[PROFILE] Meg Tilly - Actress
Meg was born on February 14, 1960 in Long Beach, CA. Her sister,
Jennifer, is also an actress and there have been several sources
that say Meg is the older, but Jennifer was born in Sept 1958. I
know there's a lot of conflicting information on this, but read
Leonard Maltin's new book
Raised in British Columbia by her mother and step-father, Meg
started taking dancing lessons at age 12. She earned a scholarship
to a top ballet school in New York, but a serious back injury ended
her dancing career. She then went to Los Angeles to pursue an acting
career and the rest, as they say, is history.
Meg tends to shy away from publicity, and if you have caught any of
her interviews, you'll know she's definitely not your
typical "star". At least for a while, Meg divided her time between
southern California and her home in Canada, and she didn't even have
a television! But, I think it is pretty admirable that she prefers
to spend time with her family as opposed to living in the limelight.
Just another reason I admire this woman.
One bit of trivia that has been asked a LOT concerns
Meg's 'ethnicity'. Well, for the longest time this was a topic she
and her sister Jennifer seemed to avoid, but a few months back,
Jennifer announced to the world that their father is Chinese. So,
that should answer all of THOSE questions. Personally it has never
made much difference to me - she is who and what she is! Oh..! And
for all of you who have been asking how TALL she is - an article
about Meg in the January 1984 issue of 'Seventeen' magazine states
she is 5 ft 6 inches.
Although Meg hasn't made any movies lately, she has been busy! She
has three children - two by 1st husband Tim Zinneman, whom she
divorced in 1989 and a third by actor Colin Firth. In addition to a
busy personal life, she also wrote a novel titled "Singing Songs"
which I thought was pretty good! I have added a page here where you
can learn a little more about her novel, and read a short chapter.
Meg reportedly is working on making a movie out of "Singing Songs",
but is behind the cameras this time. The last major news I have is
that she has parted ways with (ex?) hubby John Calley, and that she
may be getting married to someone new.
(Web Site Interview) Feb 2002
This interview was translated from the Spanish web site 'Visiones
Macabre'. You can check out the site using the link. This excellent
translation from Spanish to English was accomplished by Max Lopez,
to whom I express my gratitude.
Meg Tilly is sitting down with her legs crossed on a wooden chair
that won't stop making a bothersome creaking and she moves her dark
bangs from her porcelain face while she meditates the question that
has just been asked. How did the script for "Body Snatchers" reach
"It was sent to me by mail" she replies with a thoughtful voice, and
suddenly she begins to laugh. "Well, the truth is my agent told me
it was something I wasn't going to be interested in, but it was an
offer and thought I should look at it. The script was running around
the house for a few days until I picked it up and started to read
it and I liked it."
"I phoned my agent and in an almost apologetic tone I said I kind of
wanted to do the film. My agent read the script and agreed she saw
that it had some good things in it. Even on that evening we both
began to ask ourselves what was in the dresser and what could be
under the bed! My agent even had a nightmare It wasn't a movie that
would do much for my career, but I was drawn by it, so I decided to
interpret the role."
One of the elements of the script which she liked the most was the
pod scream, an inhuman sound that is used by possessed people to
identify those who have yet to be changed.
"I thought of all the things that feel comforting, all that is
recognizable and all that is normal simply changing all of a sudden
into that horrendous and threatening sound", she explains. "I tried
a few sounds on the road I had to lower the windows so I wouldn't
blow out my eardrums!"
Tilly is an enigma. Simultaneously ethereal and very pragmatic,
absentminded and tremendously intelligent, serene and far to nervous
to sit still, she looks more like an adolescent than a happy wife
and mother of two, and she is capable of doing an entire interview
without talking about psychoanalytical therapy, exercise or the last
furor in Los Angeles fashion. (Speaking of which, she doesn't even
live in Los Angeles.) When she speaks she places her entire body
behind each word she enunciates, and she places on your face her
almost catlike stare with her almond shaped eyes.
"Body Snatchers" is something new for the actress: instead of
portraying the adolescent character she portrays the mother of the
adolescent character. Stepmother, in fact, and it is clear that her
role is that of a younger second wife even so she takes one step
further in the direction that will take her to more mature roles.
"Carol is a real person, a mother with a son and a husband." she
says with a thoughtful expression. She is also a stepmother, someone
who is trying to do as best as possible the responsibilities of a
mother Sometimes she does it well and sometimes, not so much. She
is trying to give the best she can."
