P.J. Soles Celebrates the return of Halloween with the 35th Anniversary Blu-ray, in stores today!
While horror fans still have just over one month to go before the Samhain holiday, they can get into the spirit a little early by celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the horror classic Halloween. Anchor Bay Home Entertainment is releasing the an all-new Blu-ray, which arrives September 24. Directed by John Carpenter on a budget of just $325,000, the classic went on to re-define the genre as we know it, while spawning a myriad of sequels that followed the legacy of Michael Myers. I recently had the chance to speak with P.J. Soles, who played Laurie Strode's (Jamie Lee Curtis) friend Lynda van der Klock (and who also played Norma in the original Carrie), about her experiences on the set, how she won the role, working with John Carpenter, and so much more. Take a look at what she had to say.
It has to be surreal, just to hear the words Halloween and 35th Anniversary in the same sentence.
P.J. Soles: I know! It's really weird, let me tell you, because it doesn't seem like 35 years have gone by (Laughs), and the fact that everybody is still so interested in the movie.
Is there anything you can say about the early casting process, and how competitive it was in going out for these parts? I know it was a really low-budget movie, but was there a lot of interest going in?
P.J. Soles: Well, my agent called me and set up an appointment. It was unusual to meet just with the director, with John, as opposed to the casting agent. I actually read my scene with John, just he and I in the room. Afterwards, he said, 'Wow, you're the only one who read the word totally right.' I said, 'Well, how else would that girl have read it?' He said, 'Well, that's why you're going to get the part.' I said, 'I am?' It was exciting that he gave me the part on the spot, and he asked me to stay and help cast for my boyfriend, because there were three actors out there. We picked John Michael Graham for Bob, so that was kind of cool.
How long of a gap was there between the time you got the role and when you started shooting?
P.J. Soles: No, I think it was just like a week or two, and then it was just a matter of meeting with the wardrobe girl. We mostly used all our own clothes, because it was such a limited budget. I went out and bought that green jacket and, I think, the shoes. I always seemed to buy little things that seemed to make the character unique (Laughs).
I didn't know you got to pick out your own costumes. That's awesome.
P.J. Soles: Yeah, we'd meet with the wardrobe girl and we had a guideline, but I was always very prepared, and, to me, the wardrobe is very important, in terms of what I want to portray. There was that one scene, in the van, and I had just bought that silk blouse, so when I said, 'Hey, don't rip my blouse, idiot, I just bought it,' I meant it, because I had just bought it for the scene (Laughs). I always laugh about it when I hear that. I go, 'Oh my God, that came out of my mouth?' But it was so true.
That's amazing. You mentioned how low the budget was, and I believe it was only about $300,000...
P.J. Soles: Well, it was $300,000, but $100,000 went to Donald Pleasence, so it was really $200,000.
That may sound like a lot of money, even in the 1970s, but for a movie of this size, that still had to be very tight.
P.J. Soles: Oh, yeah. We got paid about $700 a week, and it was only a three-week shoot. I remember getting $2,100 and thinking that was a lot of money, but not in terms of what it ended up doing. I wish I had a percentage instead (Laughs). But, instead, I get to go to conventions and sign autographs, so I'm cool.
Since you only shot this in 20 days, could you even compare that experience to something like Carrie, where I believe you had a lot more time?
P.J. Soles: Yeah, that took three months, but that was a studio picture. That was way different than this.
Was the environment on the set comparable though? They're both such iconic films now, looking back at them, but were there vast differences between those experiences?
P.J. Soles: Yeah, I would say that, since Carrie was my first film, I didn't really know what to expect. There was definitely a separateness from the director and the cinematographer and the tech guys, as opposed to on Halloween, everybody was really nice with Dean Cundley, the DP, and John and (co-writer) Debra (Hill). It was like we were all kind of equals, making this movie, whereas (Carrie director) Brian De Palma, it was his movie and we were just kind of players there. He would tell us where to stand and what to do, and it was a little bit more of a restricted atmosphere.
Was there a moment, either in reading the script or on the set, where you could realize at the time, that this would become a classic?
P.J. Soles: There absolutely was not. You couldn't tell at all. Mostly, what I was concerned about if I was doing a good job, was it going to translate on film? What would it look like? I was so new to all of this, I didn't know. No, from reading the script or even hanging out with the people, to me, looking at Michael Myers in that jumpsuit and that stupid mask, at the time I thought, 'What a stupid mask,' I would have never thought this is really going to be a classic. I just thought, 'Oh gosh, I hope this doesn't look too bad.'
