answered. I walked into my trailer, I shaved my head, and I was like, ‘Fuck you! I never want to perform again,’” she stated to Independent Woman.

With Jodie Foster in 'Accused'

With Jodie Foster in ‘Accused’

Paramount Pictures

It was then that Kelly decided to gradually withdraw from the film industry to take refuge in some telefilms and plays that were released without pain or glory. In 1989 she married millionaire Fred Tillman. They set up a restaurant business and had two daughters: Kelsey and Sonora. The couple divorced in 2002 and in 2009 Kelly came out by coming out as gay.

The news surprised the public, although in Hollywood his true sexual inclination was an open secret. Tabloids claimed that she had had affairs with Madonna and Jodie Foster. After maintaining a secret relationship with Melanie Leis, one of the workers in the family restaurant, both went through the vicarage in 2010. The love only lasted two more years and in 2012 they separated.

In 2009, Kelly came out of the closet by making his homosexuality public.

Kelly has been open about her sexuality, saying she started feeling attracted to women at the age of 12. She also confessed that she had a lonely and self-conscious adolescence due to her weight problems. Another of the topics on which the actress has been honest in several interviews is her lack of attachment to fame and her defense of aging gracefully without going under the knife. “I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than a woman who carries her age gracefully. I love seeing a woman with all her wrinkles. It’s a life that’s been lived. swollen”.

About to turn 65 on July 9, his physical appearance has changed a lot. In fact, the actress does not appear in Top Gun: Maverick, the successful sequel that is sweeping theaters. In mid-2019, she already stated that the producers had not contacted her to participate in the Joseph Kosinski film. In her place, the heart of a Cruise character she doesn’t spend time for, is slender Jennifer Connelly. “I’m too old, I’m fat, I look my age and that’s not what the movie is looking for,” McGillis admitted in an interview on entertainment tonight.

A recent image of the actress, who will turn 65 this summer

A recent image of the actress, who will turn 65 this summer


Since the mid-1990s, his film career has been reduced to appearances in television series – his last job is in dirty john in 2020- and series B productions. Away from the spotlight, McGillis lives in North Carolina, where she teaches drama and collaborates in a rehabilitation clinic for women addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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