The special challenge that the role demands comes when Carol
is 'possessed' towards the middle of the film and she becomes one of
the pod-people, a soulless creature who has been robbed of it's
personality. Tilly utilized an internal focus in order to obtain the
transformation, and chose to transmit it in a subtle and discreet
"I limited myself to introduce a change in my way of thinking and
the way I see things", she explains, and searches for an
example. "When I look at my child I do it in a different way then
when I'm contemplating a chair. They are different the child is a
living being and the chair is an object. When Carol ceases to be
Carol their no longer exist a difference to her between a child and
Tilly is no scream queen, but besides that she has left her imprint
on the films of that genre ever since "Psycho 2" by Richard Franklin
up to "The Girl in a Swing", by Gordon Hessler; and unlike many
other actresses with pampered reputations she doesn't depreciate her
work in those films.
"Horror movies can be very interesting", she quickly
replies "because they can deal with intangible subjects that are
full of emotion. That is why it is difficult for me to talk about my
role in "Body Snatchers". I can talk and talk, but all I'd do is
turn in circles around the basic theme because it is something that
resists being captured by language."
Talking about Abel Ferrara, the director of "Body Snatchers", is
much easier for her. "Abel impressed me very much because his
methods of work are very different to those that I'm used to
seeing." She says "I'm the type of person who likes to know exactly
how many steps she will have to take and when she should look up,
and with him that is impossible. "Body Snatchers" has been like a
ride on a roller coaster Here we go!" Tilly moves her head from
side to side to explain the experience. "In the beginning, I felt
something like you know, 'Help, I want to get off!' I would torture
myself by going in circles with the dialogue, and when I reached the
plate it turns out that all the dialogue had changed. That's when I
would lose my head, I would go to him and say 'Abel, you have to
help me'. I wasn't sure I'd be able to go on, but I've been able to
do it. In the end it all comes down to letting go without knowing
exactly what I have to do."
"Now I feel like one of those Rodeo riders. I'm on top of a wild
horse that won't stop jumping and kicking, and it is really exciting
but I grab on to his ears and his mane and I'm screaming. The result
is fun, but it's also scary!" Tilly laughs. "I would love to work
with Abel again, I've had a good time making this movie. There are
some directors you deal with and other directors you end up falling
in love with, and I adore Abel."
Tilly was born February 14, 1960 in Long Beach, California, but she
was raised on an Island close to the coast of Canada. Her first
ambition was to be a ballet dancer. She began very late when she was
a teenager, and based on discipline and decision she managed to get
far by studying with the famous ballet dancer Melissa Hayden of New
York; but the hastiness of a test to form part of an important
ballet company caused an accident which changed the course of
Tilly's career for the better. While recuperating she decided to
move west and try her luck at acting.
Even though she didn't have a film history worthy of that name
only a brief appearance as a dancer in "Fame" where her dialogue
ended up on the cutting room floor - Tilly didn't take long in
landing the role of Matt Dillon's friend in "Tex" . In 1983
she had three more starring roles: "The Big Chill", which brought
her much critical acclaim, and two horror movies, "Psycho 2"
and "One Dark Night", directed by Tom Mcloughlin.
Tilly doesn't have a good memory of this last one an exercise of
suspense not well distinguished with terrorized teens in a
mausoleum - but she enjoyed her stay in the Bates motel.
"Psycho 2 was an excellent experience in which I learned many
things", Tilly says. "It was one of my first movies, and Tom
Holland, the screenwriter, was very nice to me he helped me in all
that he could. Whenever possible I prefer to work with the
screenwriter" she continues, and it's clear she is getting excited
with the subject, "because you have someone who can answer all of
the questions about why, when and how. If the script has been
written in a hurry and hastily then it doesn't matter, but if a lot
of work and mental energy has gone into it I like to do what the
"Psycho 2" was very mistreated mainly because it was the sequel to
the classic from Hitchcock, but leaving aside the opinion that the
movie deserved - many critics praised Tilly's performance. 'Variety'
complemented her by saying that she was "something that isn't seen
very often, the damsel in distress that is capable of looking
vulnerable and likeable and, at the same time, capable of defending
herself in any situation and making it believable."
Her next film of the genre was "Impulse", by Graham Baker, a 1984
production that with certain alterations used the premise from 'The
Crazies', and in which Tilly was the only person not affected by the
wave of liberation from impulse that turned into a living hell the
town she lived in.
