She was among the most stunning and well-known women in the world 35 years ago. Now…

The iconic Top Gun movie propelled Tom Cruise to superstardom, but Kelly McGillis, who played his love interest, took a different path. Nowadays, it’s challenging to recognize the 65-year-old actress due to the age shaming she’s endured in recent years.

When I went to the cinema to watch Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to the ’80s classic, I couldn’t help but think of Kelly McGillis. Even though I knew she wouldn’t make an appearance, I still hoped to catch a glimpse of her.

Unfortunately, McGillis never appeared, while Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer had an emotional reunion. According to McGillis, she wasn’t even asked to join the cast. In 2019, Entertainment Tonight inquired about her involvement in the sequel.

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

Nevertheless, the 65-year-old actress didn’t seem bothered by her exclusion from Top Gun: Maverick, which became a blockbuster hit in 2022.

“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,” she stated.

Kelly McGillis’ role as Charlie in Top Gun

Back in the ’80s, McGillis was one of the few women commanding million-dollar fees in Hollywood. In Top Gun, she portrayed astrophysicist and training school instructor Charlie Blackwood.

Her portrayal as Maverick’s love interest left a lasting impression, making her character an iconic figure.

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

Interestingly, Charlie was based on Christine Fox, a renowned civilian flight instructor and mathematician whom the producers encountered during their research for the film. Fox later achieved a high-ranking position at the Pentagon, becoming the Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense, the highest role held by a woman in the Department of Defense.

McGillis landed the role of Charlie somewhat by chance. Initially scheduled for another film, her plans fell through, leading Paramount to offer her the role in Top Gun. McGillis liked the script and subsequently traveled 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. I think Tony Scott brought so much to that movie visually,” she said.

While her role in Top Gun made McGillis a sex symbol, she also received acclaim for her performance. Her on-screen chemistry with Cruise was palpable, and she had a genuine fondness for her co-star off-set.

“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 commented.

Despite being compared to screen legends like Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, and Lauren Bacall, McGillis never took those comparisons seriously.

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

Turning away from Hollywood

Although many remember McGillis for her role as Charlie in Top Gun, her career and life have encompassed much more than that. She burst onto the Hollywood scene in 1985 with her breakout role as an Amish widow in “Witness.” Following her Top Gun success, she starred in the controversial film “The Accused,” portraying a tough lawyer. Throughout the 1990s, McGillis took on various television and film roles, but none propelled her career further.

Afterward, the outspoken actress defied convention and left Hollywood behind. She refused scripts, changed her appearance by cutting her blonde hair, left Tinseltown, 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 explained.

Kelly McGillis’ personal life

After exiting Hollywood, she focused on her family and devoted time to raising her now-adult daughters, Kelsey and Sonora. Shortly after “The Accused” premiered, McGillis fell in love with Fred Tillman, a man with no ties to show business. However, Fred and Kelly shared a passion for sailing and beaches.

Born in 1957 and raised in Newport Beach, California, Kelly felt she had found her ideal partner. McGillis and Tillman married, bought a yacht, and sailed to Europe. The family eventually settled in Key West, Florida, where they opened a restaurant together, called Kelly’s Caribbean Bar & Grill.

However, McGillis’ past continued to affect her. According to the Top Gun star, her move to Florida was not an escape; she had personal issues to confront. She struggled with excessive drinking and questioned her sexuality, leading to a tumultuous period.

“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,” she told The Daily Telegraph in 1999.

Coming out and relationship challenges

In 2002, McGillis divorced Tillman. Seven years later, she publicly came out as a lesbian during an interview with SheWired. She described her coming out as a process that had been ongoing since she was 12.

“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,” she explained.

While running her restaurant in Key West, McGillis met bartender Melanie Leis. Unfortunately, their relationship was marked by instability and self-destructive behavior, as both struggled with substance abuse and sought rehab. McGillis continued to grapple with excessive drinking.

Nonetheless, the two married in New Jersey in 2010, with McGillis’s ex-husband, Fred Tillman, attending the civil union ceremony.

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

Kelly McGillis and Melanie Leis eventually parted ways in 2011.

Kelly McGillis today

Currently, Kelly is reported to be living in a log cabin in the hills of Hendersonville, North Carolina. She sports short gray hair and prefers the comfort of pants, enjoying her peaceful, content life away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

“I am concentrating on teaching acting privately in a small studio associated 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,” she shared in 2014.

Observing McGillis today, it seems she has left her own acting career behind. It has been some time since she was seen on-screen, with her last credited project dating back to 2018 when she

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