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P.J. Soles Interviews


Rock N Roll High School Alumni P.J. Soles


Chiller Theatre Magazine
Volume 1, Number 3, 1995
By Dan Cziraky

From the mid-seventies to the early-eighties, actress P.J. Soles portrayed the ultimate "party girl" in such films as CARRIE (1976), HALLOWEEN (1978), and ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (1979), followed by a stint in the U.S. comedy corps with roles in PRIVATE BENJAMIN (1980) and STRIPES (1981). Today, the former teen-aged hellion is a mother of two who acts and writes screenplays. Born Pamela Jayne Soles in 1956, in Frankfurt, Germany, Soles was a true globetrotter as a child. "My mother's from New Jersey and my dad's from Rotterdam, Holland," the actress explains from her suburban California home, her speech still punctuated with late seventies expressions like "cool" and "totally." "They met in Germany after the war, and settled there for awhile, so I was born in Germany. My dad was with an insurance company that insured American oil companies overseas, so we moved to Casablanca, Morocco, and I was five, six, and seven there. I went to kindergarten in an airplane hanger on the base. My mother, whenever we would move someplace, would get a job as a secretary with the U.S. government so she could keep her American connections and shop at the PX. We moved to Maracaibo, Venezuela, and I was there for six years, from eight year old to fourteen, so I speak fluent Spanish. We moved to Brussels, Belgium and I went to high school there. So I learned French; I'd had a little bit of French in Morocco, too."

After graduating from high school, Soles decided to attend college in the United States. "I'd never really been there, except to visit," she recalls. "So, I went to Briarcliff College in White Plains, New York. I had transferred to Georgetown University, but in between I took a look at New York City for the summer. My college roommates took me to the Actor's Studio, and I decided that's what I wanted to do, for the summer, fully intending to go back to school, but I never did. I got an agent that summer, and I started making money doing commercials. My parents, by that time, had moved to Istanbul, Turkey, and I was alone in New York! I did commercials for Crisco Oil, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Coca-Cola, and then I started Modeling. I did Mademoiselle, Glamour, and Seventeen. Then I was in this soap opera, LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDOURED THING (based on the 1955 film). I knew I didn't want to do theatre, because I wasn't really a theatre person - I didn't like to hang out late, I didn't smoke, I didn't drink, so I wasn't really a carouser-type personality. So, it didn't really seem to be the thing for me, and everyone kept saying, 'You should go to Los Angeles.' Then I moved to LA in 1975. My agent had a agent connection out there, so it was kind of easy for me."

Soles had no longer landed in LA than she auditioned for her first film role. "The first thing I ever went up on was the casting call for Brian DePalma and George Lucas. Lucas was casting STAR WARS and Brian was casting CARRIE, and they wanted to see everyone who at least looked eighteen. So I ended up on Brian's list, and got the part in CARRIE," she remembers. "Stephen King wasn't really a famous writer at that point. He wasn't really on the set; he was sort of banned from the set. I don't know what happened between him and Brian, but we never saw him after the first day. Something must have happened. None of us were really aware of him as a writer."

Soles attributes the success of the film to director DePalma's talents and ability to recognize the talent of others. "Brian had a really masterful touch, and he had good people working for him. Jack Fisk was the set designer, and that was Sissy Spacek's husband, and he had a really good eye for the look of the movie. All the actors were just, I think, perfect. For most of us, it was our first movie, and so we were real fresh to it. We had a good cinematographer. I'll always remember him approaching every scene with, 'What's the best way I can shoot this?' I'd always hear him say, 'I want to do something different.' There were a lot of new shots in there and, as well, he stole a lot from Hitchcock. I think he still had his own way of seeing things."

Of her co-stars, Soles has fond memories - and some great, behind-the-scenes stories. "[Brian] introduced Amy Irving to Steven Spielberg, by the way, because Spielberg was on the set a lot. We had so many girls on the set, and I think he wanted to meet girls. Brian kind of kept throwing Amy at him, because she was Jewish. 'This is the girl you should meet.' {Steven] asked me, and he also asked Nancy Allen out, but we were not interested. Nancy was already interested in Brian, and I already kind of had a boyfriend. Bill Katt and Amy had already been boyfriend and girlfriend earlier, like a year before. She thought I would be perfect for him. She kept trying to push him to me, and I thought, 'This guy is too cute.' Not my type; all that blonde hair. He was very nice. In fact, I know him now, because his kids and my kids go to the same school, and I see him all the time. I did my screen test with John Travolta. He was so nice. We'd skip around, holding hands, and it was really fun. Sissy was a little more concentrated, because she had the lead part. I remember the scene where they dumped the blood on her head. They had a little more to shoot the next day and she wanted it to match, so they brought in a trailer and she slept in the trailer with all the blood on her, so they didn't have to take it off. I always thought that must've been a horrible night's sleep, because that's glycerine and it's really sticky. Plus, it's really gross looking. I thought to myself, 'That's pretty dedicated.' Also, they were going to use a stunt person to do the hand at the end, but she insisted on them digging a hole in the ground, and they built this special box with air vents, and she went under the ground and did that scene, because she wanted it to be her hand."

