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Whatever Happened To Kelly McGillis?

Kelly McGillis was a huge Hollywood sensation in the 1980s. She found fame during the decade thanks to roles in a number of dramas and thrillers, but she'll forever be best known as Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood, a flight instructor (with a Ph.D in astrophysics) who strikes up an affair with star pupil Maverick (Tom Cruise) in the 1986 action classic Top Gun. McGillis also lit up the screen with Harrison Ford in the Amish murder mystery Witness, and played a crusading assistant D.A. in the Oscar-winning The Accused.

While the '80s were certainly McGillis' prime in terms of big roles in big movies, she continued to act throughout the '90s and beyond in medium-sized hits (The Babe, Made in Heaven, At First Sight) before taking a hiatus or two to focus on her personal life and other interests. Wondering whatever happened to Kelly McGillis? We've got all the answers you're looking for right here.

Kelly McGillis is still on the screen

It isn't hard to understand why someone might wonder whatever happened to Kelly McGillis: she's amassed only about a dozen credits over the last decade or so, and they've often come courtesy of roles in low-key television productions or independent movies. But in 2011, she gave horror a try with the vampire movie Stake Land (in which she played a nun) and the haunted hotel-centered The Innkeepers. "I read the script and I really liked the story," McGillis told Entertainment Weekly about the former. "I liked the apocalyptic part."

Since 2015, McGillis has appeared pretty much exclusively on television, following a sizable arc on Showtime's The L Word with an appearance on the cable zom-dram Z Nation and made-for-TV movies like the wholesome Hallmark romantic drama An Uncommon Grace (set in Amish country, just like Witness) and the thriller Maternal Secrets (also known as Mother of All Secrets).

For Kelly McGillis, all the world's a stage

Kelly McGillis may have taken some breaks from film, the medium for which she is best known because Top Gun and Witness were such huge hits, but despite whatever happened onscreen, her first home is the stage, where she's compiled a steady and impressive resume. She's slightly less visible in this capacity because she chooses to hit the stage in Washington, D.C., Southern California, and in touring productions, as opposed to the bright lights of Broadway — although she did hit the Great White Way once, taking on the title role in a 1994 production of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. 

In 2004, McGillis took on one of the most famous and complex roles in theatrical history, starring as Lady Macbeth in a production of Macbeth at the Shakespeare Theatre in the nation's capital, a place where she spent more than a decade performing in plays such as Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, and Measure for Measure. Also in 2004, McGillis hit the road as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, a stage play based on the classic 1967 movie. Then in 2009, McGillis took to the boards of the Pasadena Playhouse, one of the west coast's most renowned theatrical venues, as crafty Regina Giddens in a staging of the classic American play The Little Foxes.

Class is in session with Kelly McGillis

Ever hear the phrase "those who can't do, teach?" Well, Kelly McGillis both knows and teaches. One of the handful of actors who've achieved success at the absolute top of her profession, appearing in critical and commercial hit films, as well as many high-end theatrical productions, McGillis tries to share some of what she's learned about her craft and her industry by teaching acting classes.

In 2016, she joined the Meisner Acting Conservatory, one of the few and among the best institutions in the country that teaches in the Sandford Meisner school of performance and theory. It's in Asheville, North Carolina, not far from McGillis's home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But this was no vanity gig for a movie star — McGillis taught three tough-sounding courses: one in Shakespearean acting (including how to navigate tricky monologues and the Bard's unique meter) and one in "mask" (which is actually about conveying a character through mannerisms and stance), as well as one on film acting.

Kelly McGillis has helped others get off drugs

While Kelly McGillis shares what she's learned about acting with eager students, she's also passed on her knowledge and wisdom on another, even more personal subject. After a long and challenging battle with substance abuse, for which she received professional treatment, McGillis worked as a drug rehabilitation counselor to help others with whatever happened through their recovery.

By 2011, McGillis was living in New Jersey with her partner at the time, Melanie Leis, whom McGillis met when she tended bar at a Florida restaurant owned by McGillis and her ex-husband. "Melanie and I met while we were using [drugs] together," McGillis told the New York Daily News. "I went into rehab first, and she went in three months later." After she got clean, McGillis took a job at a New Jersey substance abuse treatment facility. "I don't have any insights into addiction," she stressed. "I have insights into my personal experience with addiction. My hope is to use that to help others in some way."