"It was a good experience" she remembers, "even though it isn't one
of my favorite movies. I worked with excellent people, and we all
used the best of ourselves, but it isn't one of the movies I cherish
the most." Those movies include "Agnes of God", for which she
obtained an Oscar nomination portraying a naïve nun who probably
murdered her baby.
Tilly was fascinated by her character in "The Girl in a Swing" a
story about supernatural love which has been compared to Portrait of
Jennie but she was frightened to see the tremendous editing done
to the film during it's exhibition in the U.S.
"It was a two and a half hour long movie" she recalls, "and when I
saw the director's final cut I was very proud of it. Then I went to
the premiere and they had destroyed it. It was scary. Then they sent
me a copy of the U.S. version and it was even worse, I felt
violated. Many people have told me that they don't understand it,
that all I do is scream and run naked from one place to another, and
they are right, that's all that's left of the film" says Tilly,
frowning, "but that's not what I did, and I didn't accept the role
to do that, evidently. Karin had so much character, so much
strength, so many different levels and the leading man of the story
was incapable of treating her the way she deserved. Each time she
tried to tell him the truth he refused to listen to her."
"I made that movie practically for free; I would change wardrobe in
the back of a car" Tilly continues to explain, "but I fell in love
with the character, and I wanted to interpret her at all cost, and
they violated her. I was furious and that's why I refused to do any
type of publicity for the film. I didn't want to say anything bad
about her because I am still in love with that character, but I felt
like they had betrayed her and I didn't want to have anything to do
with it. I would like for them to one day release the original
version because I feel very proud of the performance I achieved in
After "Leaving Normal", a buddy and road film, Tilly faced Body
Snatchers. She had already used some prosthetics in her hands
in "Agnes of God", but "Body Snatchers" has been her first
experience with special make-up in a grand scale.
"If they have covered your face with latex you have to control
yourself mentally so you won't think" she explains. "If you start
thinking you will succumb to panic. I had a bit of a cold, and
frankly I didn't have a good time. There was a moment in which I
knew I had to sneeze, and I thought 'Don't do it, you will ruin the
mold', and I managed not to sneeze. Once they took my face and my
body well, it was a strange experience, and I haven't even seen the
final product. That is why it's so fun to make movies you get to do
lots of things you would never do in your normal life. I can't say
that it was one of my favorite experiences, but I like the fact that
I did it."
Tilly gets enthusiastic in explaining that she is anxious to see
Body Snatchers completed. "It is such a rich idea." she says. "It is
related to the fear of not having control of your own body, and that
the whole world has to think in the same way. In actual society it
seems like everything is reversed, as if we were returning to a
terrible conformity, which is imposed by force, labeling people who
refuse to accept it as 'evil'. I don't wish to overcharge the movie
with those subjects, but they are things, which I've been thinking
much about lately and I feel like they are reflected in 'Body
Fame - 1980 (She was one of the background dancers - hard to spot!)
Tex - 1982 (Jamie Collins)
One Dark Night - 1983 (Julie)
The Big Chill - 1983 - (Chloe) Married Tim Zinneman while making
Psycho II - 1983 (Mary) A body double was used in bathroom scene
Impulse - 1984 (Jennifer)
Agnes of God - 1985 (Sister Agnes) won Golden Globe & nominated for
Best Supporting Actress
Off Beat - 1986 (Rachel Wareham)
Masquerade - 1988 (Olivia Lawrence)
Valmont - 1989 (MMe Tourvel)
The Girl in a Swing - 1989 (Karin)
The Two Jakes - 1990 - (Kitty Berman)
Carmilla - 1990 (Carmilla)
Leaving Normal - 1992 (Marianne)
Body Snatchers - 1993 - (Carol Malone) - APEX award for Best
Supporting Actress - also, a body double was used in the nude scene
Sleep With Me - 1994 (Sarah)
Journey - 1995 (Min)
Winnetka Road - 1994 (George)
Primal Secrets - 1994 (Faith Crowell) also known as "Trick of the
Dead End for Delia - 1993 (Lois) one of Showtime's "Fallen Angels"
In the Best Interest of the Child -1990 (Jennifer Colton)
The Trouble with Grandpa - 1982 (Dori)
Hill Street Blues - 1981 "Some Like It Hotwired"
Avonlea - 1991 "Evelyn" (Evelyn Grier
(Australia) April 1996
Darcy Broke My Heart by Gerard Evans
His brooding performance is taking the country (Australia) by storm,
but for one woman, it's just a sad reminder of a lost love.
