Why haven’t you heard from Kelly McGillis lately?

The classic Top Gun film sparked Tom Cruise’s ascent to fame.

However, Kelly McGillis, who played his love interest in the film, took the opposite route.

The 65-year-old actress is now difficult to recognize because she has endured a lot of age discrimination in recent years.

Kelly McGillis, circ.1987 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Getty Images/Bob Riha, Jr.)” n


“When I went to the theater to see Top Gun: Maverick, the follow-up to the iconic 1980s movie, I don’t believe I was the only one who couldn’t help but think about Kelly McGillis. Even though I was certain she wouldn’t show up, I hoped I would.”

McGillis never arrived, while Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer reconnected in an extremely moving scene. McGillis claims that she was not approached to join the cast. In 2019, Entertainment Tonight questioned whether the creators of Top Gun: Maverick had approached her for a part in the follow-up.

“Oh my god, no. They did not, nor do I think they would ever,” McGillis said,

“I mean, I’m old and fat, and I look age-appropriate for my age, and that is not what that whole scene is about.”

Kelly McGillis sits at a desk in a scene from the film ‘Top Gun,’ 1986. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

The 65-year-old actress didn’t appear to bother that she wasn’t cast in Top Gun: Maverick, the blockbuster hit of 2022.

Instead of putting a value on all those other stuff, she remarked, “I’d much rather feel secure in my skin and who and what I am at my age, as opposed to placing a value on all that other stuff,”

The real story behind her Top Gun character

McGillis was one of just a few women who could earn million-dollar fees in the 1980s. In Top Gun, the well-known actress played astronomer and training school instructor Charlie Blackwood.

As Maverick’s love interest, the blonde, long-legged, and stunning actress left a lasting impression; her smart-but-beautiful character became iconic.

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According to McGillis, “I don’t think anything prepared me for what I guess was becoming a household name kind of thing,”

“It was intimidating to me. I don’t aspire to be famous. I aspire to be an actress, and that movie startled my reality in a big way. I got very insecure. I didn’t know who I could trust to be my friend anymore.”

In reality, Christine Fox served as the model for Charlie. While conducting research for the film, the creators had the opportunity to meet Fox, a well-known civilian flight instructor, and mathematician.

She would go on to have a successful career at the Pentagon, rising to the highest position ever held by a woman at the Department of Defense when she was named Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense.

It was quite coincidental that Kelly McGillis landed the role of Charlie. She was supposed to star in another film, but it was canceled. McGillis accepted the call from Paramount asking to work on Top Gun instead since she liked the script, and she subsequently drove to San Diego for the production.

” I felt it was a Western in the sky. I had no clue how visually impeccable it would be. She stated, “I think Tony Scott added a lot visually to that movie.

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McGillis’s part in Top Gun made her a sex icon, but she was also praised for her on-screen work. Kelly enjoyed her co-star off-set, and there was apparent chemistry between them on-screen.

” I think Tom is terrific. He’s the sweetest guy. He is very genuine and sincere, and respectful. And I just loved working with Tom. I think he is wonderful,” she remarked.

At the time, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, and Lauren Bacall were compared to McGillis as famous cinematic beauties.

Kelly, though, was unable to take the parallel seriously.

” I have never thought of myself as a great beauty. In my teenage and prepubescent years, when one formed one’s ideas of oneself, I think primarily I was very overweight and had very low self-esteem,” she told Intelligencer Journal in 1986.

Retreated from Hollywood

McGillis played Charlie in Top Gun, which is why many other people and I remember her, but it wouldn’t be fair to McGillis to merely discuss that film because she has accomplished so much more in her life and work.

She made a splash in Hollywood in 1985 thanks to her breakthrough performance as an Amish widow in Witness. She acted as a strong lawyer in the contentious movie The Accused after her triumph with Top Gun. The 1990s saw McGillis cast in several television and film roles, but none helped advance her career.

