What the Hell Happened to Kelly McGillis?
The TV movies continued the following year with In the Best of Families: Marriage, Pride & Madness. Keith Carradine played a man who is terrorized by his ex-wife (McGillis) and her new boyfriend (Harry Hamlin). The movie was based on the non-fiction novel Bitter Blood: A True Story of Southern Family Pride, Madness, and Multiple Murder. It still plays on cable in reruns under the title Bitter Blood.
Later that year, McGillis returned to the big screen in a comedy from an A-list director. Unfortunately, that movie was Rob Reiner’s infamous flop, North. Future hobbit, Elijah Wood starred as a boy who divorces his parents (Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus). He travels the world looking for new parents most of whom are played by celebrities. McGillis and her Witness costar, Alexander Godunov, appeared as prospective Amish parents who are quickly rejected by North.
North was a spectacular flop. Roger Ebert’s zero-star review of the movie is one of the most notorious take-downs of his career. Ebert wrote:
I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.
His review later inspired the title of Ebert’s book. I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie. Fortunately for McGillis, North was nothing more than a cameo. While North didn’t do anything to help revive her movie career, it didn’t do any damage either.
Ten years after her breakout performance in Witness, McGillis was now a TV movie of the week regular. In addition to a failed TV pilot called Dark Eyes, McGillis starred in the haunted house movie Remember Me based on a novel by Mary Higgins Clark. McGillis played a grieving mother whose infant son has died. She believes the voices she hears in her Victorian mansion are ghostly in nature.
In 1996, McGillis starred in the courtroom drama, We the Jury. The story is a riff on Twelve Angry Men in which the jurors squabble over the evidence in a murder case. Lauren Hutton played the defendant, a TV talk show host who shot her cheating husband in the face. Her defense rests on a history of spousal abuse which may or may not be true. Christopher Plummer played Hutton’s attorney and McGillis was a member of the jury.
A decade after Top Gun, most of her costars from that movie were riding high. Tom Cruise was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. In 1996, he starred in the first Mission: Impossible movie. Val Kilmer had taken over the role of Batman the previous summer. His career was about to fall off, but that wouldn’t be apparent for a couple of years. Anthony Edwards was appearing on the hit medical drama, E/R and Meg Ryan was still the undisputed queen of the rom com. But McGillis was stuck on movies made for basic cable.
At least The Third Twin aired on a major network instead of USA or Lifetime. The two-part TV movie was based on Ken Follett’s novel of the same name. McGillis played a researcher studying a possible link between genetics and criminal behavior. Her investigation unveils a sinister plot that involves cloning and Larry Hagman. They aren’t actually cloning Larry Hagman, although that would have been pretty cool. No, apparently someone thought it would be a good idea to clone a serial rapist and send the clone to law school. Hal Holbrook and Marion Ross also showed up.
McGillis’ next TV movie was titled Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister. The title really tells you everything you need to know about the movie. Twister was one of the biggest movies of 1996 so two years later here is a cheap TV version of essentially the same thing. McGillis portrayed the widow of a meteorologist. When her husband is killed by a tornado, she dedicates her life to proving his theory that twisters are predictable. Of course if he had been able to predict the arrival of tornadoes more accurately, her husband probably wouldn’t have been killed by one. So maybe his theory needed some work.
Later that year, McGillis starred opposite Bruce Dern and David Keith in the made-for-TV thriller, Perfect Prey which is also known by the name When the Bough Breaks II. In the previous TV movie, McGillis’ and Dern’s parts were played by Ally Walker and Martin Sheen. In the semi-sequel, Dern portrays a police captain who enlists a former Texas Ranger played by McGillis to investigate a serial killer who collects dolls.
Next: At First Sight