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Meg Tilly

Meg Tilly
File:Meg Tilly Canadian Screen Awards 2013.png
Tilly at the Canadian Screen Awards, 2013
Born Margaret Elizabeth Chan
(1960-02-14) February 14, 1960 (age 56)
Long Beach, California, US
Occupation Actress, novelist
Years active
  • 1980–95, 2010–present (acting)
  • 1994–present (writing)
Spouse(s) Tim Zinnemann (m. 1983–89)
John Calley (m. 1995–2002)
Don Calame (m. 2002)
Partner(s) Colin Firth (1989–94)
Children Emily (b. 1984)
David (b. 1986)
Will (b. 1990)

Meg Tilly (born February 14, 1960) is a Canadian-American actress and novelist. She is best known for her performances in The Big Chill (1983), Agnes of God (1985), Valmont (1989), and the television series Bomb Girls (2012–13). Tilly received an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award in 1986 for her work in Agnes of God, and the Leo Award in 2013 for her lead role in Bomb Girls. Tilly has written five novels, including Porcupine, which was a finalist for the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize.

Early life

Meg Tilly was born Margaret Elizabeth Chan on February 14, 1960 in Long Beach, California,[1] the daughter of Patricia Ann (née Tilly), a Canadian schoolteacher, and businessman Harry Chan.[2][3] Tilly's father was Chinese American, and her mother was of Irish, Finnish and First Nations descent.[4] She was the third of four children. She has a brother, Steve, and two sisters, Rebecca and actress Jennifer.

Following her parents' divorce when she was three, she was raised by her mother and stepfather, John Ward, on rural Texada Island in British Columbia. At the age of 12, Tilly started taking dance lessons, and in a few years had developed into a gifted ballerina.[2]

After graduating from Esquimalt High School in Victoria, British Columbia, Tilly left home and moved to the United States to pursue a career as a professional dancer.[2] In New York City she studied at Madame Darvash's Ballet School where she had received a full scholarship. She joined the Connecticut Ballet Company and later toured with the international Throne Dance Theatre in the late 1970s.[2] She made her screen debut as a dancer in Alan Parker's 1980 musical drama Fame. Tilly's dance career ended in 1979 when a dance partner dropped her in Pas de deux class, causing a serious back injury.[2][5]



Forced to give up dancing, Tilly moved to Los Angeles and pursued a career as an actress. She studied acting under Peggy Fuery. 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, she appeared in two of the year's most successful films: Psycho II 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.[2]

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".[2] Tilly's critically praised performance earned her an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award.[6]

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. 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.

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?,[7] presented by the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre in Victoria, B.C.[8]

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.[9] Tilly stars as Lorna, the emotionally closed floor matron who blossoms as a leader and an appealing woman.[10] She won the 2013 Lead Actress, Drama Canadian Screen Award for her work on the series.


Tilly is the author of five 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.[11] The book is about a young girl and her sisters living in the Northwest who are molested by their stepfather.[12]

Her second novel Gemma was published in 2006 by the Syren Book Company.[13] 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.[13]

Her third novel Porcupine was published in 2007 by Tundra Books.[14] 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.[14] Porcupine was a finalist for the Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize.

Her fourth novel First Time was published in 2008 by Orca Book Publishers.[15] 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.[15]

Tilly's fifth and latest novel A Taste of Heaven was published in 2013 by Puffin Books.[16] 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".[17] 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.[17]

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),[18] and ended in divorce in 1989.[19]

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),[18] and ended in 1994.[19]

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.[19]

In 2002 Tilly married her third and current husband, author Don Calame, who writes fiction for adolescents.[19] They met during a writing seminar in Big Sur, California.[20] The couple lives in Toronto.


