Kelly McGillis has played mostly strong, stalwart characters, women of conviction and great self-confidence. You can't appreciate the amount of acting she does in these roles until you hear her describe herself.
"I'm highly insecure and not very social," McGillis says. "I don't feel very important in the whole of life."
In her current release, "Winter People," a Depression-era love story set in a remote mountain community, McGillis, 31, plays a strong-willed single mother who falls in love with a character played by Kurt Russell, a widower with a 10-year-old daughter.
McGillis acknowledges that the movie is flawed, but she says she was happy with her work in it because of the range of emotions she was challenged to meet. She says she took the role of Collie Wright, a single mother "grappling with her place in society," specifically because of those emotional demands.
"All the tears and emotional peaks are real," she says.
Most of the good notices for her last film, "The Accused," went to her co-star, Jodie Foster, who won the best-actress Oscar for playing the role McGillis turned down. McGillis had her choice of the film's two lead roles and said she accepted the part of the prosecuting attorney instead of the rape victim because she had been the victim of a rape herself in 1982.
McGillis has spoken publicly about her rape experience and wrote a first-person account of it for "People" magazine last year. Despite her screen image and the articulate efforts she has made on behalf of rape treatment centers, the actress wears her insecurities on her sleeve.
"I have a big phobia about not being smart," she says. "I'm not book-smart, but I think I'm very instinctual. I always try to better myself, but I'll probably go to my grave feeling inadequate."