When Top Gun came out, so many of us wanted to be Kelly McGillis. The actress was Tom Cruise’s leading lady in the classic film and she seemed to combine strength and natural beauty in an effortless way. Sadly, things were less than perfect off-screen.
When McGillis was in her 20s, she was viciously raped by two men. She was living in New York City after relocating from California 24 years ago when her attackers broke into her apartment as she was getting out of the shower.
As she screamed for help, the pair held a knife to her face and forced her into her bedroom where they took turns raping her. To further demoralize her, they spat on and hit her while stabbing at her. Back in 1988, she told People magazine: “They kept switching and telling me they were going to beat me until I was dead. At that point, I thought I would die, and I had resigned myself.”
Fortunately, police arrived on the scene and stopped the attack. A month later, the men were arrested but one of them escaped conviction.
Understandably, McGillis was deeply affected by what had happened. “The first few weeks after the incident I couldn’t eat or sleep. I twitched incessantly” she told People. “I would gasp suddenly without being able to control it.”
The actress gained 30 pounds and began to depend on alcohol to cope with her pain. Eventually, she went to rehab and entered therapy to deal with her emotions but she still struggled to trust men. Her substance abuse continued and grew to include drugs. After entering a halfway house in Pennsylvania, she found the determination to get her life back on track.
Despite divorcing her second husband in 2002, McGillis repaired her relationship with her adult daughters and came out as a lesbian. She married her partner, Melanie Leis, after 10 years together back in 2009 and was happily living a “very quiet, little normal life” until they split in 2013.
She didn’t let the failed relationship derail her, though. Instead, McGillis has focused her life on working with women at a New Jersey drug and rehab facility. Of the experience, McGillis said: “I find it’s just an amazing gift to see people come in hopeless and to be given some hope and some desire to live, and some tools for hopefully changing their lives, their children’s lives, their families’ lives.”
She’s also considering a return to Hollywood. McGillis is now 58 years old and living in North Carolina.