"Back in Britain I've become part of the furniture," Hayley Mills said. "I'm totally taken for granted. And since I haven't made a film there for 10 years, it's encouraging to come here and be treated so well."
Earlier this month in Florida, Mills, a few months away from 40 but for millions still the child star of movies like "Pollyanna" and "That Darn Cat," finished work on a sequel to the film she made for Disney 25 years ago--"The Parent Trap."
It's clear that the experience has whetted her appetite for more.
"Oh, I am tempted to move here," she said on a visit to Los Angeles. "I love the enthusiasm here. My sister Juliet, who lives in Santa Barbara, keeps urging me to come. And I know my sons (Christian, 13; Jason, 9) would love it. Each time I bring them here on a visit they have a great time.
"But it's not an easy decision. There's schooling to be considered, and I know my parents (actor John Mills and playwright wife Mary Hayley Bell) would miss their grandchildren."
She deliberated for some time before agreeing to make "The Parent Trap II" (airing June 22 on the Disney Channel). "I did hesitate before saying yes," she said, "first because it was always my favorite film and I wasn't sure about making a sequel. Second, because it's taken me so long to try to break away from my Disney image. It's been a real impediment toward getting the kind of roles I want. But everyone at Disney was so enthusiastic about the project that I finally agreed to do it. And I think it's turned out well."
In the first film, she played twins who were separated in infancy because of a divorce. In the sequel she plays the grown-up twins, now mothers themselves.
The first film took three months to shoot; the sequel, directed by Ron Maxwell, took 18 days. "I never worked to hard in my life," she said.
The story of "The Parent Trap II" was written by Stu Krieger who, as a 10-year-old, fell in love with the original picture. When he learned there was to be a sequel, he contacted the Disney people and asked if he could write it. "And he did it really well," said Mills.
Mills' last movie was "The Diamond Hunters," shot in South Africa 10 years ago. Since then she has concentrated on theater--appearing with considerable success last year in "Toys in the Attic" in London. She also starred in the PBS miniseries "The Flame Trees of Thika."
"Of course I've never been a driven actress," she said, "I've never pursued my career with much vigor. I've always put living first. As soon as I had my children (she was married to British producer-director Roy Boulting), my attitude toward work changed completely. Some people seem to find that odd--the idea that someone should put aside her career to bring up her family strikes them as quite strange. But I've never regretted it. That said, I must admit I'd like to do some more film work now."
She agrees that the chances of ever living down her child-star past are rather remote.
"Every time people write about me, they bring it up," she said. "Just as they always bring up the Beatles when they write about Paul McCartney. I suppose it's inevitable--after all, I did a lot of films when I was a child--but now I'd like the chance to show my range, perhaps do some comedy.
"I don't think that's going to happen back home--except in the theater, where I've had some success. So, as I say, I am tempted to come here."
Back home she has all her old movies on video. And the one her sons watch most, she said, is "The Parent Trap."
"It's their favorite," she said, "and my favorite too. Now we'll have a sequel to look forward to."