Kelly McGillis dropped out of high school
to pursue a career as an actor and eventually
attended Juilliard in Manhattan.
She understudied the role of Dona Elvire
in a New York Shakespeare Festival
production of Don Juan but had little other
professional experience when director
Robert Ellis Miller "discovered"
her and cast her opposite Tom Conti in Reuben, Reuben.
Notices were good, and McGillis
then moved to Witness and Top Gun.
(In the latter, her 5'10" height was quite
evident as she stood next to the
shorter Tom Cruise.)
Attempts to put her in the position to carry a
picture resulted in Made in Heaven
(1986), in which McGillis was
matched with Timothy Hutton as the as-yet-unborn
beauty he meets in heaven, who is
yet unborn, and The House on Carroll Street
(1988), in which McGillis was a
blacklisting victim who stumbles on an
espionage plot. Both films were box office
The Accused (1988) had McGillis
as the assistant district attorney who is moved
to put three rapists behind bars by the
of Jodie Foster,
but it was Foster who got the
reviews--and the Oscar. McGillis
then did Winter People (1989), an Ozark-based Sturm und Drang, which also flopped.
In 1991, she produced the film The Awakening,
which did not receive wide-spread release,
and the following year played the woman who
marries and tries to tame John Goodman's
The Babe. McGillis joined Witness
co-star Alexander Godunov in
reprising their characters in a brief, amusing cameo for North (1994).
McGillis appeared in her first TV-movie in 1984,
playing a sister who seeks to punish her
sister's tormentor in Sweet Revenge (CBS).
She followed with Private Sessions (NBC,
1985), a busted pilot. In
1993, McGillis played a woman
in love with a retarded man in Bonds of Love
(CBS) and in the 1994 CBS
In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride and Madness,
she was a woman obsessed with destroying her ex-husband.
McGillis' theater career was
interrupted by Reuben, Reuben,
but she returned to the stage in 1988
playing Portia in the Folger Shakespeare Theatre
production of The Merchant of Venice. She has since continued
an association with that company, appearing
in Twelfth Night, Mary Stuart
and Measure for Measure, among others. In 1994,
McGillis made her Broadway debut
in the Roundabout Theatre Company's
production of Hedda Gabler.