Hayley Mills calls Parent Trap costar Maureen O'Hara a 'force of nature' on film's 60th anniversary
Before Lindsay Lohan made double trouble for her big-screen parents in the 1998 comedy The Parent Trap, Hayley Mills played a pair of naughty twins in the original film of the same name, which premiered 60 years ago this week.
The Academy Award-winning actress recently reminisced with EW about how a meeting with Walt Disney altered the course of her life forever, and what it was like working with screen legend Maureen O'Hara, who played her mother in The Parent Trap.
"She was wonderful, absolutely wonderful," Mills says of O'Hara. "I remember I was very in awe of her in the beginning, she was so very real and down to earth. She was very Irish. She was very warm and demonstrative, and extremely talkative. She never stopped talking and laughing and hugging you. She was a real force of nature. When she walked on set there was this energy telling us that Maureen had arrived. And she was so beautiful; I couldn't take my eyes off of her when I first met her. It was all natural, too. She took her beauty for granted but I never did, because I had never seen anyone so beautiful."
All these years later, The Parent Trap remains one of Mills' favorite movies she worked on for a variety of reasons. For one, it helped normalize conversations about divorce, which was becoming more widely accepted when the film debuted.
"It's very high on my list because it's a good movie, it had a good script, and it had wonderful actors," Mills says. "But it was also about something important. It was about children dealing with divorce, and it came out at a time when more and more families were breaking up. When I went to boarding school, there was this one girl in my class whose parents were divorced, and she was so unhappy about that and she felt ashamed. But she never admitted she was. When the '60s kicked in, people were getting divorced and the impact on the children was dreadful."
One of Mills' favorite scenes took place on the campground where the twins get into a fight that ends with more than two rambunctious teens with frosting on their faces. Mills played both Susan and Sharon in the film, with a little help from stand-in Susan Henning.
"Working on the film was such a great experience and such fun for a kid. I had just turned 14. One of my favorite scenes is from the dance," Mills recalls. "It was difficult because I didn't enjoy getting the back of my dress cut out, even though I was wearing eight pairs of knickers! I especially loved the fight between me and my twin, played by Susan Henning. We really loved doing that. And I got my comeuppance because I put the cream pie into her face, and then when I switched roles I got the cream pie in my face. Instant karma, that was. That was the moment I knew what it felt like to be an American teenager."
The Parent Trap was Mills' second film with Disney, following the success of her debut in Pollyanna a year prior. And it all began with a meeting with Disney, the animator and producer who made her a star.
"I was just a little girl going to school who one day met Walt Disney at the Dorchester Hotel, and within a few months I was on an airplane flying to Hollywood," Mills explains. "Working on Pollyanna was an amazing experience, and it was the start of the rest of my life, really. None of this had been planned. I just happened to be one of these extraordinarily lucky people. Fate said, 'Here,' and handed me something, and that's something to be grateful for."
She adds, "At the time, I didn't understand the impact that meeting would have on my life. I had no idea my life would be turned upside down. Of course I had heard of Walt Disney, he was like this magic wizard. I had seen Bambi and then Snow White, so to meet the man who made these films was incredibly exciting. I still remember that meeting because we took our puppy with us and I spent most of the interview crawling around the floor! But it really all came together so easily. It wasn't until I had grown up that I realized how very rare it is for these things to happen this way."
Mills looks back on those memories of herself so young and innocent fondly, and even has some advice she would share with her today if she could: "I think I would say, 'Enjoy every moment of it and don't take anything for granted. Don't waste this very special and precious time. Oh, and don't forget to go to school.'"
The Parent Trap is currently available to stream on Disney+.
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