For the climactic prom sequence, in which Carrie decimates her teachers and classmates, a special demise was arranged for Soles. "They had a firehose that kind of 'extinguished' me," she laughs, "and the fireman that was manning it wouldn't do it because he said it was too powerful. The stunt coordinator did it, and he was just whacking that thing around. In fact, it went in my ear and broke my eardrum, which was weird, because I fainted right away. They used that in the movie, and that's actually real. I lost my equilibrium, and I just fell over! They thought I was acting, but when it was over and they saw I wasn't getting up, I was like, 'God, my ear is killing me! What happened?' They took me right away to the doctor. He asked how I did it, and I said, 'With a firehose!'"

Soles appeared next in the 1977 telefilm, THE POSSESSED, starring James Farentino, Joan Hackett, and Claudette Nevins, about a defrocked priest (Farentino) called upon to do an exorcism at Hackett's exclusive girl's school. "Harrison Ford was in that," Soles points out. "He tried to pick me up. I said, 'Aren't you married with two kids? Get out of here!' I wasn't married, but, you know? Eeyew!

John Carpenter's 1978 terror-fest HALLOWEEN featured Soles as the flirtatious friend of star Jamie Lee Curtis. "Jamie Lee was so nice, and was really kind of like that character. For my death scene, they just had the guy go out of the room for no reason, so I said, 'Why don't I tell him to get me a beer?' Of course, for my effort, I then get strangled with the phone cord! Still, it was a fun film. John is a nice guy, just really easy to work with."

1979's ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, directed by Allan Arkush, was Soles' first starring role. She played Riff Randell, a rock-crazy teen who spurs her classmates to rebel against the tyrannical new principal, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov). An aspiring songwriter, the character is obsessed with the punk-rock group, The Ramones, who provided the film's rapid-fire soundtrack. Soles even got to sing the film's title song, a high school rock anthem she's pitching to the band, which includes the following line: "I just wanna have some kicks/I just wanna get some chicks." "Allan and I talked about that line," admits Soles. "But she's singing it to the band, the way they would sing it, so there's nothing really suggestive about it."

Recently, Soles and writer Tom Farr scripted a sequel, titled ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL CLASS REUNION. Of course, it ignores the dreadful Corey Feldman starrer, ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL FOREVER. "That wasn't a sequel, it was a 'sinquel,'" Soles hisses. "I've seen pieces of it, but I've never been able to sit through the whole thing. The only one from the original cast that was in it was Mary Woronov. It took a year to convince Roger Corman to let us option the rights, because he thought we were going to do something sinister to them. It wasn't until we gave him a treatment and sat down and talked to him and finally convinced him that, as the lead in the movie, I'm going to do something good with this. He can have his approval, he'll be executive producer, so he got everything he wanted. He was so upset with the so-called sequel, because he trusted the girl that directed that, and she had presented one picture and it turned out to be something different. We were hoping [Corman] would finance it and do it with us, but he said no, he had lost interest. So had Allan Arkush. He said he had no interest in further developing these characters. We said, 'Okay, sorry. We didn't want to leave you out.'" Soles and Farr's script has middle-aged Riff now a mother herself, with a daughter about to start at her old high school, while Riff prepares for her reunion by trying to reunite The Ramones for the reunion party. "We'll have Mary Woronov back as Miss Togar, and a lot of original cast members will be back. Vince Van Patten will be in it. He looks better now than he did then!"

Soles went right from ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL to PRIVATE BENJAMIN (1980). "Out of high school, I graduated to the army," she comments. PRIVATE BENJAMIN was great. Goldie Hawn was really neat. We shot that in LA, so I didn't have to go anywhere. The location was down on Long Beach or somewhere, that was really weird. An old, deserted Army barracks. After that, I did SOGGY BOTTOM U.S.A. (1984), and that's a really cute movie. Don Johnson plays my boyfriend and we were really cute together. It takes place in the 1930's, down in the swamplands of Texas. They built a whole town, and then Walter Hill came in and used it for SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981) right after us. Cloris Leechman was in it, Lois Nettleton, Ben Johnson, Dub Taylor, Jack Elam; it has a great cast. The guy that plays Perry White in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Lane Smith, he's in it. Everybody you see in it, you know from other things. It's basically about these two 'coonhounds that are in competition, and I play a songwriter and I write two songs which, actually, I wrote. I play the guitar in it, too. Ah play a Southern girl, an' it's jes darlin'!

