Astrophysicist and civilian Top Gun instructor Charlie Blackwood took Maverick’s breath away and theirs was a cinematic love story for the ages…or at least the 1980s, since McGillis said she was not asked to be in the sequel. And she almost didn’t make it into the first film, either.
“I didn’t want to do it,” she recalled to The Guardian in 2001. “But because I’d done Witness, I owed Paramount another film, and my agent said, ‘You have to do this.’ I took one look at it and said, ‘This is like a Western in the sky—I don’t wanna do this.’ It wasn’t about acting, it was about being a cartoon character. You know what I mean? I could have done it blindfolded. I was grateful for the fact that it gave me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had. But I showed up for work, did my bit, hung out with a bunch of boys, played baseball, and went home. It was like being at camp. Why they hired me I’ll never know.”
McGillis next portrayed a prosecutor seeking justice for a rape victim played by eventual Oscar winner Jodie Foster in The Accused. She kept acting in the likes of The Babe, North and many smaller films and TV movies, but she also opened a restaurant in Florida with her yacht mogul second husband, Fred Tillman, in the 1990s and put acting on the back burner.
She has two daughters with Tillman, whom she divorced in 2002. She came out as gay in 2009 and had a civil union ceremony with Melanie Leis in 2010, but they broke up the following year.
“I think just my priorities in life changed,” McGillis told Entertainment Tonight in 2019 from home in North Carolina. “It wasn’t like a major decision that I made to leave [acting], 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.”