Meg Tilly

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Meg Tilly
Meg Tilly, 2013 (cropped).jpg
Tilly in 2013
Margaret Elizabeth Chan

(1960-02-14) February 14, 1960 (age 60)
Occupation Actress, novelist
Years active
  • 1980–1995, 2010–present (acting)
  • 1994–present (writing)
Partner(s) Colin Firth (1989–1994)
Relatives Jennifer Tilly (sister)

Meg Tilly (born Margaret Elizabeth Chan; February 14, 1960) is a Canadian-American actress and novelist. [1]


For her role in the 1985 film Agnes of God , she won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her other film roles include Psycho II (1983), The Big Chill (1983), Masquerade (1988), and Valmont (1989). For her role in the television series Bomb Girls (2012–13), she won the 2013 Canadian Screen Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Tilly has also written six novels, including Porcupine (2007), which was a finalist for the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize.

Early life

Tilly was born in Long Beach, California, [2] the daughter of Patricia Ann (née Tilly), a Canadian teacher, and businessman Harry Chan. [3] [4] Her father was Chinese American, while her mother was of Irish and Finnish descent. [5]

Following her parents' divorce when she was three, Tilly was raised by her mother and stepfather, John Ward, on rural Texada Island in British Columbia. She later claimed that Ward was a violent pedophile. [6] [7] At the age of 12, Tilly started taking dance lessons, in part to avoid her stepfather, [6] and in a few years had developed into a gifted ballerina. [3]

After graduating from Esquimalt High School in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Tilly left home and moved to the United States to pursue a career as a professional dancer. [3] In New York City she studied with Madame Darvash and Melissa Hayden on full scholarship. She joined the Connecticut Ballet Company. [3] She made her screen debut as a dancer in Alan Parker's 1980 musical drama Fame . Tilly's dance career came to an abrupt halt when, in 1979, a dance partner dropped her, causing a serious back injury. [3]



Forced to give up dancing because of complications stemming from her back injury, Tilly moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actress and studied acting under Peggy Fuery. She made her television debut in the 1981 half-hour drama The Trouble with Grandpa , co-starring Elisha Cook Jr. After playing a prostitute in a second-season episode of Hill Street Blues , she appeared in her first starring role in the 1982 coming-of-age adventure film Tex with Matt Dillon.

In 1983, after she starred as the lead in the supernatural horror film One Dark Night , she appeared in Psycho II with Anthony Perkins, and Lawrence Kasdan's award-winning ensemble film The Big Chill , with Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum, JoBeth Williams and Mary Kay Place. Tilly's appearance in The Big Chill, which was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, helped her career significantly. [3] In 1984 she starred in the movie Impulse.

Tilly was the first choice for the role of Constanze Mozart in Miloš Forman's film Amadeus , having received glowing appraisals of her rehearsal work by both her would-be costar Tom Hulce and director Forman. However, she sustained a leg injury playing soccer and had to abandon the project. The role later went to Elizabeth Berridge.

In 1985, Tilly landed the acclaimed, title role in Norman Jewison's Agnes of God , appearing with Jane Fonda and Anne Bancroft. Playing the role of a novitiate nun who confesses her involvement in a virgin conception, Tilly "delivered a magnificent portrayal of a tormented young woman experiencing the ultimate crisis of faith". [3] Tilly's critically praised performance earned her an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award. [8]

Tilly later appeared in Valmont (1989), The Two Jakes (1990) with Jack Nicholson and Leaving Normal (1992) with Christine Lahti, as well as the 1993 horror film, Body Snatchers . After this, she stopped acting for the next 15 years. [9]

Tilly returned to acting in 2010, portraying the Blessed Mother, a Pope-like figure in the Caprica episode "Unvanquished". In 2011 she played Martha in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , [10] presented by the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre in Victoria, B.C. [11]

In January 2012, Global Television in Canada launched the six-part Bomb Girls about women who work in a munitions factory during World War II. [12] Tilly stars as Lorna, the emotionally closed floor matron who blossoms as a leader and an appealing woman. [13] She won the 2013 Lead Actress, Drama Canadian Screen Award for her work on the series.