"We wrapped on that, and they hadn't decided on the girl to play opposite Bill Murray in STRIPES (1981), so I flew from Texas to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where they had already started shooting. The guy that picked me up at the airport brought me straight to my audition. I just did a scene with Harold Ramis on tape for Ivan Reitman, and I had to get back to LA because I was going home from SOGGY BOTTOM. The guy that took me back to the airport said, 'You know, I've picked up a lot of girls who've come here and auditioned for this part, but I think you're going to get it.' I said, 'Oh, good.' When I landed in LA, I called my agent from the airport and she said, 'Well, go home and pack, you're on the next flight back out.' So that was cool! Then, it turned out, searching through all the fatigues, they found my uniform with my name on it from PRIVATE BENJAMIN, so I had the same uniform and boots that I wore in that."

Soles worked with comedians Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, and John Larroquette on the "today's army" comedy. "John Candy was one of the greatest guys," she asserts. "He was so nice. Harold Ramis was really, really bright, and was conned into acting in STRIPES because they couldn't find anybody else. Really, he didn't want to
do it at all, but they kept saying, 'C'mon, you'd be so perfect.' Bill Murray is the number one lunatic! Here we are, in Fort Knox, KY; he'd never been there before and neither had I, and one time at lunch, he said he didn't want to eat off the catering wagon. He said, 'Let's just get in the car and we'll drive and we'll find someplace.' He takes off and we're driving. An hour goes by, and suddenly we come upon the most beautiful, charming little town, with the most adorable little French restaurant! I don't even know the name of the town, we never did find it out. It was so cool, and I kept saying, 'You knew this was here!' He said, 'I had no idea.' I'll always remember that. I don't know, maybe it all just appeared, and it's not really real. It was the most wonderful lunch in this little French restaurant, then we just drove back to the set. I kept thinking, all afternoon, 'God, he has a really great sense of direction!'

"Other than that, though, he was really hard to work with, in terms of even getting him to go to the set. He'd just sit in his dressing room, and just not want to work, because there was so much pressure on him to be funny. He knew that, as soon as he went out there and they said 'action,' he'd have to come up with something, because Ivan really relied on Bill to come through with one-liners that he'd totally invented. If you read the script and compared it to the movie, everything that was brilliant in there was thought up by Bill on the spur of the moment. It was just so much pressure. I understood it, but it was really hard to work with someone when you're ready to go and you're waiting two hours for someone to come to the set. The whole scene on the stove was totally ad-libbed. It wasn't in the script at all. It was three o'clock in the morning, and the only thing it said in the script was, 'The girls get together with the boys.' So I kept saying, 'C'mon, guys, think of what you're gonna do. We're in the general's house, think of something!' So, Sean Young and Harold thought of spin-the-bottle, or whatever game they played, and Ivan said Bill and I would be in the kitchen. They had already done Harold and Sean's scene, and Bill started opening the refrigerator and taking out carrots, and Ivan goes, 'Yeah, that's good!' That scene was one take and then a close-up, because of Bill's fooling around with the stuff in the fridge and that one drawer. Ivan really relied on him, but that scene was really fun.

Soles' female co-star was a twenty-year-old actress working on her first film - Sean Young (ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE, DR. JEKYLL AND MS. HYDE). "Sean 'Very' Young, I called her," she smiles. "She was very weird, even on that movie. There were times I thought Bill was going to kill her. He would do a scene, then Sean would take him aside and go, 'I really liked that, but I think you should try it this way next time.' He would just look at her like, 'What?!?' I remember, after we shot the scene in the kitchen, she came over to both of us and said, 'You know, I really enjoyed that! That was really funny!' She really thought she knew a lot. It was interesting. There were guys on the set that had major crushes on her, but, for the most part, I thought they weren't looking past the package. Many of our scenes were cut because Ivan thought she couldn't handle the dialogue. In the original script, there were three scenes that showed a little more of our side of the story. Before we had even started shooting, we had done one scene together, and he just took the pages out. I was very upset by that, but that's another story.

"The first day I met her, she had just turned twenty, it was her birthday. After STRIPES, I really didn't see her until the night of her thirtieth birthday, ironically. My husband, Skip, was a test pilot, and he was asked to fly a jet in that movie, FIREBIRDS (1993), she was in, the helicopter movie. This jet comes in the canyon [at the end] and she blows it up, and the next day she was going to have to do that scene, and she kept saying she didn't want to do it, she wanted them to use a stunt double because of her fear of it being like TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE [where actor Vic Morrow died doing a stunt], because the jet had to come low in the canyon. That night we had flown in, and my husband and I were staying at the same hotel as her, and down in the bar they were celebrating her thirtieth birthday, and I walked in and she freaked out. I explained to her about my husband, and she told him that she was a little afraid. He told her it would be okay, and the next day, when they went to shoot it, she said, 'The only reason I'm even doing this scene is because P.J.'s husband is flying that plane!' Sedona, Arizona (where Young recently moved), is a great place, and I heard she got married and had a baby, so she's not a 'real person' - I hope! I hope she's not going to be 'Mommie Dearest!' I read this article once where Joel Schumacher said she's like a very high-strung thoroughbred, because there's not an ounce of fat on her and she's just very highly tuned. I think that's partly true, but it was just very inappropriate to try to give acting lessons to Bill Murray on her first film. She probably realizes this now, but I've never really been that impressed with her as an actress. She's got a great agent, though, because he keeps her working."