As TV's proud but irresistible Mr Darcy, he has every woman longing
to fall into his arms. But for actress Meg Tilly, Pride And
Prejudice hunk Colin Firth was the true love who slipped from her
grasp. For six years, dashing Colin captivated petite, almond-eyed
Meg's heart and they shared an idyllic life in wilderness country
where they produced an adored son. The couple seemed assured an
ending as happy as that of the characters in the BBC production of
Jane Austen's classic love story.
But today, the 36-year-old star of The Big Chill can still barely
bring herself to discuss how their blissful love affair fell apart
two years ago, under the strain of conflicting career schedules.
Since parting from her true love, Meg admits she has failed to find
any man to soothe the pain. Instead, she has abandoned dating and
retreated to a lonely cabin existence in Canada. Meanwhile, Colin
has remained unattached and admits to friends he is still "badly
bruised" by the break-up.
0scar nominee Meg, sister of actress Jennifer Tilly, puts on a brave
face when saying she is "happily alone" and not interested in
dating. "I just don't feel like it. 1 have a lot of male friends.
That's good. But that's all I want right now. Keep that sort of
thing away from me," she laughs hollowly.
When asked about Colin, who's enjoying huge acclaim as Darcy in the
adaptation. Meg is polite but reserved. "He's one of my best
friends," she says. "We just couldn't make it work with him having
to live in England for his career, and me here. There was too much
But friends of Meg, who has the pale, delicate beauty of a real-life
Elizabeth Bennet, says the Golden Globe winner was "crushed" when
Colin quietly told her their relationship was over. They say she had
broken her own golden rule of never getting involved with her
leading men, when she fell for his charms as another dashing
romantic figure, in the movie Valmont.
Nowadays, Colin is an "involved father" says Meg, who gave birth to
their son, Will, five years ago. Colin is an infrequent visitor to
her remote Vancouver home but she allows Will to visit his dad in
Meg admits Single Motherhood has had its share of ups and
downs. "There we times when everybody in the house has the flu.
You're cleaning up vomit and it's two in the morning, and you're
wishing there was somebody else there to help you," she says. But on
the whole, motherhood definitely agrees with Meg, who has two more
children, Emily, 10, and David, 8, from her marriage to Tim
Zinnemann - son of director Fred Zinnemann.
"It helps when 1 can send the children off to their fathers so 1 can
support my new book with a national publicity tour," adds Meg, who
tried to forget the pain of her break-up by plunging herself into
writing a harrowing first novel about child abuse. Meg's novel,
titled Singing Songs, was published last year and tells the story of
a young girl's journey to adulthood as she grows up in an abusive
family in the Pacific Northwest. It has received critical praise,
and a film adaptation is in the works, with Meg at the helm as
writer/director. "I started writing the. book when my daughter was
five. It took me almost four years," says Meg.
Meg and Colin met in 1989 on the set of Valmont, the acclaimed Miles
Forman version of Dangerous Liaisons. In it she played Madame De
Tourval - the role filled by Michelle Pfeiffer in the other version -
who falls for the predatory Lothario Comte de Valmont, played by
Colin. Filmed in a romantic chateau in France and featuring several
steamy bedroom scenes, Colin and Meg's film passion soon caught fire
Colin was attracted to her because Meg has a characteristic uncommon
in most actresses - she dislikes talking about herself and is a good
listener. When she met Colin, Meg was divorced from Tim Zinnemann
and splitting her time between a Brentwood home and a country
retreat in her native Canada. Colin joined her and settled down to
When baby Will arrived, friends expected a marriage, but Meg, who
comes from a family of six brothers and sisters, explains
sadly: "For a marriage to work, for a relationship to work, it
requires commitment and a lot of work. "There are times when it's
not so great, and times when it is. But there has to be more better
times than worse. In Canada, I'm the only one of my friends not
married. In Los Angeles, I'm a success story. I've had two long
relationships. And I'm okay".
During her heady romance with Colin, Meg all but abandoned acting to
become a full-time mum. Only recently has she ventured back to
Hollywood. Last year she starred in the comedy-romance, Sleep With
Me, with Eric Stoltz and Craig Sheffer. "I know that in order to be
considered successful, you're supposed to do two or three movies a
year," Meg explains. "I only work once every year-and-a-half,
sometimes two years. I have children to raise."
