Kelly McGillis Top Gun Age: How Old Was Kelly McGillis In First Top Gun?

Originally posted on October 25, 2023 @ 11:36 am

Kelly McGillis is an American actress who rose to fame for her role as Charlie Blackwood, a flight instructor and love interest of Tom Cruise’s character Maverick, in the 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun. But how old was she when she starred in the iconic movie? And what happened to her after the success of Top Gun? 

In this article, we will explore the age, career, and personal life of Kelly McGillis, the forgotten star of Top Gun.

The Forgotten Star of Top Gun

Kelly McGillis Chose Parenthood Over Stardom

Kelly McGillis was born on July 9, 1957, in Newport Beach, California. She attended the Juilliard School in New York City, where she studied acting and graduated in 1983. She made her film debut in Reuben, Reuben (1983), and then landed her breakthrough role as Rachel Lapp, an Amish widow who falls in love with Harrison Ford’s character John Book, in Witness (1985). She received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for her performance.

However, after the success of Top Gun (1986), which became the highest-grossing film of the year and made her a household name, McGillis decided to take a step back from Hollywood and focus on raising her two daughters, Kelsey and Sonora, whom she had with her second husband Fred Tillman. She told People in 2019 that she was not interested in being a celebrity or a sex symbol, and that she wanted to live a normal life away from the spotlight.

Success and Challenges in Her Acting Career

Despite her choice to prioritize her family over fame, McGillis continued to act in various films and TV shows throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. Some of her notable roles include playing prosecutor Kathryn Murphy in The Accused (1988), opposite Jodie Foster, who won an Oscar for her role as a rape survivor; playing Babe Ruth’s second wife Claire Merritt Ruth in The Babe (1992); and playing Val Kilmer’s overprotective sister in At First Sight (1999).

However, McGillis also faced many challenges and disappointments in her acting career. She revealed that she hated working on Cat Chaser (1989), a film adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel, which she described as “a horrible experience”. She also said that she was often typecast as a strong and independent woman, which limited her opportunities to play more diverse and complex characters. She also struggled with alcoholism and depression, which affected her self-esteem and confidence.

Her Role as Charlie Blackwood in Top Gun

One of the most memorable roles of Kelly McGillis’s career is undoubtedly Charlie Blackwood, the civilian flight instructor who teaches at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as Top Gun. She is assigned to evaluate the performance of the best fighter pilots in the country, including Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Iceman (Val Kilmer). She develops a romantic relationship with Maverick, who is attracted by her intelligence and beauty.

McGillis said that she enjoyed working on Top Gun, especially with director Tony Scott and co-star Tom Cruise. She praised Scott for his vision and energy, and Cruise for his professionalism and charisma. She also said that she had fun filming the love scenes with Cruise, which were added later to increase the chemistry between their characters. She said that she felt comfortable and safe with Cruise, who was very respectful and supportive of her.

How Old Was Kelly McGillis in Top Gun?

Age of Other Top Gun Cast Members

Kelly McGillis was 29 years old when she played Charlie in Top Gun, which was released on May 16, 1986. Her co-star Tom Cruise was 24 years old when he played Maverick, while Val Kilmer was 26 years old when he played Iceman. Other cast members who were around the same age as McGillis include Anthony Edwards (Goose), who was 28 years old; Meg Ryan (Carole), who was 25 years old; and Tim Robbins (Merlin), who was 27 years old.

Her Current Age and Appearance

Kelly McGillis is currently 66 years old as of October 2023. She has embraced her natural look and has not undergone any cosmetic procedures or surgeries to alter her appearance. She said that she does not care what people think of her or how she looks and that she is happy with herself and her age. She said that she values authenticity and honesty over superficiality and vanity.

When She Started Acting and Her Age in Top Gun 1

Kelly McGillis started acting when she was in high school, where she participated in drama club and theater productions. She then moved to New York City to pursue a professional acting career after getting her GED. She attended the Juilliard School from 1979 to 1983, where she studied acting and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She made her film debut in Reuben, Reuben (1983), when she was 26 years old. She was 28 years old when she filmed Top Gun (1986), which was released when she was 29 years old.

Why Was Kelly McGillis Not in Top Gun 2?

Reasons for Her Absence in the Sequel

No one requested Kelly McGillis to reprise her role as Charlie in Top Gun: Maverick, which will be released on May 27, 2022. She stated she realized that youth and beauty drove the film business and was not shocked or outraged by this choice. She remarked she was all right with not fitting the sequel’s image or style.

She also declined to appear in the sequel and that she had moved on from Top Gun. She stated she was content with her life and had no job regrets. She claimed she doesn’t need a blockbuster movie to feel pleased or validated; she has other loves and activities that keep her occupied and content.

Possible Return in Future Top Gun Movies

Although Kelly McGillis was not in Top Gun: Maverick, there is still a possibility that she could return in future Top Gun movies, if there are any. She said that she would be open to the idea of reprising her role as Charlie if the script and the story were good and compelling. She said that she would love to work with Tom Cruise again, who is also a producer of the Top Gun franchise. She said that she had a great respect and admiration for Cruise, who is still a friend of hers.

Life After Top Gun

Other Notable Projects and Roles

After Top Gun, Kelly McGillis continued to act in various projects and roles, both on screen and on stage. Some of her other notable films include Made in Heaven (1987), The House on Carroll Street (1988), Winter People (1989), The Monkey’s Mask (2000), Stake Land (2010), The Innkeepers (2011), and We Are What We Are (2013). She also appeared in several TV shows, such as One Life to Live (1984), The L Word (2008-2009), Z Nation (2016-2017), and An Uncommon Grace (2017).

She also pursued her passion for theater and starred in many plays, such as The Merchant of Venice (1988), Twelfth Night (1989), The Merry Wives of Windsor (1990), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1991), Hedda Gabler (1994), The Graduate (2004-2005), Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (2005), The Little Foxes (2009-2010), and Love Letters (2014).

Personal Life and Struggles

Kelly McGillis’ personal life has been rocky. She married and divorced Boyd Black (1979–1981) and Fred Tillman (1989–2002). She and Tillman have two children, Kelsey (1990) and Sonora (1993). She has two grandkids.

In addition, a stranger came into her house when she was 12, and two guys raped her at knifepoint when she was 24. She developed alcoholism, depression, anxiety, and PTSD after these traumas. She tried suicide multiple times and used drugs and alcohol to deal with her sorrow.

She revealed her lesbianism in 2009 after years of denying it. She understood she was homosexual at 12 but rejected it due to her religious background and societal pressure. She stated she married guys because she felt it was right, but she was never satisfied. She found coming out free and powerful.

Met Melanie Leis, a sales professional, in 2000 when she was a bartender at McGillis’ restaurant. Vermont hosted their 2010 civil union, but they split in 2011. McGillis claimed she is unmarried but open to love.

The Impact of Top Gun on Her Career and Legacy

Kelly McGillis stated Top Gun impacted her career and life. It gave her many opportunities and some closures. With fame and wealth came pressure and criticism, she claimed. She stated she was pleased with her role in the film and part of pop cultural history. She stated she learned a lot about herself and the profession and became more real. She claimed she was happy for the chance and experience and had no regrets or anger.

She stated Top Gun was a fantastic picture and she was glad to have been a part of it. She stated she still liked Charlie and had pleasant memories and friendships from the film. She hoped Top Gun fans would love the sequel and appreciate its history and significance.


Parag Banerjee is an experienced Search Engine Optimizer. He has a wide knowledge of Google Updates, Analytics, and many others. He studied Computer Application from Techno India.

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