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See "Top Gun" Star Kelly McGillis Now at 64

The actor starred as Charlie in the hit 1986 movie, but you won't see her in the 2022 sequel.

Planes, romance, and flight school rivalries took over the big screen in 1986 with the release of Top Gun. In the action-packed blockbuster, Kelly McGillis plays Charlie, an aviation instructor and the love interest of Tom Cruise's Maverick. The movie brought McGillis a lot of attention, and her career as an actor carried on steadily until the early 2000s.

Now 64, the actor took a step back from Hollywood many years ago but has returned to the screen on occasion, whenever the role is right. She's also worked in other fields and focused on raising her children. Read on to find out more about McGillis life today, and to see what she has to say about not being in the Top Gun sequel, which hits theaters May 27.

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She's still an actor but doesn't work as often as she used to.

Kelly McGillis and Harrison Ford at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985
Micheline PELLETIER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

In addition to Top Gun, McGillis also made a splash in the '80s with Witness, The Accused, and Made in Heaven. She continued acting regularly for years, but slowed down and began taking on fewer roles around 2000. Some of her recent projects are the 2017 Hallmark movie An Uncommon Grace and the 2018 Lifetime movie Maternal Secrets.

Her focus in life changed.

Kelly McGillis in Cannes, France in 1993
Kurt Krieger/Corbis via Getty Images

In a 2019 interview with Entertainment Tonight, McGillis explained that stepping back from Hollywood came around the time that she was getting sober and was "on a journey" to figure out who she was.

"I think just my priorities in life changed," she said. "It wasn't like a major decision that I made to leave, it was just that other things became more important. I love acting, I love what I do, I love doing theater, but I don't know. To me, my relationships to other people became far more important than my relationship to fame."

McGillis added, "I feel really blessed that I don't have to work, you know? But I get the option to work, so I'm really blessed in that way. Not many people get that option later in life, so I feel very lucky."

She also took time to raise her daughters.

Kelly McGillis at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival
Jeff Vespa/WireImage via Getty Images

McGillis has two daughters, Kelsey, 31, and Sonora, 29, with her ex-husband Fred Tillman. She explained to Entertainment Tonight that she was also focused on raising them when she pulled back from performing.

"It was very challenging for me to have any kind of sense of self or self-identity or real self-worth other than what I did for a living," she explained. "And it just—it didn't become a priority; what became the priority initially was raising my girls and being the best sober parent I could be."

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She worked as a teacher and at a rehab center.

Kelly McGillis at the 2014 Television Critics Associated Tour
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

McGillis was still working whenever she wasn't on screen, just in other areas outside of Hollywood.

"I did have another job for a while and it is working at drug and rehabilitation center," she told Yahoo! in 2013. "Right now, I am concentrating teaching acting privately in small studio that goes 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. And yeah, I live a quiet, little life. I live in a log cabin on top of the hill in North Carolina and it is lovely."

She wasn't invited back for the Top Gun sequel.

Kelly McGillis in "Maternal Secrets"

In 2019, around the time that the Top Gun sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, was originally meant to be released, McGillis told Entertainment Tonight that she was not asked back. (The movie was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.)

"Oh my god, no," she said when asked if she was invited to return. "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. To me, 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 also said she wasn't in a rush to buy a ticket. "I guess it depends on what kind of reviews it gets," she said of the film. "I'm not racing to the theater and I'm not racing away from the theater to see it. It's just not on my little list of things that I would like to get done."

The new movie's director, Joseph Kosinski, told Insider of the decision to not have McGillis or fellow original Top Gun co-star Meg Ryan return, "I didn't want every storyline to always be looking backwards. It was important to introduce some new characters." In Maverick, Jennifer Connelly plays a new love interest for Cruise's pilot, a bar owner named Penny.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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