After surviving her STRIPES co-star's eccentricities, Soles moved on to the 1985 bio film of Country-Western singer Patsy Cline, SWEET DREAMS, starring Jessica Lange and Ed Harris. "I was Ed's girlfriend, Wanda," she clarifies. "I had two or three small scenes, one at the beginning that shows I was Ed Harris; girlfriend before he married Jessica Lange, and then the night she's having their baby, he goes to a bar and sees me again and I go home with him, so that was basically it. I first met Ed when [Ex-husband Dennis Quaid] was doing THE RIGHT STUFF. Ed's good for those Air-Force-looking parts."

Following SWEET DREAMS, Soles had parts in several low-budget films that were less than rewarding. "I did a movie in Toronto, LISTEN TO THE CITY, but it was a stupid movie," she confesses. "Ron Mann was a friend of Ivan Reitman, I guess, and they were looking for someone to play a reporter or something. I was up there for two weeks, but it wasn't well organized and didn't come out at all like what the script read. It was a young writer/director, and I don't think it ever got picked up.

"Then I went to Australia to do a movie called INNOCENT PREY, and Colin Eggleston was supposedly one of Australia's hot directors, but the problem was they had a U.S. co-producer, and they couldn't figure out who owns what rights, and they never released that either. That was kind of a bummer to make, because Colin was fighting with me. I was having my first baby, and my third marriage, and I was just kind of backing out [of the film]. I wasn't excited that about filming anymore. My marriage with Dennis hasn't gone well, and I just wanted to get out of the Hollywood scene. So, I moved to Woodland Hills. My neighbor was Ross Hagen, and that's how I got involved with B.O.R.N."

The 1989 thriller B.O.R.N. (Body Organ Replacement Network) was directed by former DAKTARI star Hagen. "We became very friendly and then we did this movie, and I had my second child only two weeks after he begged me to be in this movie," Soles says. "I liked the part, and I got to wear a red wig, and it seemed like it would be fun. I got to do my character the way I wanted to do it, and I'd like to work with him again. He's really a very cool guy, and he's godfather to my daughter. He just re-edited the film, because he still hasn't sold it to TV and they want to do that." The film co-starred Hagen, Hoke Howell, genre vets William Smith and Russ Tamblyn, GUNSMOKE star Amanda Blake, Rance Howard, and Clint Howard.

Another little-known Soles film is SAIGON COMMANDOS. "That was one of the first things I did," the actress explains, "because that I did in the Philippines, when my son was only two. That's directed by Clark Henderson, who has directed two television things, but hasn't done much else."

1989's ALIENATOR cast Soles with Hagen and Jan-Michael Vincent, John Phillip Law, Teagan, and Robert Quarry (COUNT YORGA: VAMPIRE!), in a muddled sci-fi/horror flick from prolific Z-movie director Fred Olen Ray. "Fred Ray, who's friends with Ross, had completed ALIENATOR, and they realized they didn't have any stars, or name guys, in it, so he took two days and shot scenes with me and Jan-Michael Vincent, and added it to the movie after it was already done. Jan and I had worked on AIRWOLF, so it was fun to see him again. He still wasn't awake! He holds his script, you know, just out of camera range. That's why he always looks down, if you watch Jan-Michael Vincent movies. When they put the camera on him, and they don't catch it in the editing, they'll cut right as he's bringing his eyes up in the close-ups. 'I don't have to remember my lines, so I can go out tonight!' He's a good looking guy, but he's drug-ruined."

Mention of AIRWOLF brings up recollections of Soles' other TV appearances. "I did two SIMON & SIMON's. Those were really fun, both of those guys were really nice. I did a KNIGHTRIDER. DOUBLE DARE with Billy Dee Williams and Ken Wahl. That was a great sho, I don't know why it didn't go on for a long time. Billy Williams was really fun. He would've made a great Two-Face [in BATMAN FOREVER]."

Another low-budgeter featuring Soles was SOLDIER'S FORTUNE. "Arthur Mele was the director, another friend of Ross Hagen," Soles comments. "I don't think that movie did anything either, but Gil Gerard (BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY) was kind of nice. I played kind of an evil person in that. That was a good role, actually. I wore glasses, and I was the secretary to this woman. It was sort of an interesting film, but very low-budget. These low-budget movies, sometimes they just don't make it. But, a lot of people like to hire me, because I was in CARRIE and HALLOWEEN, and they were all low-budget."

