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Questions and Answers With Kelly McGillis

Kelly McGillis Getty Images

It's been 27 years since Kelly McGillis starred opposite Tom Cruise in "Top Gun" as his instructor and love interest, though the film is arguably as much a part of the zeitgeist now as it ever was — hence its upcoming re-release in IMAX 3D. After "Top Gun," McGillis went on to a prolific film and stage career, including roles in "The Accused," "Winter People" and "The Innkeepers."

We spoke with McGillis in advance of the release of "Top Gun: An IMAX 3D Experience" about sex scenes with Cruise, thinking about "Top Gun" at the supermarket and, of course, the volleyball scene. "Top Gun" in 3D is currently in theaters with the Blu-ray release set for Feb. 19.

When you were making "Top Gun," did you have any idea of the cultural impact that the movie would have for years?
No. How could I know? I wouldn't ever guess that that film was going to be as big as it was, and certainly 27 years later that they would be releasing it in 3D? How could I have ever imagined that?

Had you any idea that your co-star, Tom Cruise, would go on to become the biggest star on the planet?
Yeah, no. No. Is he the biggest star on the planet? That would be nice if he is, I don't know if he is ...

You could certainly make the argument that he was in the mid-'90s.
Yeah. I think Tom is such a super guy, he's very nice, he's professional, respectful, and I'm glad he became such a big star. I think that's wonderful for him.

Were you nervous at all to film that sex scene with Cruise, particularly after "Risky Business" had made him a sex symbol?
No, it's acting. [laughs] No. I wasn't nervous at all. It was an acting job, that's what acting is, you just do whatever you're supposed to do. That's all.

Top Gun Paramount

Do you still keep in touch with him?
No. Well, I saw him out in L.A. about two years ago, but honestly, I don't keep in touch with people that I work with, because if you think about it hard, it is a very unnatural situation: You have a bunch of people coming from their own lives into this life of the movie, and the thing that holds you incumbent is that project at that time. And then once that's done, everybody goes back to their own lives, their own friends, their own routine of what they do. And in my experience, my routine and my life has not very often coincided with other people that I've worked with, because I've always lived not in L.A. So I think for me, it's just a job. I go there, I work, I leave.

Can you hear "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" or "Take My Breath Away" without thinking of the movie?
[laughs] No, I can't. And it seems to me ... I lived in a little town called Mohnton, Pennsylvania, and every time I went to the grocery store, a song from "Top Gun" would be on the overhead speakers, and I thought, "Did they know that I'm coming in?" Because it was like clockwork! I couldn't believe it. And I think it's funny, because I think of how many different versions I've heard of those songs over the years, you know, from elevator versions to ... I just think it's kind of amazing. Who knew? Who knew that that song would have such an impact and last so long? I didn't know.

Do you ever get tired of either of those songs? Like, "Ugh, not this again."
No, no I don't get like that. I just get a little smile. I just think it's funny.

Over the years, the volleyball scene has become pretty infamous. Would you agree that it's the best scene in the movie?
No! [laughs]

There is obviously a famous scene featuring Maverick and Goose singing "Great Balls of Fire." Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
I've never done it. Never done karaoke.

What did you buy with your first Hollywood paycheck?
Oh! I'd have to think about that! What did I buy? ... I got a better apartment.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?
Oh, I can't even remember the name of it. [laughs] It was that bad!

Winter People Columbia Pictures

What's the most underrated movie you were ever in?
That I was ever in? Oh, I don't know. Gosh, I can't even remember the movies that I've done ... uh, I don't know. "Winter People," I would say, maybe. No, maybe not, I don't think so. I don't know, I don't have any clue.

So, "Winter People" then?
Maybe. [laughs]

What's the movie that made you want to act?
"Day of the Locust."

What's your favorite word?
My favorite word is "fantasmagorical."

Excellent choice. How often would you say you look at your IMDb profile?
Zero. I've never looked at it.

Not even once?
Nope.

What's the single greatest moment of your career?
Oh, I don't know. Single greatest moment of my career ... I think doing [the stage play] "Mourning Becomes Electra."

What's the best advice you've ever gotten?
"Don't give up."

What is your second favorite website (after NextMovie)?
[laughs] My favorite website? DrOz.com.

I can empathize. What movie makes you cry?
The one with the little bell and the angel ... it's on every Christmas ..."It's a Wonderful Life"!

I thought you were going to say "A Christmas Story."
No. But I like that movie, too.

Top Gun Paramount

Do you have any good scars?
Why yes, I do! [laughs]

Care to elaborate?
One time I was angry and I was making dinner, and I had a fight with my husband, and I slammed a casserole dish on the counter, and a big piece of it cut into my hand, and I bled all over the place, and the lesson I learned from that is not to get angry. Because when I get angry, I get hurt.

New York or L.A.?
New York.

Beer or wine?
None of the above.

Rap or rock?
Rock.

Pacino or De Niro?
De Niro.

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