Year Title Role Notes
1980 Fame Principal Dancer
1982 Tex Jamie Collins
1983 One Dark Night Julie Wells
1983 Psycho II Mary Loomis
1983 Big Chill, TheThe Big Chill Chloe
1984 Impulse Jennifer
1985 Agnes of God Sister Agnes
1986 Off Beat Rachel Wareham
1988 Masquerade Olivia Lawrence
1988 Girl in a Swing, TheThe Girl in a Swing Karin
1989 Valmont Madame de Tourvel
1990 Two Jakes, TheThe Two Jakes Kitty Berman
1992 Leaving Normal Marianne
1993 Body Snatchers Carol Malone
1994 Sleep with Me Sarah
Year Title Role Notes
1981 Trouble with Grandpa, TheThe Trouble with Grandpa Dorie TV film
1982 Hill Street Blues Hooker Episode: "Some Like It Hot-Wired"
1989 Nightmare Classics Carmilla Episode: "Carmilla"
1990 In the Best Interest of the Child Jennifer Colton TV film
1993 Road to Avonlea Evelyn Grier Episode: "Evelyn"
1993 Fallen Angels Lois Weldon Episode: "Dead End for Delia"
1994 Winnetka Road George Grace Main role (6 episodes)
1994 Trick of the Eye Faith Crowell TV film
1995 Journey Min TV film
2005-06 Out of Practice Crystal 14 episodes
2010 Caprica Mother Episode: "Unvanquished"
Episode: "The Heavens Will Rise"
2012–13 Bomb Girls Lorna Corbett Main role (18 episodes)

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Production Result
1984 Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress Psycho II Nominated
1986 Academy Award Best Actress in a Supporting Role Agnes of God Nominated
1986 Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Agnes of God Won
2012 Leo Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series Bomb Girls Won
2012 Golden Nymph Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series Bomb Girls Nominated
2013 Golden Nymph Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series Bomb Girls Nominated
2013 Gemini Award Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role Bomb Girls Nominated
2014 ACTRA Award Outstanding Performance, Female Bomb Girls Nominated


  1. ^ According to the State of California. California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Center for Health Statistics, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Meg Tilly Biography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Meg Tilly Biography". Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Meg Tilly is Asian Irish". Asiance. March 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2012. [Meg] is the daughter of Patricia Tilly, an Irish and Native-American 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... 
  5. ^ Boshoff, Alison. "The family Colin Firth left behind". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 13, 1985). "Agnes of God (1985)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  7. ^ Chamberlain, Adrian (July 7, 2011). "Meg Tilly's leap of faith[[File:Redirect arrow without text.svg|46px|#REDIRECT|link=]][[:mw:Help:Magic words#Other|mw:Help:Magic words#Other]]
    This page is a [[Wikipedia:Soft redirect|soft redirect]].[[Category:Wikipedia soft redirects|Meg Tilly]]"
    . Times Colonist (Victoria). Retrieved February 2, 2012.
      Wikilink embedded in URL title (help) (subscription required).
  8. ^ "Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  9. ^ Vlessing, Etan (August 25, 2011). "Meg Tilly Takes Lead in Canadian 'Bomb Girls' Drama". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  10. ^ Chamberlain, Adrian (December 21, 2011). "From minx to matron – with no regrets". Times Colonist (Victoria). Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
    Chamberlain, Adrian (December 22, 2011). "From Minx to Matron". Times Colonist (Victoria). Retrieved February 2, 2012.  (subscription required).
  11. ^ Colford, Paul D. (June 17, 1994). "Actress Tilly Lets Voice Be Heard--as a Novelist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  12. ^ Tilly, Meg (1994). Singing Songs. Boston: Dutton Adult. ISBN 978-0525937784. 
  13. ^ a b Tilly, Meg (2006). Gemma. Minneapolis: Syren Book Company. ISBN 9780929636610. 
  14. ^ a b Tilly, Meg (2007). Porcupine. Toronto: Tundra Books. ISBN 978-0887768101. 
  15. ^ a b Tilly, Meg (2008). First Time. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers. ISBN 978-1551439440. 
  16. ^ Tilly, Meg (2013). A Taste of Heaven. London: Puffin Books. ISBN 978-0143182498. 
  17. ^ a b Foster, Jennifer D. (April 2013). "A Taste of Heaven by Meg Tilly". Quill & Quire. Retrieved February 3, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "Meg Tilly -". NNDB. 
  19. ^ a b c d Boshoff, Alison (January 21, 2011). "The family Colin Firth left behind". MailOnline (London). Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  20. ^ Hampson, Sarah (March 28, 2013). "Meg Tilly as she is, not as you’d imagine". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 4, 2014. 

External links

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