Kelly McGillis has been married, then divorced, then partnered, and then single

Kelly McGillis' personal life has been a full one, dotted with marriages, partnerships, and a lot of self-discovery in the midst of whatever happened along the way. McGillis knew in her heart that she was homosexual for decades, but it took years for her to accept it. "I was madly in love with him," McGillis told the New York Times about her husband, Fred Tillman, "but deep inside I always knew it wasn't the truth." With Tillman, McGillis raised two now-grown daughters, and their divorce was finalized in 2002.

In 2009, McGillis appeared on the web series Girl Rock! and responding to an interviewer's question about who she was looking for in a potential mate, casually remarked that she was "done with the man thing." That marked her public coming out as a gay woman, but by that time, McGillis had been in a romantic relationship with her ex-employee Melanie Leis for about a decade. In September 2010, the couple made it official, entering into a civil union via a quiet ceremony in New Jersey. (McGillis and Leis split in 2013.)

A horrible event in 1982 affected Kelly McGillis' life for years

In 1982, Kelly McGillis lived in New York City while studying acting at the prestigious Juilliard School. One night she was hanging out at home when two men (smelling of "alcohol and old sweat," McGillis told People) forced their way into the apartment. McGillis said she tried to grab a phone to call police, but one of the men "grabbed my arm and pulled the phone line out of the wall." McGillis then "kept screaming — hoping, praying someone would hear me and call the police." Shortly thereafter, the men beat, spit on, and brutally sexually assaulted McGillis at knifepoint. Police found the assailants; one pleaded guilty and served three years in prison. Charges against the other man were dismissed due to a lack of evidence. The incident left McGillis deeply psychologically scarred. In trying desperately to cope, she developed a serious addiction to alcohol and gained 30 pounds. In 1984, McGillis said she sought therapy because she "was tired of beating myself up for something I didn't do, and I realized I would have no future if I didn't stop." 

Years later, producers of The Accused approached McGillis to play the role of a woman sexually assaulted in a bar while people stood by and let it happen. McGillis turned it down because, as she told People, "I have been a victim in real life and had no need to re-create it on screen." Instead, she took another role — that of the assistant district attorney who prosecutes the case. 

Kelly McGillis fought off an attacker

Shockingly, Kelly McGillis experienced a second home invasion. In June 2016, she attended a theological lecture near where she lived in Hendersonville, North Carolina. When she got back to her house, she noticed a light was on and discovered that the front door was unlocked. She went inside, where a woman "came barreling down the hallway and began yelling at me," McGillis related on her Facebook page. "I asked her who she is and why she was in my house and she said 'you know why you've been stalking me in Twitter.' Not true."

Remembering that she owned "quite a few guns and lots of ammo" that could be used against her, McGillis says she ran outside and tried to call 911. The intruder gave chase and "began punching and scratching" and tried to grab the phone, prompting McGillis to set off the car alarm with her keys, still in hand. The woman still tried to fight and disarm McGillis, who finally broke free, hopped in her truck, and drove until she found help. 

The intruder was apprehended by local police, and McGillis seemed to harbor no ill will, writing that "Mental illness takes many hostages." Nevertheless, wanting to be prepared for whatever happened next, McGillis immediately applied for and received a concealed-carry gun permit. The National Rifle Association praised McGillis on its Facebook page, congratulating a star who "decided to exercise her Second Amendment rights."

Don't look for Kelly McGillis in the Top Gun sequel

After years in development, a Top Gun sequel was finally officially announced in 2017 — but although Tom Cruise returned to reprise his role as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, Kelly McGillis didn't join the cast. As she told Entertainment Tonight in the summer of 2019, not coming back wasn't a difficult decision for her; in fact, she wasn't even asked. And while that might seem like a snub to many, McGillis professed not to care about whatever happened when the Top Gun: Maverick story was being ironed out.

"I'm old and I'm fat and I look age-appropriate for what my age is, and that is not what that whole scene is about," McGillis shrugged. "I'd much rather feel absolutely secure in my skin and who and what I am at my age, as opposed to placing a value on all that other stuff."

McGillis remained admirably frank when asked if she'd watch the sequel, saying she really didn't have any firm feelings about it either way. "I'm not racing to the theater, and I'm not racing away from the theater to see it," she added. "It's just not on my little list of things that I would like to get done."