What Kelly McGillis Has Done Since Top Gun

What Kelly McGillis Has Done Since Top Gun

Though Kelly McGillis was not a part of Top Gun: Maverick, her acting career has proven long and well-regarded. Here’s what she’s done since Top Gun.

Warning: This article contains a brief discussion of sexual assault.

With the recent release of Top Gun: Maverick bringing back only two of its original stars, Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer, the question remains what happened to its original stars, including Kelly McGillis. McGillis famously played Maverick’s original love interest, Charlie Blackwood, a civilian Navy flight trainer. Top Gun: Maverick took a chance bringing Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly) into the story, a mysterious love interest who was only briefly alluded to in the original 1986 Top Gun, thus acknowledging Maverick’s breakup with Charlie.


During interviews in 2019, as Top Gun: Maverick was being filmed, Kelly McGillis noted she was neither informed of nor invited to star in Top Gun: Maverick, based on her perception that she was “old, fat, and I look age-appropriate for my age.” Feeling shut out, McGillis explained she would not be recast because she refused to get plastic surgery or dye her now-gray hair back to blonde. When asked about whether she would see Top Gun: Maverick when it was released, she explained that seeing the movie was neither on her list of things to do, nor on her list of things not to do. (via Entertainment Tonight)

Related: What Meg Ryan Has Done Since Top Gun

McGillis, who is known for her strong acting and unique voice, covered much ground in Hollywood over the past 35 years, starring in blockbuster movies, TV series, and television movies, even before Maverick and Charlie’s Top Gun relationship and breakup. She also did her share of voice acting. In 1986, she was nominated for a BAFTA award and a Golden Globe for her role in 1985’s Witness. Her personal life took a turn in 1982, though, prior to her appearance in Top Gun, when she was raped as a college student in New York City. The sexual assault was a significant motivator that propelled her to take the role of prosecutor Kathryn Murphy in 1988’s box office smash, The Accused, opposite Jodi Foster. In the movie, Jodie Foster’s character is raped in a bar, and Murphy works to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In 1992, McGillis played Claire Ruth, Babe Ruth’s second wife, opposite John Goodman, in Babe. She took to the skies again in 1998’s Ground Control, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Henry Winkler, and Michael Gross. McGillis also reconnected with Top Gun: Maverick’s Val Kilmer in 1999’s At First Sight. She stepped back from the Hollywood scene after this, though, to deal with her ongoing substance abuse problem and to care for her two daughters with ex-husband Fred Tillman. She continued working in television movies during this time, then returned in 2008 with a role in Showtime’s The L Word during its last season. That role also proved cathartic for her, as she came out the following year.

McGillis noted in multiple interviews around the time of the original Top Gun’s release, “I have a phobia about not working. I love to work and I think that’s the primary force that drives me.” This drive, perhaps, kept her working up until her role in Dirty John, a USA series starring Christian Slater and Amanda Peet, which ran from 2018-2020, now available on Netflix. Recently, McGillis was diagnosed with alpha one antitrypsin disorder, which causes damage to the lungs and liver. She is not currently working on any film or TV projects due to her receiving treatment for her illness. Clearly, though McGillis was not considered for a role in Top Gun: Maverick, she has enjoyed several significant high points in her career.

Next: Is Maverick Better Than the Original Top Gun?

Want more Top Gun: Maverick articles? Check out our essential content below…

X-Men Magik Hellfire Gala Costume

Colossus’ Sister Forgets She’s Meant to be a Hero in Stunning New Costume

About The Author

Stephanie Bernaba
(3 Articles Published)

Stephanie is a self-professed tomboy who grew up on Super Mario and playing wiffle ball in the street. She is a journalist and entertainment writer, as well as an award-winning humor writer. She loves Marvel, action movies, collectibles, and vintage vinyl, and enjoys exploring the human condition as it relates to entertainment. Stephanie has been a professional writer for over ten years, and a professional photographer since 2015.

She’s a mother of twins plus one – all tweens – so she fears nothing. Hobbies include singing, playing percussion, biking, boxing, and volunteering with her favorite causes.

More From Stephanie Bernaba

Author: Deann Hawkins