DEFIANT, funny, determined – and bold enough to poke the eye of perceived political correctness.

Who’s to say Juliet Mills isn’t a great role model for the modern women?

Mills is appearing in Glasgow this with the touring stage play The Lady Vanishes. At 77 however, most actors would be content to spend their spare time watching Wimbledon and sipping Pimms?

“My father did his last film when he was 94,” she says, smiling of the legendary Sir John Mills.

“He would be calling me a spring chicken. But this is what I do. I started in the theatre when I was 16 (In the West End) and I’ve loved it ever since.

“You seem, I enjoy the live audience so much more than television. Film is a different thing, of course. But it’s all easy-peasy if you compare it to slogging around the country for six months in a play.”

When she says ‘slogging’ the word isn’t used pejoratively.

“I love the touring around the country because we (her husband, actor Maxwell Caulfield) love going to places we’ve never been to before and places we’ve enjoyed before.

“And because we live in a America, we’re not nipping home as some of the other actors do when they get the chance. We just travel around in our big SUV will all our stuff crammed in.”

She adds, grinning; “It’s really like being in the circus.”

Juliet Mills grew up in ‘the circus’ with younger sister Hayley, who went on star in 1961 film Whistle Down The Wind – adapted from their mother Mary Hayley Bell’s novel.

But although it must have been fun being on the Great Expectations film set at the age of four, and having Noël Coward and Vivien Leigh as godparents (“Noel gave me a book token every year for my birthday and always signed it: ‘With love from God’.”) what if she had had a more ordinary existence? Does she feel it was denied to her given her background?

“Not really. We were brought up to feel that acting is a job, just like other people do. And we’ve been lucky in being able to do a job we love, and that pays well, although, the work is inconsistent. That’s the nature of the business.

“And when I’m not working I feel like a very ordinary person. I love being at home, (in Ojay, 80 miles north of Los Angeles) looking after my husband, cooking. And I love liet Mgardening.

Life isn’t that ordinary, Juliet, when you land a Tony nomination on Broadway, still 16, or one of your best friends is Natalie Wood.

It’s not ordinary when at 31 you land a starring role in the brilliant Billy Wilder’s Avanti, alongside acting genius Jack Lemmon. But what of Wilder? He had a reputation for being dismissive of actors.

“Billy was a joy. All he demanded was that actors knew their lines although he did ask me to put on 35 pounds. He took me to dinner every night to keep my weight up.”

What? That sounds like cruelty?

“What he wanted for the film was my character (Pamela Piggott) to to be a little off beat,” she says, grinning of the pairing between Lemmon’s character and her own. “He didn’t want the millionaire to fall for the bimbette. He wanted Jack’s character to fall for this strange little person whom you wouldn’t think attracted to someone like him.”

Mills adds, laughing; “My father was a little upset about the weight increase. ‘It’s just for the sake of one joke when Jack’s character calls you ‘Fat a***.’”

Mills wasn’t being taken advantage of at all. “When he told me of the catch in landing the role I said ‘Anything for you, Mr Wilder.’ And I went home and had a big ice cream.”

But what of the #Metoo movement. Having arrived in Hollywood as the sun was setting on the golden age, was she ever steered in the direction of the casting couch?

“No, I wasn’t. But you know, I have problems with some of that. (The accusations.) You don’t go up to someone’s suite on your own, or if you do you can always walk out of the door or say no or whatever.”

Mills adds; “I never had problems, but I never gave anyone any come-ons either. Women at times have had everything spilling out, the skirts up to their armpits or whatever.

“I just think you either put something out - or you don’t. You set your own rules of engagement.”

Juliet Mills loved Hollywood. Hollywood loved her. “I went out there at a time in England when the kitchen sink film dramas were being made.

“In England I was considered too posh to be able to do that sort of stuff. But in America there were no preconceptions; they didn’t think any reason why I couldn’t become a Cockney or do North country.

“In fact, I did A Taste of Honey in Los Angeles on stage. I’d never have been offered that role in England.”

Mills is back however, playing the posh, vanishing lady Miss Froy while her Caulfield plays Dr Hartz. “It’s a very good adaptation and what’s surprising is it’s never been on the stage before.

“It’s dramatic but it’s also funny. But I guess people really love to laugh after they’ve been frightened to death.”

What becomes evident is that Juliet Mills sets her own road. She has an independent mind. The age difference with Caulfield (18 years) is of little consequence. “My husband and I have been married 39 years this year,” she says in delighted voice.

“We still love being together. Working and travelling together. Why stop?

The Lady Vanishes, The Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Saturday.