Tilly is the author of six published novels. In 1994, Tilly's first novel Singing Songs was published by Dutton to generally positive reviews. Donna Rifkind from Publishers Weekly called the book "an impressive first novel", and the New York Times Book Review praised Tilly for "the remarkable coherence and clarity" of Anna's narrative voice. [14] The book is about a young girl and her sisters living in the Northwest who are molested by their stepfather. [15]

Her second novel Gemma was published in 2006 by the Syren Book Company. [16] and picked up by St. Martin's Press in 2010. The book is about a twelve-year-old girl who is kidnapped and taken on a cross-country journey in which she is physically and sexually abused by her captor. [16]

Her third novel Porcupine was published in 2007 by Tundra Books. [17] The book is about a twelve-year-old girl, Jacqueline "Jack" Cooper, whose life is shattered by the death of her father by friendly fire in the War in Afghanistan. [17] Porcupine was a finalist for the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize, shortlisted for The Canadian Libraries Association Best Children's Book 2008, Foreword Magazine Book of the Year and was an Ontario Library Best Bets 2008.

Her fourth novel First Time was published in 2008 by Orca Book Publishers. [18] The novel is about a sixteen-year-old who is molested and physically abused by her mother's boyfriend, and must deal with the trauma alone without the help of her mother or best friend. [18] First Time was a 2009 Golden Eagle Award Nominee, a 2009 YALSA Quick Picks and 2010 CCBC Best Books.

Tilly's fifth novel A Taste of Heaven was published in 2013 by Puffin Books. [19] A departure from the darker themes of Tilly's previous work, the novel is about two young girls who become friends who experience the "comical, sometimes bittersweet and melodramatic trials and tribulations of tweenhood". [20] One reviewer wrote, "Tilly paints an insightful, memorable portrait of the ups and downs of friendship and the unwavering bonds of family, delving into age-old issues of honesty, trust, and loyalty. [20] A Taste Of Heaven was shortlisted for the 2014 Libris Young Reader Book of the Year, a 2014 Diamond Willow Award and won the 2014/2015 Chocolate Lilly Award.

Her latest novel, Behind the Scenes, was published in 2014 by Puffin Books (Canada). [21] [22]

Personal life

In 1983, Tilly married her first husband, Tim Zinnemann, an American film producer and son of film director Fred Zinnemann. They met on the set of her first film, Tex. The marriage produced two children, Emily (born 1984) and David (born 1986), [23] and ended in divorce in 1989.

In 1989, Tilly began a 5-year relationship with British actor Colin Firth, whom she met during the filming of Valmont. They moved from Los Angeles to a log house on five acres of mountainside property about an hour outside Vancouver near the town of Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Their relationship produced a son, William "Will" (born 1990), [23] and ended in 1994.

In 1995, Tilly married her second husband, John Calley, an American film studio executive and producer 30 years her senior. They moved to Los Angeles where Calley worked as president and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The marriage ended in divorce in 2002.

In 2002, Tilly married her third and current husband, author Don Calame, who writes fiction for adolescents. They met during a writing seminar in Big Sur, California. [24] The couple now lives in the Gulf Islands, British Columbia.

She is the younger sister of actress Jennifer Tilly.



1980 Fame Principal Dancer
1982 Tex Jamie Collins
1983 One Dark Night Julie Wells
1983 Psycho II Mary LoomisNominated – Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
1983 The Big Chill Chloe
1984 Impulse Jennifer
1985 Agnes of God Sister Agnes Devereaux Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1986 Off Beat Rachel Wareham
1988 Masquerade Olivia Lawrence
1988 The Girl in a Swing Karin Foster
1989 Valmont Madame de Tourvel
1990 The Two Jakes Katherine "Kitty" Berman
1992 Leaving Normal Marianne Johnson
1993 Body Snatchers Carol Malone
1994 Sleep with Me Sarah
2016 Antibirth LornaNominated – Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress
2017 War Machine Jeanie McMahon


