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"Vogue" - Nov 1989

Stephanie Mansfield talks with Meg Tilly about movies, motherhood, and casual style.

With an awning of brown bangs over eyes the color of Godiva caramels, actress Meg Tilly, at age 29, exudes a winsome naivete with a steely center ("Agnes of God") and a blossoming sexuality ("Masquerade"). Now, after a brief interlude, she has three new films on the way - "Girl In A Swing", "Valmont", and "The Two Jakes", Jack Nicholson's long-awaited sequel to "Chinatown". Tilly banishes forever the heathery-voiced Chloe curled at the foot of a wicker chair in "The Big Chill".

In "Valmont", Milos Forman's film version of the novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses", Tilly plays Madame de Tourvel, the Michelle Pfeiffer role in "Dangerous Liaisons". "It's a different part in that the characters are a lot younger... It's a totally different movie," Tilly says. For director Nicholson, Tilly becomes Harvey Keitel's wife, Kitty, sporting vintage platform shoes, padded shoulders, nipped-in waists, and a certain drop-dead chic that has eluded the five-foot-seven actress in real life. "I'm not that fashion conscious," says Tilly, who usually favors more movable gear, leftovers from her days as a dancer. Kitty's perfect manicures and coordinated accessories gave Tilly an insight into the character, just as Sister Agnes's habit robbed her of her sexuality: "A lot of times, when women are appearing to be so perfect, it's because they're a mess underneath."

Perhaps the opposite could be said of Tilly. She favors thrift shop finds culled from Vancouver over Manhattan designer clothes and says her younger sister Jennifer ("Let It Ride") is the one with the fashion sense. Married in 1983 to film producer Tim Zinnemann, Meg - who grew up in rural British Columbia as one of six children and made her way to Manhattan at the age of eighteen to be a dancer - is a no-frills career woman who has always found strength in family. She had two children with Zinnemann, who is twenty years her senior. The couple separated last year, and Tilly is currently living in a house near a creek in British Columbia.

Of her marriage Tilly now says, "I was trying to be a lot older than I was." Her twenties were a period of great change. She reclaimed part of her youth that had been lost to work and marriage to an older man who was already an experienced Hollywood producer. She is happier now, she says, acting her age.

As the mother of five-year-old Emily and three-year-old David, Tilly says she will take a hiatus from filming. "Acting's not my whole life. My children definitely come first." Fashionwise, she has learned to childproof her wardrobe. "You don't wear much white," she says, laughing. "I paid more attention to the way I looked before my children were born. Afterward, it wasn't important to look exactly right." For a recent meeting with a director, daughter Emily went through Tilly's closet for the perfect ensemble: a long, beaded evening dress last worn to the Academy Awards. "Mommy, wear this."

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