Chessy’s wardrobe from The Parent Trap is still recreated by devoted fans more than 20 years later, but Lisa Ann Walter wasn’t exactly thrilled to wear the now iconic getup.
“[Director] Nancy Meyers is warm, loving, and mother-like. But she also has an incredible sense of style. And she was very clear about what everybody’s look was,” Walter, 58, exclusively told Us Weekly. “Elaine [Hendrix’s] look, everything was the cut of the dress and how many dresses she had to try on to find that perfect white one with the black hat where she raises her head. All of that was very, very thought out. And the kind of beiges that Natasha [Richardson] wore. She was very hands-on on all of that and including mine. I’m gonna be honest. I will cop to it when I’m a jerk. I was fighting that big wardrobe tooth and nail.”
For Walter, it was the bagginess of the pants, purple top and denim button-down that she disliked. “She was the director and I wasn’t like, ‘I don’t wanna wear this.’ I was just like, ‘You can’t see my waist.’ And I’ll tell you why,” she said. “My whole life I was the heavy kid in school. I always was. They teased me mercilessly. I would get into fights. I would come home crying. I had a real issue with I’m not lovable if I’m heavy. … So that was the fight within myself. It had nothing to do with the wardrobe or anything. Nancy’s idea was right. As we can see today. It became the wardrobe for this young generation and for a bunch of moms and I totally appreciate [it].”
The Abbott Elementary actress was fitted by costumer Penny Rose on the film, who she gushed is “one of the most elegant women” she’s ever met. She also would realize only 15 years ago that her “battle” with the wardrobe choice “was internal.”
“I was a pain in the ass to some degree,” she joked to Us. “So I will publicly apologize to Nancy. She was right as she is about everything. And you know, it was like, ‘Oh, purple. Purple’s not my thing.’ It was just the fact of it being big and me not showing my waist.”
Walter played Hallie Parker’s (Lindsay Lohan) live-in nanny at her California vineyard home in the comedy, which also starred Dennis Quaid as Hallie and Annie Parker’s dad, Nick Parker. And according to Walter, Chessy’s look made sense so that audiences wouldn’t get confused by her and Nick’s platonic relationship.
“[Nancy] was right because of how you have to balance a movie. I can’t be running around in — because I’m very busty. And in fact, Dennis, he’s such a mischievous little boy. But he said to me one day — because I kept trying to put extra mascara on, I like the glam. I was always a disco girl, overly made up, sparkly eyeshadow. So this is much more of a downplayed. They colored my hair from what it was, which was like long highlights to, as Nancy said, s—t brown,” she recalled to Us. “And one day in the makeup trailer, I was trying to sneak another layer of mascara on — and [my makeup artist would] slap my hand with mascara in it and go, ‘Stop it!’ And Dennis came up behind me and he looked into the mirror next to me, next to my little face. And he goes, ‘You know, if you looked as cute as you do in real life, everybody watching the movie would say, ‘Why doesn’t he just look in the kitchen?'”
“And so, to me, that said everything,” she gushed. “And as a writer myself, I’m like, yeah. A lot of people thought, ‘Oh, was that his sister?’ Like, there had to be no confusion on that sexual energy. Because people had to figure about who was who and who were we rooting for. And so I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I get it.’ That was good.”
Quaid, 67, and Walter also shared a sweet moment when filming the emotional scene where Chessy figures out that Hallie is really Annie.
“It was a pretty singular moment in my acting career. It was meaningful and there’s a reason why people respond to it,” she explained to Us. “For this scene, I used what they call before the threshold work, taking an emotional journey to the time when I had just had my daughter, my second child. We had just bought a house. Three weeks after she was born we moved into my first home in New Jersey. We could barely make [our] mortgage. I had to go back on the road as a standup. … And I was nursing her, but I would pump when I was on the road. … I would run back to the hotel in between sets and nurse her and then go back into a second show. But a lot of times I was flying all over the country, or driving in Buffalo, taking the train and then I would get in the car, and she’s this 5-week-old baby. And all I’ve been in my adult life is a mom. And I would just grab her in the backseat, out of her car seat, and just smell her head. I wouldn’t put her down. Or the second I walked in the house I could smell her from her room because we’re mammals. What I had to go through to leave her as an infant was so hard.”
For Walter, as “far as she was concerned,” Chessy was Hallie’s mother. “And the other baby too,” she added. “I mean, I know she has a mother, but that character is maternal. So I know that she had to always think, ‘This is a stupid idea.’ And let the other one go. And she is just seeing her baby again, the other one, after 11 years. So I was putting myself into that emotional space for 72 takes.”
The staggering amount of shots it took — which included Nick coming into the scene and Chessy asking, “can I hug her?” — was spread out between two or three days.
“That happened one time, because I felt a tear come down and I’m trying to cover. Because [Hallie] asked me not to [cry] with her look. So I’m covering, so I wipe it away real quick, like, ‘Yeah, nothing’s happening here,’ and that’s the take they use. And it was toward the end,” she explained. “I auditioned with that scene doing it the way basically that you see in the finished product. Then they tried a million other ways and Nancy and [producer] Charles [Shyer] were in discussion about it. So we tried all sorts of different things. And at one point in all of it, I was sitting in a chair because each and every time I was going back to that place, that was so hard for me. And Dennis came over again and he put his hands on the arms of the chair I was sitting in. And he said, because I’m thinking, I don’t know what I’m doing. I was doing it one way. Now I’m doing it in another way. Do I even know how to act? And he came over and said, ‘I think you are doing a magnificent job.’ And I’ll never forget him saying that to me. And I was just like, ‘OK, I’m not completely screwing this up.’ And at the end, when we got done, the crew gave me a huge round of applause. The crew never responds. They’ve seen everything. They don’t care. But I guess I did a good job. I guess I did something right.”
Scroll through for more on Walter dishing about The Parent Trap: