Hayley Mills starred in a slew of hits for Disney in the 1960s. She was an A-lister as a child actress, but with this fame came some pitfalls. Disney would not allow her to take a controversial role. Here’s what happened.
The big break for Mills came not with a Disney picture, but in Tiger Bay. At 12 years old, she turned the heads of Disney producers who signed her to a muli-picture deal. Her first role was a megahit: Pollyanna. It earned her a special Academy Award and a Golden Globe. This was followed by the original The Parent Trap where she played twin sisters Sharon and Susan.
Disney is known for making stars. Mills’ six-year run at Disney concluded with That Darn Cat!, and she walked away from the company as one of the most popular child stars of the 60s. In 1998, Mills would be honored as a Disney Legend.
Not Without Drawbacks
In an interview with Yahoo!, Mills opened up about what it was like as a child star. She revealed that Disney prevented her from taking part in a masterpiece. She says, “I got some very interesting offers when I was working for Disney that I wasn’t able to do…one of them was Lolita.”
For the uninitiated, Lolita was a Stanley Kubrick film based on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. The book sees the adult Humbert Humbert fall in love with a 12-year-old girl, going on to groom and abuse her. The story is controversial, to say the least, but both the novel and 1962 film earned critical acclaim.
Mills says she would have loved to do the film. “That would’ve given me a chance to work with Stanley Kubrick, James Mason, and Shelley Winters and play that marvelous part. This was a nymphet and a nymphet really didn’t gel with the Disney image.”
It’s not hard to see Disney balking at one of its stars portraying an object of sexual obsession. The role went to Sue Lyon instead, who won a Golden Globe for her performance. Mills also had to turn down Exodus from Otto Preminger, but that was stopped more by her parents than Disney.
No Real Regrets
Once she turned 19, Mills was ready to leave Disney. She says, “I wanted to accept parts that were not necessarily things that Disney would have approved of.” She would again work with the company numerous times decades later. She’s “eternally grateful” for her time at Disney. It’s astonishing that Mills managed to stay out of trouble considering just how famous she was as a teenager. Mills is proof that not all child stars go off the rails.