Entertainment & Arts

Hayley Mills Follows in Judi Dench’s Footsteps To Check Into Stage Version ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’

EXCLUSIVE: Hayley Mills ,still fondly remembered for Disney classics Pollyanna and The Parent Trapis checking into The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ,to take it on the road in the UK and then to London’s West End.

Strictly speaking ,it’s a play based on the book (Deborah Moggach’s These Foolish Things) that spawned successful movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in 2011 and it’s 2015 sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Both pictures, starring Judi Dench ,Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy, did immensely well at the box-office.

The screenplays for the films ,directed by John Madden, were written by Ol Parker .However ,for the stage Moggach has adapted her own tome about seven British retirees who depart the Home Counties of England to see out the sunset of their years at what they’re led to believe is a luxurious hotel in Bangalore,India.

Show producer Simon Friend (The Father) told Deadline ”You’ll recognise the characters but I can’t stress enough that’s it’s not a play of the film.Though we have arranged to use the same title as the film because it’s undeniably recognisable.”

Mills will play recently widowed Evelyn Greenslove,played by Dench on screen.

It’s the second role Mills has taken that’s been associated with Dame Judi. Mills was also in a stage adaptation of the 2004 film Ladies In Lavender, which featured the grand dames Dench and Smith.

”I’m happy to be in Judi’s footsteps,” Mills told Deadline.

Her father , John Mills (Ryan’s Daughter) starred with Dench in a 1974 musical theater production of J.B. Priestley’s The Good Companions . “They became great friends. I adore her …my father absolutely adored her,” said Mills.

Mills, who won an Academy award for her performance in Pollyanna ,in the days when there were statuettes for juvenile performances, will share  residency at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with an ensemble that includes Paula Wilcox (Trying) as Muriel Donnelly (Dame Maggie played her in the films) , and Paul Nicholas (Rum Tum Tugger in original London production of Cats) as Douglas Ainslie, (Bill Nighy in the films).

Mills said that the play’s a tonic, a life affirming play about people looking for hope. “They come to the Marigold Hotel with hope they can find a better life.But i don’t know how many of them really believe it’s possible  but they all discover something really fundamental when they’re there,” said Mills.

Moggach observed that “we get old people wrong and we forget that they were kids and teenagers once .That youthful exuberance doesn’t always dissipate.”

Mills agreed. “What we can’t believe when we’re young is that spiritually we don’t change as we age. We feel the same as we did ,only we’ve got aches and pains.We look in the mirror and go, oh my god!,” she said.

But she made a marvellous discovery when she reached a certain age. “Much to one’s delight old people don’t look so old anymore,” she declared.

Mills began her career aged 12 in 1958.She lamented that It’s much harder for a woman to get older in showbusiness.There are ,she said , two choices: “You can fight it by having plastic surgery,” or you can age gracefully without having work done.

”There’s a kind of flaming hoop that you jump through at a certain point where you finally accept ,this is what I look like ,this is who I am .No one escapes old age unless you die .So let’s embrace it!,” she said.

However, Mills said that several years ago she had bags under her eyes taken away .”I have also had Botox but I’m terrified of it  because of what it does to the muscles in your face.If you can’t move your face how can you act? That scares me .I don’t do that (Botox) now.”

Mills said she’s often surprised that people remember her .”Oh ,my god it was all such a long time ago.How do they recognise me ,part from anything else?”

She answered her own question.”At the risk of being  a bit cheesy I get the feeling ,and it’s a very nice feeling  that a lot of people feel I’m part of their childhood ,the movies that I made for Disney particularly ,they saw when they were young .So many people say ,oh god ,I grew up with you! And they show their own children those same films.”

During the pandemic lockdowns new fans discovered her Disney films on the Disney+ streaming channel. However, she receives no residuals from the Disney years. ”I was paid for doing the films and that’s it. Nothing more,” she explained.

She bites her tongue whenever she spots Pollyanna merchandise.”Dolls, books ,games and all kinds of things with my face on,” she said with a sigh.

She was paid not a penny.

But she’s philosophical. “The films I did with Disney launched my career and I’m working to this day.”

She’s excited ,she said, by the plans producer  Friend  and director  Lucy Bailey ,have for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tour and its season in London.

Her suitcases will be ready for the first performance at Richmond Theatre on August 30. It’s close to where she grew up with father ,Sir John Mills and Mary Hayley Bell, her writer mother.


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