Soles has been essaying smaller roles in recent years, which allows her to spend more time with her children. "There was a small part in a KARATE KID-like movie, THE POWER WITHIN, and I really liked the director on that, Art Comacho, because my kids are in karate now. I haven't heard anything on it yet, but I shot it in November (1994), so it's probably not ready to come out quite yet. I just had a small part, playing the mother of a girl who's going to the prom with this boy. And, this boy's mother is Karen Valentine, and I had a scene with her, so that was cool. In the movie, she plays a woman who was a child actress, and was in a series, we would all know, so she rings my doorbell and I go, 'You're Pigtail Peggy!' It was all so realistic because I'm thinking, 'You're Karen Valentine from ROOM 222!'

"Another movie I just recently did was OUT THERE. That actually has a whole bunch of celebrities that did very small parts," Soles elaborates. "The lead guy is Bill Campbell (THE ROCKETEER), and I had just two scenes, with Jill St. John and Bill. It's a science-fiction comedy, kind of cute. I think Bill Campbell is good, but the whole damn set, I kept looking at him and going, 'The Rocka-who?' He didn't think it was funny at all, but my kids have seen that movie and we always walk around going, 'The Rocka-who?' [Jennifer Connelly] is his real girlfriend now, in real life. He would just make a face and go, like 'Shut up,' and I'd do it all day long. I was just trying to get him to smile! He wasn't very friendly, but it was only a day."

Soles also acted in the CD-ROM game, THE PRIZEFIGHTER. "It was directed by the second unit director on RAGING BULL, who did all the fight sequences," says the actress. "I played a mother who brings her son, who can't walk, because my husband was killed in a fight and since that day my son can't walk. He's watching the guys fight and the players are supposed to be helping this kid walk again, because he's rooting for one of the fighters. My real son's friends have this game, and they say it's pretty hard to get to the part where you finally see the kid walk. It was really fun to shoot that, and I met a cute little boy who's now my son's friend. His name is Matt McHurley, who's really an up-and-coming little actor, who was in NORTH, THE COMPUTER WORE TENNIS SHOES (made-for-TV-remake), and LITTLE GIANTS."

Acting, however, is only part of Soles' career these days. "You have to dedicate a lot of your time to your kids, which is kind of why I got into writing," she explains. "I've written four scripts now. I'm hoping to switch over in that department. The older you get as an actress, it's a little different to get roles. I optioned this one book three years ago, and we're still hoping to make this one. It's called NIGHT WITCHES, the true story about the first Russian women pilots to fight in combat during WWII. It's a little known fact, but there were women who fought in World War II. These were women between the ages of eighteen to twenty-five. Some of them shot down some of the best Nazi aces there were. It's a very interesting story, but most of our resistance has been, 'So what if women already fought in combat - they're Russian! They're not American!'

"I was interested in NIGHT WITCHES from the women's point of view, because some of them were mothers, some of them were just little girls, still, and they literally did not her from their families for, like, two years. They were fighting over their own land, fighting to get Nazis out of these cities that their children and mothers were in. This is a really heart-wrenching story, very emotional. They actually flew in combat. They'd fly fourteen missions at night, come back and sleep, then do needlepoint and write letters. The atmosphere of the war was so different from what we've seen in the movies so far, because it's all been male-oriented. I really want to show another side to it. People keep thinking, 'We can't send women into battle.' Well, they already did! Over there, they're huge heroes, they got wings of museums dedicated to them. They were a very famous group, but we've never really heard of them before over here. We sent it to Geena Davis, like, six months ago, and she loved it, because there's a commander role that would be perfect for her, who was the actual woman who got all these girls together. She was personal friends with Stalin, and he enabled her to get this little air force together. We sent it to Geena because we heard that her and Renny Harlin were looking for something to do together. She loved it, but he's from Finland, so he hates the Russians, ad he didn't even want to look at it. But, now they're getting divorced, so we're going to send it back to her. I think, maybe for revenge, she'll agree to do it! It's what I'm counting on. She should have stayed with Jeff Goldblum, they made such a good couple.

I also wrote a script called THE RED TAIL SQUADRON, about the first black fighter pilots in WWII, but we're doing another version of that for HBO. I had that for about five years. It was the first script I ever wrote. I have this interest in flying because my husband's a test-pilot," Soles says proudly. Of course, pilot Skip Holm can now say, "My wife's a writer," with equal pride.


_____________________________________________________


Scream Queen P.J. Soles



Femme Fatales
August 11, 2000


A cult queen candidly recounts her horror film legacy: Facts about "Halloween," "Carrie," Roger Corman, et. al.
By Pat Jankiewicz


She can still "get your ghost." With her radiant California-girl charm, P.J. Soles effortlessly stole the limelight in STRIPES and PRIVATE BENJAMIN, a couple of "service comedies." But her "supporting player" visibility in mainstream entertainment, including a memorable appearance in BREAKING AWAY, was eclipsed by her expanded celebrity in horror films....

Soles had presumed her genre legacy had slipped through the cracks until SCREAM debuted in 1996: in one scene, the entire cast convenes for a screening of HALLOWEEN (1978) and cheers when Soles flashes her anatomical assets (cast as "Lynda," the teen sexpot, Soles' striptease is the prelude to her inevitable death scene. Her final words: "See anything you like? Alright, where's my beer?..."). Soles reacts to the homage with "I was totally flattered. It was such a great surprise... I still can't believe it! Every other line out of Lynda's mouth was 'totally' and, at my HALLOWEEN audition, [director] John Carpenter said, 'You're the only one who got the totally right. I want you; you're the one. Can you stay and pick out the actor we should cast as your boyfriend?' I read like ten guys and said, 'This guy's good, I like him.'

"John Carpenter was a guy with a vision, he knew what he was doing. He had a hand in everything: he was behind the camera and did the music. I enjoyed working with him because he made you feel like you had so much to contribute, and I appreciated that. I would like to work with him again sometime... people have told me he speaks highly of me.

"I knew John was a young, bright director and this film had possibilities. The film's star, Jamie Lee Curtis, was really nice. She was 19 and it was her first film. Because there were only three girls [Curtis, Soles, Nancy Loomis], I got to play with my character and wear really high-heeled shoes. If you did something, John would say, 'Hey, that was great.'

"The girls' walk home, where the car is following us, was shot on our second or third day of production. A lot of it was ad-libbed and the three of us were bonding. We all tried to do something different, so I had a cigarette. I remember Jamie wasn't up to the ad-lib thing at that point, so I dominated the [on-screen] conversation. Jamie was like, 'Can we do this?'"

Soles' favorite scene in the film was conceptualized by co-writer/producer Debra Hill. Her boyfriend retreats from the bedroom to kitchen for some brew. The Shape (aka Michael Myers) murders the teen and, camouflaged in a sheet, enters the bedroom. Soles presumes the phony spectre is her goofy beau {"S'matter, can't I get your ghost, Bob?"). "I like that a lot," says Soles. "It starts when I'm in bed and say to my boyfriend, 'Hey, go down and get me a beer.' I needed something to do while I'm waiting, so I start filing my nails. John told me, 'What I want out of the scene is that this guy is not gonna take the sheet off his head. We're not gonna know it's not your boyfriend, so you have to keep enticing him to take the sheet off.' I tried everything I could, right down to my 'See anything you like?'" [while bearing her breasts]....

The actress recalls the development of that scene: "When I pulled the bed sheet down, John said, 'We need some kind of a little nudity thing.' He wasn't quite sure what, and he didn't want me to do anything if it felt uncomfortable. It just popped into my head to lower the bed sheet and say, 'See anything you like?'"

Naturally the consequence for a female practitioner of sexual liberality is death, an axiom pioneered in HALLOWEEN's slasher milieu. Soles is asphyxiated by the film's bogeyman. "It was funny," recalls the actress, "because The Shape was John's friend [and eventual director] Nick Castle. The first time Nick grabs me around the neck with the telephone cord, it was tickling me because it was so loose. I said, 'This isn't working, could you really kind of strangle me? I need a little bit more here!' He said, 'I don't want to hurt you.' Everyone thinks it was scary but -- no! -- I had to ask Michael Myers to kill me a little harder! Because I got killed, I couldn't be in the sequels. I ran into John when he was doing HALLOWEEN II and asked if I could be a ghost."

Soles doomed boyfriend, Bob, was to be played by her then-husband, Dennis Quaid (later topbilled in DREAMSCAPE, INNERSPACE, ENEMY MINE, FREQUENCY, etc.). "Since I was married to Dennis, he wanted to do it, but it wasn't a big enough part for him so his agent wouldn't let him." She also reveals that Donald Pleasence was equally eccentric as his incarnation of Dr. Loomis: "Pleasence pretty much remained aloof and on his own. The only thing I can say is that he was as weird in person as he was onscreen. He really was that spooky guy. You'd sit next to him at lunch and look over at him, and then he'd turn over to you with those eyes and you'd be kind of scared!"

But HALLOWEEN was hardly Soles initial alliance with the horror genre. Two years earlier she portrayed Norma Watson in CARRIE, the first film adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Soles was memorable as one of the vindictive girls who tormented the telekinetic title character: "It was my first film and a great experience, but none of us thought that it would be such a terrific film. [Director] Brian DePalma would just sit back in his chair and smile. The more peril we got into, he would just laugh. He enjoyed making that film, which is a little weird!

"I went to a big joint casting session that George Lucas and Brian DePalma had for, respectively, STAR WARS and CARRIE. They wanted to see everyone, boys and girls, between the ages of 18 and 22. They both sat behind a big desk and made this big list of who George was going to cast for STAR WARS and who Brian would cast for CARRIE. I was on the CARRIE list and the next week, all the contenders went to Brian's house for the weekend. We read every role, it was a wonderful weekend. The next week, we did testing. Every actress was testing for CARRIE.

"I remember I tested with John Travolta. For a whole week, we studied together. John was a nice guy. I also did a TV movie with him, called THE BOY IN THE PLASTIC BUBBLE ['76]. At the end of the week, Brian handed out the roles. Although I was originally hired for two weeks, Brian -- after he saw the dailies -- had me sign on for the rest of the film, which was six more weeks. I was thrilled! He kept throwing Nancy [Allen] and I together in the film and the relationship between Nancy and I added a little bit to the movie.


"I wore my red baseball hat to the audition and, when it came time for the movie, Brian asked me, 'Where's your hat?' I said, 'My hat?' He said, 'Yeah, your red baseball hat -- I want that in the movie.' He thought it would make a nice visual. I was glad because when I looked at all the girls, everyone was pretty and trying to look pretty, so I thought, 'Okay, I'll be the tomboy and stand out.' I asked him if I could wear my baseball cap with my prom dress and he thought that was great."

Queried about the film's poetic exposition in the gym's showers, which explodes into rage when the girls pelt Carrie with sanitary napkins ("Plug it up!"), Sole recalls some resistance to nudity: "At that time, I insisted on wearing my towel. Amy Irving wanted her bra and pants on, she wouldn't take 'em off. But Nancy Allen was like, 'I'll do [nudity]!' Nancy really liked Brian, and Amy was hoping to get him as a boyfriend. From what I remember, Brian kept calling up [Steven] Spielberg to come down -- that was before he was really famous -- and Brian said, 'There's a lot of girls on this set, you oughtta come down!'"

In regard to Sissy Spacek, who was Oscar-nominated for her performance as Carrie White, Soles recalls, "Sissy's husband, Jack Fisk, was CARRIE's set designer. He kept trying to push Sissy for Brian, saying, 'You've gotta read Sissy, she's great,' but Brian kept rejecting it. Amy Irving was actually up for Sissy's part. Jack convinced Brian to give Sissy a screen test and she blew him away....

"Remember Carrie's hand coming out of the grave at the end of the film? That was Sissy's hand! Sissy had her husband dig a hole, build a box with an airhole so it could be her hand! I learned a lot from Sissy on that movie. Even the scene where she gets covered with blood -- it took a week to shoot that scene and she slept every night, without a shower, in a trailer right next to the soundstage. She volunteered to have the blood remain on her for five days, so it would match in continuity. That was pretty incredible."

The climactic "prom night" scene, where a prank ignites Carrie's apocalyptic fury, "was so unique," enthuses Soles. "We all lined up as the bucket of pig's blood falls on Sissy, and everyone's straight-faced but I laugh. Brian said to me, 'You're the only one I don't want being shocked by this, you're really enjoying the moment,' so my laughing stands out. Brian did that beautifully."

And if Soles' death scene appears a tad too authentic, there's good reason: "I get hit by a big firehose that telekinetically comes to life. It slams me against the bleachers and breaks my neck. It was hard to do because the water hose actually broke my eardrum and I fainted, so what you see on film is actually me fainting. When you break your eardrum, you lose your balance...

"Here's what happened: Brian wanted full-force power on the water as it hit my face, but the off-camera fireman, who operated the hose, refused to do it to me. My body double did it first, but then Brian wanted a close-up of me being hit by the water in my face. I turned my head to get away from it, and it got me in the ear!"

And then Soles drops a bomb: "Stephen King was banned from the set! Brian didn't want to share his vision. We always heard rumblings about it. I didn't know who he was but some people said, 'Can you believe they won't let Stephen King on the set?' and I was like 'So?' Now I'm like 'What? They wouldn't let Stephen King on the set?'"

One year later, Soles was cast as "Riff Randall, Ramones addict," in ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, a cult classic produced by Roger Corman. "That was a four week shoot on a $200,000 budget," recalls the actress. "[Director] Alan Arkush was under so much pressure from Corman. The Ramones were interesting but not my type of music. When Allan gave me their tape and said, 'You play the ultimate, number one Ramones fan,' I heard their music and screamed [shrieks in mock horror]. My daughter and her friends like the movie because they think I look like a Barbie doll in it. It was my own wardrobe, I picked it all out because they had no budget. Remember that ['80s clothing] store Fibinucci? I spent most of my salary there! We did a great job in that movie, even though we were all only working for scale."

I inquire about her recurrent casting as a perky, often tempestuous sexpot. "It's funny," she replies. "I lived all over the world and yet I always played the typical American teenager! The P.J. stands for Pamela Jayne. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany. My father's from Holland and my mother's from New Jersey, but they met there. My Dad was with a worldwide insurance company, so I lived in Morocco for three years, Madacaiva, Venezuela, and I went to high school in Brussels, Belgium and college in New York state. My college roommate brought me by the Actors Studio and I just fell in love with it. I decided to stay in New York while my parents moved to Istanbul. That was the beginning of my career...

