People Weekly '86
Ent. Weekly '92
Ent. Tonight '94
WUNC Radio '94
Woman's Day '96
Visiones Macabre '02
Meg Tilly looked like a frightened fawn on the first day of hunting season as her luminous doe eyes took in a recent Hollywood movie premiere. "I don't know where he went." she fretted. "I turned around and he was gone." A pause in the music gave Tilly, 26, her chance. "Tiiimmm," she wailed. A bespectacled man in his 40's materialized at her side and Tilly's face relaxed in a smile. "I couldn't find you," she said, and then, like a sleepy child, coiled her arms around his neck.
The object of Tilly's outburst was husband Tim Zinnemann, 45, a successful film producer (Tex, A Small Circle of Friends, and The Long Riders) who was just working the room at the opening of his latest movie, Crossroads. This is a busy time for the Zinnemanns. In January, Tilly won a Golden Globe for her role as a cloistered nun in Agnes of God, and this week she finds out if she wins an Oscar for that supporting role. Next month Tilly plays a tough cop in her new film, "Off Beat". "She has a screen presence that rivals Audrey Hepburn's," raves Norman Jewison, her director in "Agnes of God." Says another Hollywood director, "She exudes innocence and combines that innocence with unadulterated sexuality."
Again coiling herself around Zinnemann - this time it's his leg - Tilly sits on the floor of their rented house in Brentwood while he nestles in an armchair. They are discussing the fact that he's old enough to be her father. Nowadays, the 20-year age difference doesn't bother him, "unless I look in the mirror," he jokes, but in the beginning it troubled both of them. "I started to think, 'What am I, a sicko?' " admits Tilly. "I thought I was middle-age crazy," confesses Zinnemann, while dandling the couple's daughter, Emily, 21 months, on his knee. (Another child is due in August.)
When Tilly and Zinnemann met in 1981, the age difference seemed even greater. Tilly, then 21, claimed to be three years younger in hopes of getting the role as Matt Dillon's teenage girlfriend in the film "Tex", which Zinnemann was producing. On location in Oklahoma, the produce first noticed the young actress at a local rodeo. Caught up in the action, Tilly was practicing "screaming like a 15-year-old," she says, and she assumed that the kindly gent who kept assuring her that cowboys were rarely injured was an Okie rancher, not her producer.
Smitten immediately, Zinnemann asked Tilly to a dance and presented her with a corsage. Meg - by now aware of who Tim was - brought along a publicist as chaperone. "I didn't want to get in over my head," she explains. The publicist got bored and left. "We danced all night, then drove around Tulsa with the top down," says Zinnemann. "Meg probably thought I was going to attack her - which, of course, I did."
A year and a half later, Zinnemann and Tilly were facing a long separation. Meg had been chosen to play Mozart's wife in "Amadeus", which called for a six-month shooting schedule in Czechoslovakia, and Tim had to produce "Fandango" in Texas. They were moping around Beaufort, SC, where Tilly was working on "The Big Chill", when Zinnemann suddenly announced "We're going to get married." He got the judge, she got the day off, and they got hitched. The new bride made it to Czechoslovakia, but not onto the screen. She tore ligaments in her leg playing soccer and was replaced by Elizabeth Berridge. That hurt even more than her leg. "When I saw 'Amadeus', says Tilly, "I felt like somebody was wearing my underwear." It was another accident that got Tilly into acting in the first place. With five siblings and six step-siblings, Meg was raised by her schoolteacher mother and unemployed stepfather in rural British Columbia. Tilly had planned to be a dancer and began taking lessons at age 12. She moved to New York at 18 and then received a scholarship to a top ballet school, only to see her dreams come crashing to an end when a male partner dropped her and injured her back. Six doctors told her that she'd never dance again. They were wrong ("I only dance about eight hours a week now, instead of 10 hours a day," she says), but she didn't fight the odds. She headed straight for L.A. to pursue a film career and got the part in "Tex" with the first glossy she sent out.
Zinnemann got into the business by a more direct route. The son of Fred Zinnemann, who directed such films as "From Here to Eternity", "Oklahoma", and "A Man for All Seasons", Tim attended Columbia University but left before graduation to work as a film editor in Italy. On his way up, Zinnemann worked in various capacities, like assistant editor, assistant director and production manager. Recently he directed an episode of "Miami Vice", but he prefers producing. His next project will be overseeing "The Running Man". Along the way he married three times. His first marriage broke up, he says, because his Italian wife couldn't handle English, L.A., or Zinnemann's commitment to his career. His second wife wouldn't accompany him on location. (He has a daughter, Stephanie, now 17, by that marriage.) His third try, with a real estate broker, suffered from a lack of common interests. Zinnemann believes his fourth is his last. "I no longer feel at war with the opposite sex," he says, and his best friend, "Crossroads" director Walter Hill, confirms that: "for the first time, Tim seems genuinely content."
"Look, I know he's been married three times before," says Tilly, "I accept it, but I don't want it driving up the driveway." To that end they bought a remote farm in British Columbia, where they spend one-third of the year. Of their life in L.A. Tilly says "I could give it up in a second. Tim couldn't." At that comment, Zinnemann looks at his young wife and confesses with a fond smile, "Meg's definitely the older of the two of us. She's always telling me to grow up."