Kelly McGillis was born July 9, 1957, in Newport Beach, California, the daughter of Virginia Joan (née Snell), a homemaker, and Dr. Donald Manson McGillis, a general practitioner of medicine.
McGillis was raised in Los Angeles, and attended the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, California. After graduating from high school in 1975, she moved to New York City to study acting at the Juilliard School, where she graduated in 1983, Group 12.
Her breakout role was that of an Amish mother in the 1985 film Witness with Harrison Ford, for which she received Golden Globe and BAFTA award nominations. Her next high-profile role was that of flight instructor Charlie in the 1986 fighter-pilot film Top Gun with Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer.
In 1987, McGillis acted in the fantasy-comedy film Made in Heaven, directed by Alan Rudolph, which was produced by Lorimar Productions. The film also co-stars Oscar winner Timothy Hutton.
McGillis played the part of caretaker for Miss Venable (Jessica Tandy) in 1988's The House on Carroll Street, which also stars Jeff Daniels. She overhears a suspicious conversation in the house next door and suspects that she's stumbled on a conspiracy to smuggle Nazi war criminals into the United States.
After 1988's The Accused, she appeared in Cat Chaser with Peter Weller, a film she despised and which discouraged her from pursuing an acting career. McGillis appeared in dozens of television and film roles throughout the 1990s before taking a break from acting for a few years.
In 1992's The Babe, Ms. McGillis plays a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl who becomes Babe Ruth's (played by John Goodman) second wife. She prepared for the role by reading Billie Burke's autobiography about her career with the Follies, "With a Feather on My Nose".
In 1999, McGillis teamed up with Val Kilmer (who plays Virgil, a blind man), for a second time as his over protective sister in At First Sight, with Mira Sorvino.
She played the suspect in the disappearance of a young woman starring Susie Porter in The Monkey's Mask, an international lesbian cult film from 2000. The film is based on the verse novel of the same name by Australian poet Dorothy Porter.
While at Juilliard she performed in William Congreve's Love for Love, directed by John Bletchley.
Since her graduation, McGillis has performed live theatre, including classics by Chekov, Shaw, Ibsen, Shakespeare and O’Neill. She has often appeared in starring roles with the Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, DC.
In 2004, she appeared in the stage play The Graduate as Mrs. Robinson, touring the United States. McGillis starred in a Pasadena Playhouse stage production of Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman in May 2009, co-starring with Julia Duffy.
She also appeared in a production of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally, which toured the United Kingdom in 2010.She began working in television again in 2006, then in 2007, she joined the cast of Showtime's The L Word for its fifth season.
She had a role in the 2010 vampire film Stake Land, directed by Jim Mickle. She stars alongside Nick Damici, Connor Paolo and Danielle Harris.
McGillis was featured in a breast cancer docu-drama titled 1 a Minute, released in 2010.
She starred in Ti West's 2011 thriller The Innkeepers.
We Are What We Are and Tio Papi in 2013
Grand Street in 2014
Love Finds You in Sugarcreek, Ohio in 2014, TV, (McGillis' 2nd Amish themed film)
Z Nation in 2014, Sisters of Mercy, Season 1, Episode 11
Blue in 2015
An Uncommon Grace, on Hallmark Channel, (McGillis' 3rd Amish themed film)
Lead role in Mother of All Secrets in 2017 as Rose Lewis
McGillis married fellow Juilliard student Boyd Black in 1979, but the couple divorced in 1981.
McGillis married Fred Tillman in 1989, and they have two daughters. The couple divorced in 2002.
McGillis came out as a lesbian in April 2009 during an interview with SheWired. McGillis said that coming to terms with her sexual orientation has been an ongoing process since age 12, and she was long convinced that God was punishing her for being homosexual with a rape incident. In 2010, McGillis entered into a civil union with Melanie Leis, a Philadelphia-based sales executive; she and McGillis met in 2000 when Leis was a bartender at the "Kellys' Caribbean Bar Grill & Brewery" in Key West, Florida, which McGillis owned with her then-husband Fred Tillman. Leis and McGillis broke up in 2011.
McGillis worked full-time with drug addicts and alcoholics at Seabrook House Drug Alcohol Rehab Center, a rehabilitation center in Bridgeton, New Jersey, when she and Leis shared a home in Collingswood.
McGillis currently lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina. She teaches acting at The New York Studio for Stage and Screen NYS3 in Asheville, North Carolina.
McGillis was reportedly assaulted by a stranger who broke into her North Carolina home on June 17, 2016. She said the attack, as well as others she has experienced in the past, has led her to decide to apply for a concealed carry gun permit to protect herself.
McGillis is set to star in crime thriller Annie Cook, which Angel Grace Worldwide will introduce to international buyers at the Cannes Film Market.
McGillis filmed Mother of All Secrets in early 2017 in Bermuda and that trailer has already been released.