Kelly McGillis Is Not a Role Model

Returning to the silver screen in the vampire thriller Stake Land, Kelly McGillis reveals the even scarier responsibilities that come with coming out.



After taking our breath away in 1980s hits like Witness, The Accused, and, yes, Top Gun, Kelly McGillis felt the need for less speed. While on a semi-hiatus from Hollywood to raise her two daughters, she also divorced her second husband, overcame drug and alcohol addiction, and officially came out as a lesbian in 2009. Now wed to her longtime girlfriend and almost 10 years sober, McGillis returns to the silver screen in Jim Mickle’s Stake Land (in theaters April 22) as a terrorized nun opposite Gossip Girl's Connor Paolo as a young vampire hunter. In her first conversation with The Advocate, the 53-year-old reveals the even scarier responsibilities that come with coming out. The vampire genre is very hot right now. What sets Stake Land apart?
Kelly McGillis: You’re asking the wrong girl. I don’t know, because I’ve never really seen another vampire flick other than the Twilight movies, which aren’t really scary.

What kind of movies do you watch?
I watch very mainstream movies. I’ll watch anything, but I don’t like watching scary movies because they disturb my sleep. I need my sleep.

You make a very memorable entrance in Stake Land, screaming at the top of your lungs and running from your attackers while wearing a bloody nun’s habit. As an actress, did you have to go to a dark place to get there?
It’s funny when people ask things like that, because if you just invest yourself in the moment and believe it with all your heart, then boom, you’re there. I don’t want to have to go to dark places to do my job. I’ve lived in dark places before, and I don’t want to revisit them.

You play a nun questioning her faith in a post-apocalyptic world where fundamentalist Christian gangs are as deadly as the vamps. As someone who once said, “I had a lot of things happen that convinced me God was punishing me because I was gay,” could you relate to those religious themes?
Yeah, one of the things that appealed to me about the film is the notion that extremism is dangerous. That’s true of anything, whether it’s religion or dieting, but that really resonated with me.

Yours is what some might call a brave and fearless performance, mainly because it demanded no makeup or vanity. Was that intimidating, or does that kind of role appeal to you?
I don’t know if it appeals to me in my career, but it certainly is how I am in my life. It was very liberating not to have to wear makeup or anything. I really enjoyed the experience. When I do all that external stuff, my tendency is to focus more on the external as opposed to the internal, which is just the nature of having people puff and fluff you all day. So it was very nice not to give a shit.

I’ve read that you refuse to dye your hair for a role.
Listen, if someone wanted to pay me a heap of money? Sure. But truthfully, my hair is at the point where it won’t stay dyed, and at some point you just have to give up the ship. Even though going gray was a somewhat harrowing transition, it was ultimately really wonderful because you get to move into a place of absolute self-expansion.

Tags: film