"I did a lot of modeling and commercials. At that time in the '70s, there wasn't a lot of transition from modeling to acting but at the same time I was modeling, I did a soap opera, LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING. It made me an easy sell for TV commercials because I was 'a model who could talk,' which was unusual for the early '70s! I moved to L.A. and within two weeks, I landed the role in CARRIE."

The actress cites PRIVATE BENJAMIN (1980) as her personal favorite, "because it was the most fun to do. A lot of people don't know it was me because I had a black wig on... [shrugs] I really had to fight for that role. The director who originally hired me for the part was fired and they got a new director, Howard Zieff. He didn't want any of the first director's choices. I already had the part but was being told I couldn't do it. I found out when they were holding auditions and also heard that Goldie Hawn's rule with the new director was, 'Nobody with blonde hair.' She wanted to be the only blonde since she was the producer.

"I showed up at the audition wearing a short black wig with glasses and demanded they see me. I said, 'My name's P.J. Soles and I want to be seen for this part.' The secretary said, 'You can't do it if you don't have an appointment.' Another girl, a friend of mine, stood up and loudly said, 'You're not P.J. Soles! P.J. doesn't have short black hair!' I said, 'Shhh, it's me.' After they saw everybody and the waiting room was empty, the secretary called to Howard, 'There's an actress out here who insists on being seen -- and she's such a bitch, she'd be perfect for the part!' He opened the door, laughed, didn't know who I was and I read. He said, 'I love it and your hair is perfect,' at which point I pulled off the wig and all this blonde hair came down. He said, 'Bring that wig to the set!'"

One year later, Soles reenlisted in the military for STRIPES, arguably one of the late John Candy's most memorable comedies. "I wore the same army clothes in both movies," she laughs. "When I did STRIPES after PRIVATE BENJAMIN, they found my same uniform! STRIPES was great. The film's star, Bill Murray, was fun on the set but he was kind of a manic-depressive. He was very, very down ad they had to really get him going in front of the camera. Once the camera was going, he was worth the money.

"It was made in the days when directors had a hard time giving anything substantial to the women roles. [Director] Ivan Reitman loved Bill and [co-star/co-writer] Harold Ramis, but just liked Sean [Young] and I. She and I had a lot of scenes together that he just cut. He said, 'Well, the movie's not about you two,' which bothered me. Ivan was like, 'Bill is the genius and you girls are window dressing.' That was hard to take."

One of the film's comic highlights is a liaison between Soles, seated on a stove, and Murray who "romances" her with unconventional props (i.e. vegetables and an ice cream scoop). "That scene was wonderful. I'm comfortable in ad-lib situations. It was three a.m. and Ivan said, 'We need a scene to show that you and Bill are starting to like each other. Maybe we could shoot it in the kitchen.' We're all tired but Bill starts opening drawers and goes, 'Okay, I got it... Let's roll.' He takes out the carrot and I go 'What?' I didn't know what he was gonna do, so it worked perfectly.

"The movie had a cast and crew screening at the Directors Guild on Sunset. After I saw it, I just went in the ladies room and cried. There was so much more in the script. Scenes we shot with Sean and I, in our bunk, were completely cut out. I thought it was a cute movie, but there was so much more to my character. I cried, went out and everybody came up to me saying, 'That scene with you and Bill was the best scene in the movie!'

"STRIPES was the last movie I made when I was married to Dennis Quaid. I wanted to start a family and that was something Dennis and I never agreed on."

Ironically, Soles was introduced to Mr. Right on the set of Quaid's next film. "I met a pilot who worked on THE RIGHT STUFF. His name is Skip Home, he's very famous in the aviation world as a test pilot and a fighter pilot in Vietnam. Skip was also the first pilot to fly the Stealth Fighter. I always say, 'I left Dennis on THE RIGHT STUFF for the real stuff.' When Dennis and I separated, I started dating him. I've now been married over 13 years, he's a great guy. We have two kids, Sky and Ashle, who've only seen ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and part of STRIPES, but not HALLOWEEN and CARRIE -- those are both on the top shelf because they're both pretty young now."

While no longer cast as the randy adolescent, Soles could easily pass as the sexiest mom on the PTA. "I do a lot of family movies," she laughs. "I have written a script, ROCK & ROLL HIGH SCHOOL CLASS REUNION and optioned the rights from Roger Corman. We're negotiating with a studio now. I really want to do it because it's been years, and they did that horrible, so-called sequel (1990's ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL FOREVER]. The only member of the original cast to return was Mary Woronov. We have contacted every cast member from the original film, including The Ramones. In our sequel, the band has split up and I have a country-wide search fr them with my daughter.

"You know, I get a lot of fan mail over all these years when I haven't really done anything. Thank heaven for video because they never forgot STRIPES, HALLOWEEN, CARRIE and ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL! They were important movies to them growing up. Hey, just look at SCREAM!"




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