1981 The Trouble with Grandpa DorieTV special
1982 Hill Street Blues HookerTV series (1 episode: "Some Like It Hot-Wired")
1989 Nightmare Classics CarmillaTV series (1 episode: "Carmilla")
1990 In the Best Interest of the Child Jennifer ColtonTV movie
1993 Road to Avonlea Evelyn GrierTV series (1 episode: "Evelyn")
1993 Fallen Angels Lois WeldonTV series (1 episode: "Dead-End for Delia")
1994 Winnetka Road George GraceTV series (6 episodes)
1994Primal SecretsFaith CrowellTV movie
1995 Journey MinTV movie
2010 Caprica Blessed MotherTV series (2 episodes)
2012–13 Bomb Girls Lorna CorbettTV series (18 episodes)
Leo Award for Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series (2012, 2013)
Canadian Screen Award for Best Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2013)
Nominated – Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series (2012)
Nominated – Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (2013)
Nominated – ACTRA Award for Outstanding Performance – Female (2013, 2014)
Nominated – Canadian Screen Award for Best Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role (2014)
2014 Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy Lorna CorbettTV movie

Works and publications

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  1. Telling, Gillian (June 6, 2017). "Meg Tilly Says She Hated Being Hit On in Hollywood—and Her Quiet Life Living on an Island Now Couldn't Be More Different". People .
  2. According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Meg Tilly Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  4. "Meg Tilly Biography". Retrieved February 1, 2012.
  5. "Meg Tilly is Asian Irish". Asiance. March 2011. Archived from the original on December 29, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2012. [Meg] is the daughter of Patricia Tilly, an Irish and Finnish schoolteacher and Harry Chan, a Chinese American used car salesman... 'My mother was Irish/Finnish...'
    "Bio, Pictures and Videos of Poker Pro: Jennifer Tilly". Bankroll Boost. Retrieved January 31, 2012. [Jennifer's] father was a Chinese-American stockbroker and her mother an Irish-Canadian.
    Rose, Tiffany (November 19, 2004). "Jennifer Tilly: Little voice, big talent". The Independent. London. Retrieved January 31, 2012. [Jennifer] Tilly, who owes her exotic looks to her Chinese/Native American blood...
  6. 1 2 Chiu, Alexis (September 11, 2006). "Scars of Her Youth". People.
  7. Tilly, Meg (October 16, 2017). "#MeToo I am grateful that I've gotten to the point where their wrongs no longer define me. That is their burden to carry. Not mine. #Karma". @meggamonstah. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  8. Maslin, Janet (September 13, 1985). "Agnes of God (1985)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  9. Hampson, Sarah (March 28, 2013). "Meg Tilly as she is, not as you'd imagine". The Globe and Mail . Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  10. Chamberlain, Adrian (July 7, 2011). "Meg Tilly's leap of faith|". Times Colonist. Victoria. Retrieved February 2, 2012.(subscription required).
  11. "Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre. Archived from the original on September 18, 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  12. Vlessing, Etan (August 25, 2011). "Meg Tilly Takes Lead in Canadian 'Bomb Girls' Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  13. Chamberlain, Adrian (December 21, 2011). "From minx to matron – with no regrets". Times Colonist. Victoria. Retrieved February 2, 2012.[ permanent dead link ]
    Chamberlain, Adrian (December 22, 2011). "From Minx to Matron". Times Colonist. Victoria. Retrieved February 2, 2012.(subscription required).
  14. Colford, Paul D. (June 17, 1994). "Actress Tilly Lets Voice Be Heard—as a Novelist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  15. Tilly, Meg (1994). Singing Songs. Boston: Dutton Adult. ISBN   978-0-525-93778-4.
  16. 1 2 Tilly, Meg (2006). Gemma. Minneapolis: Syren Book Company. ISBN   978-0-929636-61-0.
  17. 1 2 Tilly, Meg (2007). Porcupine. Toronto: Tundra Books. ISBN   978-0-88776-810-1.
  18. 1 2 Tilly, Meg (2008). First Time. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers. ISBN   978-1-55143-944-0.
  19. Tilly, Meg (2013). A Taste of Heaven. London: Puffin Books. ISBN   978-0-14-318249-8.
  20. 1 2 Foster, Jennifer D. (April 2013). "A Taste of Heaven by Meg Tilly". Quill & Quire. Retrieved February 3, 2014.
  21. "Behind the Scenes by Meg Tilly". Penguin Random House Canada. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  22. Tilly, Meg (2014). Behind the Scenes. Canada: Puffin. ISBN   978-0-14-318251-1.
  23. 1 2 "Meg Tilly -". NNDB .
  24. Hampson, Sarah (March 28, 2013). "Meg Tilly as she is, not as you'd imagine". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 4, 2014.