Tilly, Meg 1960-

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Tilly, Meg 1960-

PERSONAL:

Born February 14, 1960, in Long Beach, CA; married Tim Zinneman (a producer, divorced); married; husband's name Don; children: Emily, David, Will.

CAREER:

Actor and writer. Appeared in community theater productions in Canada; appeared in motion pictures, including Fame, United Artists, 1980, Tex, Buena Vista, 1982, One Dark Night, Com World, 1983, The Big Chill, Columbia, 1983, Psycho II, Universal, 1983, Impulse, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1984, Agnes of God, Columbia, 1985, Off Beat, Buena Vista, 1986, Masquerade, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1988, The Girl in a Swing, Paranormal/J & M, 1988, Valmont, Orion, 1989, The Two Jakes, Paramount, 1990, Leaving Normal, Universal, 1992, Body Snatchers, Warner Bros., 1994, and Sleep with Me, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1994. Appeared in series and films for television, including episodes of Hill Street Blues, NBC, and the telefilm Camilla.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Academy Award nomination, best supporting actress, and Golden Globe Award, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, best actress in a supporting role, both 1986, both for Agnes of God.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Singing Songs, Dutton (New York, NY), 1994, Syren Book Co. (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.

Gemma, Syren Book Co. (Minneapolis, MN), 2006.

Porcupine (young adult novel), Tundra Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.

Also author of a script for the television series Winnetka Road.

SIDELIGHTS:

Actor Meg Tilly is best known for her roles in such motion pictures as The Big Chill, Agnes of God, and Valmont. Her portrayal of the troubled young nun Agnes in Agnes of God garnered her both a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination. In addition to her cinematic work, Tilly has appeared in television dramas. Branching into a new artistic field of endeavor, Tilly wrote 1994's Singing Songs, a novel dealing with child abuse.

Tilly was born in California in 1960, but grew up primarily in Victoria, British Columbia. At the age of eighteen she moved to New York City. She won her first speaking role in a film in Fame, released in 1980. Tilly also began making television appearances, as a guest on the popular police series Hill Street Blues, and acting in an "Afterschool Special" titled "The Trouble with Grandpa." However, the film role that first provided Tilly with major attention from audiences was her portrayal of Chloe, the free-spirited young woman whose older lover had committed suicide in 1983's The Big Chill.

Initially Tilly stated that the inspiration for her novel Singing Songs came "not from personal experience but from knowing people and playing characters who've dealt with" abuse, according to Marion Hart in Entertainment Weekly. Later, Tilly admitted that the story was largely based on her childhood memories growing up in an abusive household. She reportedly began writing Singing Songs while starring in a television movie about child abuse called In the Best Interest of the Child. Tilly told Hart that the novel "is the most satisfying thing I've ever done. If I had to choose my favorite piece of work—other than my kids—it would be this."

Singing Songs is narrated by Anna, one of four siblings, who at the beginning of the story is approximately five years old. Her mother, abandoned by Anna's father, remarries a man who has three children of his own. In a review of the novel in the New York Times Book Review, Donna Rifkind labeled the combined family "a supremely dysfunctional version of the Brady Bunch." Anna's new stepfather quickly becomes abusive to all the children, including his own, but increasingly molests Anna's older sister, Susan. Singing Songs is not a completely dark novel, however; Rifkind noted that "Anna is a tough little soul, and the novel's aim is to prove her tenacity." A Kirkus Reviews critic called Singing Songs "disappointing," but Rifkind hailed it as "a book of considerable quality" and asserted that "Tilly has managed to meet some serious literary challenges with an instinctive flair."

Over the next ten years Tilly worked on a number of projects, completing seven manuscripts that have remained unpublished. Gemma, her second published novel, began as an assignment for a writers' group, was fleshed out as a short story, and was encouraged into full-length form by Tilly's agent. The protagonist Gemma is a young girl who is victimized by her mother's boyfriend and later kidnapped by one of his friends. The novel includes graphic depictions of the cruelty that Gemma endures. Although certain elements of the protagonist's character were taken from Tilly's own experiences, such as Gemma's ability to psychologically transport herself away from the reality of abuse, Tilly maintains that the novel is not autobiographical. Donna Seaman commented in a Booklist review that Tilly "achieves moments of raw beauty and genuine fierceness." A Kirkus Reviews critic noted Tilly's talent as a writer, but remarked: "It remains to be seen whether she will find an audience willing to take on this unsettling subject."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 7, Thomson Gale, 1989.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Gemma, p. 44.

Entertainment Weekly, March 25, 1994, Marion Hart, review of Singing Songs, p. 50.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1994, review of Singing Songs, p. 432; August 1, 2006, review of Gemma, p. 751.

New York Times Book Review, June 5, 1994, Donna Rifkind, review of Singing Songs, p. 37.

Publishers Weekly, April 11, 1994, review of Singing Songs, p. 52.

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