"Parent Trap" Star Hayley Mills Remembers First Meeting With Walt Disney
"He was just a guy in a yellow cardigan," the legendary actor said.
On June 21, 2021, The Parent Trap—the original one, not the Lindsay Lohan version—turns 60. Children from several generations have grown up watching the family movie about long-lost twins who switch places to try to get their parents back together. In honor of the major milestone, The Parent Trap star Hayley Mills is reflecting on her own childhood, which saw her starring in six Disney films and hanging out with Walt Disney himself.
Mills spoke to Collider for The Parent Trap's big anniversary and ahead of the release of her memoir, Forever Young. Read on to see what she had to say about meeting the visionary as a child and what it was like to visit Disneyland with him.
Mills began acting when she was 12.
Mills first got into acting because her father, Sir John Mills, was a famous actor. Her mother, Mary Hayley Bell, had also been an actor before becoming a writer. Their daughter's first role was in the 1959 film Tiger Bay, which starred her father. In her interview with Collider, Mills said that as a kid she was "always being people and pretending to be somebody, all day," so acting was a natural fit. "Of course, I was thrilled," she said of that first movie. "I wanted to do it. But I just fell into it, really. It got more difficult when I got older and I realized there was a bit more to this acting business then I had thought."
She met with Disney for her next role.
As a child actor, Mills met with Disney when the movie Pollyanna was being cast. She, her parents, and her brother went to meet with Disney at a hotel in London, and Mills ended up scoring the lead in the 1960 film.
"He was so normal and sweet and lovely and unassuming," Mills, now 75, told Collider of the meeting. "He was just a guy in a yellow cardigan, and he was really friendly to me and my brother, Johnny. It didn't feel like an audition. He wanted to see me about Pollyanna, but I don't remember him talking about it even. It was very, very relaxed."
Mills said that her parents and Disney "got on very well." She continued, "It wasn't like an audition. He talked to me and gave me a Coca Cola, but then he chatted with my parents. I was just there, being a child."
She became one of Disney's most reliable kid stars.
After Pollyanna, Mills starred in five more Disney movies: The Parent Trap, In Search of the Castaways, Summer Magic, The Moon-Spinners, and That Darn Cat!. That Darn Cat!, her last Disney movie, was released in 1965. As a teenage star, Mills also starred in two movies written by her mother, Whistle Down the Wind and Sky West and Crooked, the latter of which was also directed by her father.
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Mills got a tour of Disneyland from Walt Disney himself.
As a huge Disney star, perhaps it's no surprise that Mills and her family would get to visit Disneyland accompanied by the man who created the theme park.
"It was Walt's favorite places," Mills said. "We stayed there overnight, and he drove us there. He went on every ride with us. He walked everywhere, and they didn't mob him. It was interesting, they recognized him, they were thrilled to see him, and they were delighted, but they didn't mob him."
She also noted that Disney could do something most adults couldn't: "He even went on the cup and saucer ride, which makes every grownup throw up. He loved it. It brought out the big kid in him."
Mills has very fond memories of her Disney days.
In a 2020 interview with Disney's D23 about the 60th anniversary of Pollyanna, Mills looked back on her time making Disney movies and had only nice things to say. Specifically, she was asked about being named an official Disney Legend.
"It means a lot, because Disney means a lot," Mills said. "Walt means a lot. My years working with Disney on the lot or other places in the world were wonderful experiences. It represents formative years of my life, and it's deeply embedded in my heart. I was so fortunate to have that start with this wonderful man and his wonderful studio, so it means a great deal."