You could probably say the same thing about Jason Voorhes. Who is this goalie?
P.J. Soles: That's true. At the time, you're just not thinking and you don't know what it's going to look like. When I finally saw it at the cast and crew screening, I was just amazed. The music was what blew me away. I was so impressed. Not only had John written it, but he was playing it too.
I was curious about the score as well. Did he have any of that mapped out while you were shooting? Or did that all come afterwards?
P.J. Soles: I think I heard that he had done it afterwards, but it was only a three-week shoot, so it wasn't too far afterwards. He could have been playing with things all along, I don't know. It was just really amazing.
It was rare back then, but it's really rare now to have a director who does the music as well.
P.J. Soles: I know! Exactly.
Especially for a horror movie, it's such an integral part of the movie, that it's kind of surprising that more filmmakers don't do that.
P.J. Soles: Yeah, plus, given the budget, since he came from a musical family and was a musician anyway, and he had his band, I guess he figured he'd just do the music. He really wanted to put his stamp on it. Instead of getting more money or, maybe, more percentage, I don't know, he traded that in for having final cut. He wanted his cut on it, which was a big deal to him and, in those days, was pretty important. You didn't know what other producers would do with it, and you didn't want it to fall out of your hands after spending so much time filming all those scenes.
Can you talk about your time with Jamie (Lee Curtis) on the set? You said this was only your second movie, so were there things that you took from that experience with her or anyone else on the set, and used throughout your career?
P.J. Soles: I think, mostly, when I remember back to that, it was just that collaborative spirit. There was just a comfort and a gentleness about the filming of it. It was just very relaxed, and you never felt nervous or scared. You just really felt such a camaraderie with everyone, and everyone was just having such a really good time. It amazed me because, since then, obviously, I've worked in TV and other movie sets, and it's usually a pretty uptight atmosphere. Rock 'n' Roll High School, we had a great time too, but Halloween, I'll always remember as a very relaxed atmosphere, considering we were in such a hurry to get all the scenes shot. You never felt rushed, and you knew that if John said you got it, you got it and you could trust him.
Is there anything that you've been working on lately that you can talk about?
P.J. Soles: No films. A couple of years ago, I did a short cameo in a movie called The Butterfly Room with Barbara Steele, and that's been making the rounds. I think they're still trying to get distirbution on that. I just did a project that is a pilot they're trying to do for TV or the web called Up From Down, and I'm the hostess for it. It's a show about a psychologist who is working with patients who have had traumatic childhood issues or drug addiction or health issues, and are trying to rebound back into normal life. It's kind of an interesting project. I've been trying to work on my book, that I'm going to call The Totally Girl, I think. That's the working title. Everybody seems to be writing their memoirs, and everybody is so interested in every aspect of all these movies. They're still living on, which is amazing, and everyone keeps saying, 'Write a book! Write a book!' So I'm working on that. I've written six songs with this band called Cheap Rodeo, you can go to CheapRodeo.net, and I've written the lyrics to six of the songs, the more somber ones, like 'What Were You Thinking?' about suicide and 'Who Can' and 'First Night in Heaven.' I'm very proud of that. I feel like (her Rock 'n' Roll High School character) Riff Randell has finally come full-circle (Laughs).
Do you have any thoughts about the remake culture that we're experiencing now, especially with the Carrie remake coming up next month. Do you think it's relevant to keep re-spawning these classics for new generations, or do you think that kids should just stick to the originals?
P.J. Soles: I don't know. They seem to get people to watch the originals. I mean, the Rob Zombie remake, at least the first one, not the second one, was pretty popular and that got people to watch The Lords of Salem. It all started with House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, which put him on the map, and, because of that, he was able to do Halloween. It's OK for them to try. I don't know if anyone's been successful. Certainly, the other Carrie remake was not so great. How can you re-do Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek's performances? I'll be really mad if they ever try to remake Stripes. That would be impossible. Don't even try!
I would hope that would just be sacrilegious, if anyone tried that. I hope, anyway.
P.J. Soles: That's right. I heard that Howard Stern bought the rights to Rock 'n' Roll High School, but I can't even imagine that without the Ramones. That's just ridiculous. What band would you get? Please don't try that one either (Laughs).
That's about all I have. Thank you so much, P.J.. It was a real pleasure.
P.J. Soles: All right. Thank you. Nice talking to you.