Moviegoers of a certain age remember Kelly McGillis as Rachel, the Amish widow of "Witness" (1985), or as Charlie, the smoking-hot flight instructor to fighter pilots in "Top Gun" (1986), or as Kathryn, the brainy assistant D.A. in "The Accused" (1988).
After this trifecta that established her as one of the screen's most sought-after leading ladies, McGillis flew off the Hollywood radar. Intentionally. She married, had two daughters, sailed across the Atlantic, divorced, thrived in regional theater and confronted her addiction issues.
Last year, she matter-of-factly told a reporter that she is a lesbian. Now 53, McGillis lives on a leafy street in Collingswood, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb.
The goddess-next-door wears her years — and face — proudly. In the mode of Vanessa Redgrave, she is handsome and unadorned.
"My life is pretty simple," McGillis says, stroking the ears of her pet corgi, Buddha. "I live my life in loving service. I go to the prison in Camden (N.J.), talk to women there about addiction and recovery."
McGillis has not turned her back on the stage and screen. She's working on TV and film projects ("The L Word," "Stakeland"). She taught acting during the years she lived in Mohnton, Pa., from 2001 to 2008.
"I'm paying dues I never paid before," McGillis observes of her modestly scaled gigs. In 1983, she went from Juilliard to star billing, skipping the apprentice and journeyman stages. "I'm not reinventing myself," she says. "I'm reintroducing myself."
Kelly Ann McGillis was raised in Newport Beach, Calif., an upscale community. Her parents were "very yacht-y."
She had dreams of the New York theater world. She waited tables, went to Juilliard, and wed Boyd Black in 1979. They divorced in 1981.
One of her theater auditions was seen by screenwriter Philip Epstein ("Casablanca"), who wanted her for "Reuben, Reuben," an indie film about a boozy poet who finds his muse in a peaches-and-cream undergraduate named Geneva Spofford.
Right before she shot "Reuben, Reuben," two intruders raped her in her apartment. "At the time, I don't think I was capable of articulating how I felt. I thought I must have done something to make it happen."
She self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. "I couldn't afford a therapist. I carried (the anger) for a long time." Likewise the medication.
McGillis made seven movies between 1984 and 1989.
The movie that killed her love for making movies was Abel Ferrara's "The Cat Chaser" (1989). "It was the most hateful experience of my life," she said of working with the tough-guy maker of tough-guy movies.
She married Fred Tillman and had two daughters. In 2001, her marriage on the rocks, McGillis relocated from Key West, Fla., to Mohnton, with her daughters. There she faced her addiction and also her sexual preference. Still, she did not come out until last year.
"Yes, I had skirted the issue," she admits. "But when my kids moved out, I asked myself, 'Do I continue to skirt it or do I just say it?"
Then a reporter asked her about her sexual identity.
"I answered honestly."