Kelly McGillis talks her new vampire movie 'Stake Land,' 'Top Gun,' and why she decided to come out: 'I was just tired of lying about who I am.'


Image Credit: Arthur Mola/Getty Images

Few Hollywood stars had hotter careers in the mid-’80s than Kelly McGillis, thanks to her starring roles in Witness, Top Gun, and The Accused. But at the end of the decade, the Juilliard-trained actress retreated from the Hollywood circus to raise her children. In 2007, McGillis took a recurring role on Showtime’s lesbian-themed series The L Word and two years later publicly announced her own homosexuality. These days, McGillis spends much of her time working as a drug counselor at a rehab center in New Jersey. The actress, however, returns to the big screen today, playing a nun in the post-apocalyptic vampire movie Stake Land and will soon be seen in another horror movie, The Innkeepers. After the jump, McGillis talks about her unlikely new career as a “scream queen” and why she decided to finally come out of the closet.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is it true you’re not really a fan of horror movies?
KELLY MCGILLIS: I can’t even say I’m not a fan. I just don’t watch them because I don’t sleep well when I watch scary movies.

So you haven’t actually seen Stake Land?

I liked it. Any movie in which religious crazies throw vampires out of helicopters to kill off unbelievers — well, that’s 12 bucks’ worth of entertainment right there.
Well, good. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! [Laughs]

Why did you decide to do the movie?
I read the script and I really liked the story. I liked the apocalyptic part. I don’t know if I was so keen on the vampire-ey thing. I talked to [Stake Land director] Jimmy Mickle who was really really sweet and it shot in New Jersey, right down the road from me. It ended up being a really wonderful experience.

So in the post-apocalyptic world, will everywhere look like New Jersey?
No! I live in New Jersey. New Jersey will kill me if you say that!

I’m just joshing. More seriously, the message of the film seems to be that fundamentalist Christians are even nastier than slavering vampires.
Well, I think extremism in any thing, on any level, is dangerous. Life is all about balance, moderation. The polar ends of anything can be exceedingly dangerous.


You seem to be entering a horror phase of your career.
[Laughs] I know, I don’t know what that’s about. But I wouldn’t really call The Innkeepers a horror movie, I’d call it a little scary movie about people in a hotel that’s being shutdown and about a ghost. I play this eccentric aging actress. What really interested me about the story is it has a message — whatever we fear, we create. I am a firm believer in that.

Innkeepers director Ti West is often spoken of as someone who is likely to become a huge name in horror.
He was really nice. You know, it’s tough when you’re working with somebody who wrote the script, because they have a very clear idea of what everything sounds like in their head. That’s always challenging. It’s not really a negative. It’s just that they’ve lived with those characters in their mind for so long, and then here you come along and say, I had this idea, this idea, this idea, and it’s not really gelling with their idea. Other than that, I thought he was a wonderful guy and I had a great time.

You came out a couple of years ago. It’s a big question, but what prompted that?
That is a big question. How much time do we have? [Laughs]

Madam, I have all day.
Well, there were quite a few [reasons]. But fundamentally, I was just tired of lying about who I am. I’ve reached a point where my kids are grown, they’re out of the house, they no longer have to be concerned that their friends, their friends’ families, will put them in compromising emotional situations because of my sexual preference. That was a big concern of mine because, unfortunately, a lot of people are not very tolerant. I got to a certain age and I didn’t give a s— anymore.  Ultimately, all I have to offer anybody is my truth. I don’t have any profound wisdom, no profound insight, I only have my truth and my experience to offer others. And I was living a frigging lie.

Is it trite to suggest that your spell on the L Word influenced your decision?
I was out before that. It’s just that I talked about it publicly [later]. I mean, I was involved in a relationship during that. It wasn’t a thing that just happened. That’s who I am and what I’ve been for a long time. It’s just that I could never really talk about it.

Could you tell us one Top Gun story?
I can’t remember any! No, I had a great time shooting that movie. It was like being at summer camp with a bunch of really good-looking guys. I used to love to rub the top of their heads when they got shaved. I really liked that. [Laughs] And we had a great time. We all hung out together. We had fun. We played golf together and tennis together. I couldn’t have asked for anything better in my life. When your job is that much fun, it sure it isn’t a job anymore.


Image Credit: Everett Collection

What’s next for you acting-wise?
I’m really not acting too much right now. I have a real job and I’m really happy with that. I was going to say I’m doing 9-5 but I work the 2:30-11 shift. I’m going to do that for a while and see what happens. I’m not giving up acting. I love acting. That’s a huge part of me. But I also have other things that I’d like to do in my life before I leave this planet and being of service to others is a huge part of that.

To be clear, you’re talking about your work at the rehab center?
Yes. It’s amazing. I just love being able to witness and be a part of seeing people change in really profound ways. Honestly, I see God in action and that is humbling and it’s amazing. It’s just a great gift that I can be a part of that.

You can check out the Stake Land trailer below.

Read more:
‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ lands director Craig Gillespie
Colin Farrell accidentally disses his ‘Fright Night’ remake

Comments (27 total) Add your comment
  • Kelly

    “Whatever we fear, we create” – I likd that quote, interesting.

