Parent Trap star Hayley Mills details struggle with eating disorder and money in new memoir

Hayley Mills “isn’t holding back” as she opens up about her life.

The 75-year-old actress, best known for her roles in the 1961 Disney film The Parent Trap and 1960’s Pollyanna, has a career that has spanned six decades. But along with her rise to fame, thanks to Walt Disney himself, came a number of personal battles.

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The former child star’s new memoir, Forever Young, details Mills having an eating disorder and losing the money she secured from her early roles in showbiz, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The publication noted that Mills had struggled with bulimia in a bid to remain “little and childlike” for her roles, as well as “a battle to keep her childhood wages”.

“I never saw it,” Mills recalled of her finances, which she says would have been equivalent to US$17 million (approx. $23 million) today. “I knew it was there and one day I would have it, but it was just sort of a dream, and then one day the dream was gone. Occasionally, I think: It would have been nice if I had the freedom to say no.”

Notorious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper wrote about Mills’ figure in a 1964 column.

She faced a ton of challenges while maintaining this youthful public image that the adults around her were invested in. To me, that had echoes of today’s young child stars.

“Hayley Mills, 18, Thinner and looking like the million stashed away for her,” Hopper wrote in the headline. “Seven pounds [three kilos] thinner than when I last saw her, her 112 pounds [50kg] are distributed in the correct places.”

Gretchen Young, Mills’ editor and publisher, told the Los Angeles Times the actress “isn’t holding back” in her book.

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“She faced a ton of challenges while maintaining this youthful public image that the adults around her were invested in,” Young told the publication. “To me, that had echoes of today’s young child stars.”

Mills still acts occasionally, most recently appearing in an Acorn TV drama called Pitching In.

Nowadays, Mills spends more of her time with her five grandchildren — to whom her book is dedicated — especially because working to make up for her lost wages took so much time away from her own kids.

“The more I wrote this book, the more I realised I was talking about everybody’s struggle to grow up,” Mills told the Los Angeles Times. “I think there was a bit of Pollyanna in me to start off with, actually. I do tend to look on the bright side of life.”

Mills also credits Mr Disney, to “whom she owes her career”.

“He was a father figure, and fathers do that — say, ‘No, you can’t go to this dance. You can’t go on a motorbike with that boy,'” she said. “That’s life. I was extremely fortunate to be under contract to a studio like that. To a man like that. I was not exploited in the way that we understand that word.”

If you, or someone you know, needs support relating to eating disorders, please call The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673. In an emergency, call 000.

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