Meg's "house in the woods" in British Columbia doesn't even have a
television. It was this modest lifestyle that attracted Colin, who
is known for his love of privacy. "If you meet people who have been
successful in Hollywood, or look a their photographs, you see a
haunted look in their eyes, you sense a trapped feeling," he says.
It is the reluctance to leave her remote forest cabin however, that
may have finally exhausted Colin. According to one friend: "It was
just too difficult for them to be together. Colin has always wanted
to live in England. He feels at home there and Meg understood his
work was there."
For a long time they worked hard at seeing each other, but everyone
has their limits and Colin reached his. Early in her career, Meg
starred in the film Agnes Of God, with Jane Fonda and Anne
Bancroft. "I really enjoy acting." she says. "At home I can't even
finish a sentence, and here I am reading these wonderful lines. I
think it must be every housewife's dream, to be an actress part-
"Seventeen" magazine - 1984
Meg Tilly - Young actress discovered by film director's wife and
lands first movie role in six months flat... is this a classic
Hollywood success story? Not quite - nothing about Meg Tilly is that
conventional! Certain elements of the silver screen myth are
missing; although a lot has happened in the last two years to the
young actress featured in "Tex", "Psycho II", and "The Big Chill",
none of it was struggled for or even dreamed about. Meg's dreams
started off in quite a different direction.
One of six children (she has two sisters, three brothers), Meg was
born in California and raised in Canada. She was almost a teen
before she discovered ballet, which is late for a dancer to begin -
but devotion and determination can make up for lost time. After high
school, she headed for New York City - the Mecca for serious dance
students. Meg solved the problem of where to study in a practical
manner: She approached two girls - stance erect, feet turned out,
dance bags in hands - and asked them where they took class! Meg's
training was cut short, however, by a serious back injury; though
she would dance again, a dance career was ruled out.
Meg's next move was no less adventurous than the one that had taken
her to New York; One of her sisters had settled in Los Angeles to
pursue an acting career, and Meg headed west to join her. With her
sister's aid, she began taking acting classes, had head shots taken,
joined the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and began making the rounds.
Were there years of waiting for the big break? Not exactly!
The cameras were ready to roll for "Tex", starring Matt Dillon, but
there was one female part unfilled - no one right for it had turned
up. Then the wife of Tim Hunter, the director, happened upon Meg
Tilly's picture while leafing through the Academy Directory (a
listing of all SAG members) and proposed her for the part. (P.S. She
got it.) After "Tex" came two TV appearances; the costarring role
opposite Tony Perkins in "Psycho II" and, more recently, "The Big
Chill" which opened the prestigious "Who's Who" of young American
actors (among them, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Mary Kay
Place, and JoBeth Williams), and the filmmaking experience itself
was a joy for Meg: "Lawrence Kasdan (the director) made sure from
the start that everyone stuck together. They were all so talented -
and so nice!" Besides her acting career, something else wonderful
began with "Tex": meg met her husband-to-be, producer Tim Zinnemann,
and they were married in January 1983. (Is this a movie script?)
Twenty-three-year-old Meg's life offscreen is a private one. With
her totally natural appearance, she can still go places
unrecognized - and she wants to keep it that way! (For those times
when she wants to wear makeup off-camera, we helped her out: see
pics below.) Meg's clothing style is eclectic; she favors secondhand
stores with period dresses. A slender five foot six and a half, she
never weighs herself - "I can just tell by how my clothes fit." She
eats small, balanced meals and keeps in shape with warm-ups and
routines that are all basically balletic. Meg dances as much as two
to four hours a day, when her work schedule permits, and it's
obvious (pics at left) that all that ballet training has paid off!
For entertainment, meg and Tim go to the movies frequently. Meg's
parents didn't allow her to watch TV, and they weren't movie fans,
so Tim is introducing her to classic films - "helping her to make up
for lost time!" (His own cinematic roots go way back - famous
director Fred Zinnemann is his father.) They spend as much time
together as possible and join each other on location when they can
arrange it. Sometimes it works out perfectly: Tim produced Meg's
soon-to-be-released film "Impulse" costarring Tim Matheson.
What's next for Meg? "Good roles, I hope - I look forward to playing
older parts, because they're more dimensional than ingenues. I
didn't plan to act, but I'm glad I'm doing it - and I just want to
keep getting better." So far, so good! -- Marianne Mangan -