  • Monty

    “The years have not been kind” – anonymous

    • CCIPN

      I was thinking quite the opposite. It’s refreshing to see an actress look her age.

    • alan of montreal

      Are you kidding? She’s still gorgeous! You need to get your eyes checked

    • racefan111

      That’s what an attractive 54 yr old should look like. Kudos for keeping it natural – the plastic look is played out.

      • Robin

        Definitely, I agree!! She looks awesome and a healthy, attractive 54!

    • Gonzo

      I agree with Monty, she went from hot to NOT. I’m a year older than her and I wouldn’t be caught dead walking beside her…..ugh ugh ugly.

      • Ingmar53

        So… have you been asked to walk beside her? Didn’t think so.

    • Jamie

      I think the fact that she is not interested in being attractive to men drives her decision to “keep it natural.” Lesbians don’t seem to care much about physical appearances.

      • gertzy

        What an asinine thing to say… are you speaking for all lesbians, since you’ve obviously met all of us? Ten bucks I’m hotter than you, and so are all of my friends.
        Judge yourself, not others.

      • Roger Federer

        Dude that was a really dumb comment.

  • Allison

    She’s in the video they show people who are beginning their separation from the Army – I don’t know when they shot her part, but she has long hair with waterfall bangs and is wearing an electric blue blazer with shoulder pads. Highlight of the whole process!

  • Frank Mondana

    I don’t like the term “sexual preference”. Before anyone gets all shivery, let me explain andask a question.
    Did you have a preference about your own spouse? Did you prefer one person over another?
    I think it’s self defeating to say sexual preference and that it actually gives the right wing kooks ammo.
    You are who you are, especially regarding love.

  • Canadian

    @Monty…what a stupid comment. She must be in her 50s and looks great. If she wants to get a LOT of roles now, she will because she looks like a beautiful 50 year old woman. She’ll get all the roles Meg Ryan and others with plastic faces won’t get.

  • Thel

    She has always been a beautiful woman. Nothing is going to change that. Somebody out there needs to see more clearly!

  • k

    She looks “honest”, which is to say, beautiful and natural.

  • hotshot1

    I really don’t care what she does in her own time. I like honest people.
    She was hot in Top Gun.
    She is still hot.

  • What the Fok

    This chick is one of those who is “beautiful” in the eyes of women…like Michelle Obama. Who care who she sleeps with? She is washed up, uglier than ever and way past her due date

  • PNK

    I just saw her in a Lifetime fact-based movie and she was good, as well as looking good. Glad she has a couple of new films out!

  • Charlotte Kilgarriff

    I live in the same town as Kelly, and have met her at the local yoga class. She is just as down to earth as we are, a very nice woman. I admire her for helping women struggling with addiction. She is giving back, which we all need to do.

  • pete

    Still a great actress and great interview-Now Paramount put Witness on blu ray!!!

  • Dreamtime

    Once I find out a person playing a “love story” heterosexual role is gay I can never watch their “love story” movies again with the same enjoyment. I don’t have anything against gays, but if I were to watch Witness again (one of my favorite movies)the love interest with Harrison Ford wouldn’t have any appeal to me, like it once did. Probably best that actors keep their sexual preference to themselves, at least until they out-grow love story roles, which is exactly what she did.

    • CarefulReader

      Dreamtime’s 7:22 AM comment is significate and 100% and forever correct; the personal sexual/love activities of professional Hollywood actors and actresses spoil some people’s enjoyment of movie “love story roles.” With full honesty, I take such a concept one step further. I know that it is “too dang artificial” when California movie companies hire people for movie roles that do not live in my exact, small, localized neighborhood. They just are not like me. Why have artificial people in movies? They do not pay property taxes to help my kids’ school; therefore, I don’t like such artificial people (strangers) in any movies.

      I only like real movies: for and by real people. Some people correctly question the wisdom of not (100%) using farmers, cops, criminals and real guns in a movie like WITNESS, as well as any non-military people in TOP GUN. But, they do not live in my city! Again, just too artificial for me! To be honest, I, also, don’t like to be artificially forced to use my imagination so I don’t and have never read a book.

    • Rowan

      I agree Dreamtime, it’s very frustrating when you keep on seeing Kate Hudson have kids from different fathers acting like some sweet chick in a movie-when we know she isn’t! Or brangelina always shoving it in our faces their children-poor kids-when we know how many partners they have both had and that she kissed her brother!

      And don’t get me started on Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian! Ew.

      I agree 100% and I think the best way stop actors or actresses ever coming out publicly, is to stop actors and actresses shoving their sex lives, babies etc etc in our faces every day on the tabloids so they can bleed us dry for more money when they do nothing to help us. I’m looking at YOU Reese Witherspoon! Keep your smug marriage and kisses with your agent boyfriend in the closet please.

    • Ingmar53

      I hear you, Dreamtime. I recently learned that Katherine Hepburn is DEAD… now when I watch a movie where she appears to be alive… well, I just can’t buy it. It’s just too taxing for my imagination to accept.

  • ash

    i actually met kelly mcgillis. She worked at the rehab that i had went to. She is a really amazing person!

  • Laptop repairs in Kent

    Great site lots of information Looks like alot of time has Been taken here

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