A picture containing person, cellphone, phone, outdoor Description automatically generatedKelly McGillis as Professor Diana Maitland in “The Monkey’s Mask” / Flickr

The outspoken actress then defied all conventions and abandoned Hollywood. She cut her blonde hair, left Hollywood, refused to act in the scripts she was given, had children, and gained weight.

“I think just my priorities in life changed. It wasn’t like a major decision that I made to leave; it was just that other things became more important,” she said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Kelly McGillis’ spouse

After leaving Hollywood, she put her family first and spent the necessary time raising her now-adult daughters, Sonora and Kelsey.

Soon after the debut of The Accused, McGillis fell in love with Fred Tillman, a man with no connection to the entertainment industry. However, Kelly and Fred had similar interests in sailing and beaches.

Kelly, born in 1957 and spent her childhood in Newport Beach, California, feeling the beach under her toes, thought she had finally found the guy of her dreams.

After getting married and purchasing a yacht, McGillis and Tillman set sail for Europe.

After that, the family relocated to Key West, Florida, where they co-founded Kelly’s Caribbean Bar & Grill.

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The past, however, always seemed to catch up with McGillis. The Top Gun actress said she wasn’t fleeing to Florida because of personal problems.

She drank too much and struggled with her sexual identity. She was a wreck for about a year.

“I was never really unhappy. It is just that I wanted to reclaim my anonymity, to live my own life. I think that if you have children, it is you who should look after them. I didn’t want my kids to think of me as a movie star; I wanted them to know me as Mommy,”

Getting out

Tillman and McGillis got divorced in 2002. She revealed her sexual orientation as a lesbian in an interview with SheWired seven years later. The actress claimed she had been working on coming out since she was 12.

She declared, “Life is a freaking journey, and it’s about growing and changing, and coming to terms with who and what you are, and loving who and what you are.”

Melanie Leis, a bartender, was someone McGillis met while she was managing her Key West restaurant. Sadly, their relationship was unstable and toxic; they both struggled with various drugs and entered rehab. McGillis drank too much.

A person wearing sunglasses Description automatically generated with medium confidenceWikipedia Commons / Gordon Correll

But in 2010, the criminal companions wed in New Jersey. Fred Tillman, McGillis’ ex-husband, was present at the civil union ceremony.

McGillis told the Daily News, “He was my greatest, best friend, and he still is,” McGillis told Daily News, adding:” I was gay before I had kids. I had a really tough time coming to accept myself.”

2011 saw the breakup of Kelly McGillis and Melanie Leis.

Today’s Kelly McGillis

Kelly is claimed to be currently residing in a log cabin in Hendersonville, North Carolina’s hills. She keeps her gray hair short and favors wearing comfortable jeans while living a calm, contented life away from Hollywood.

In 2014, she stated, “I am concentrating on teaching acting privately in a small studio that goes with a school in Asheville, North Carolina. I feel it is my time to give back, and that’s something that I know how to do.”

A picture containing person, sky, outdoor, lady Description automatically generated Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Looking at McGillis today, it is obvious that she has abandoned her acting career. It had been a while since we last saw her on television; her most recent credited role was in the TV movie Maternal Secrets in 2018.

You always hear women my age talking about this, she said. “You hear women of my age talk about this all the time,” she said. “I think this industry is not particularly kind to women over 50. I am not into coloring my hair, doing Botox, and getting a facelift. I want to grow up to be a character actress.”

As already mentioned, Kelly made numerous news appearances in 2022. People were curious about what happened to her and why she wasn’t chosen for the sequel to Top Gun: Maverick because she wasn’t in it.

Kelly was taken out of the movie because, according to director Joseph Kosinski, he wanted to take it differently with different characters. Kosinski asserted that it had nothing to do with her beauty.

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For those who got to see Kelly McGillis in her prime, she will always be the sexy astrophysical engineer. A woman like her in the first Top Gun is a role model that can never be equaled. Period.

To quit such a career to care for oneself and put her family first requires much grace and beauty. I find that to be the most astounding thing.

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