Exclusive Interview: P.J. Soles on Halloween and Carrie

The star says she ad-libbed one of the most famous topless shots in movie history, and relives the Aunt Jemima scene from Stripes.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

P.J. Soles has the best response when you say you’re a big fan. To me, at least, she says, “You’d better be!” And so indeed I had.

Younger audiences know P.J. Soles best from her string of exuberant performances in the horror films Halloween and Carrie, where she plays ill-fated best friends with quirks like saying “TOH-tally” all the time, or never appearing without a red baseball cap. She also starred in Paul Bartel’s manically funny Ramones tribute film Rock ‘n Roll High School as the rebellious young punk rock fan Riff Randell, and played Bill Murray’s lovely love interest in Stripes.

So… having a little crush on P.J. Soles (as I had for many years), and interviewing her for the release of the new Halloween (35th Anniversary Edition) Blu-ray (as I was), I was a little twitterpated. I believe I fumbled a few questions together, and it seemed to me like P.J. Soles – who laughs a whole lot – was kind enough to take all my befuddled admiration in stride.

The Halloween (35th Anniversary Edition) Blu-ray goes on sale September 24, 2013.
 

CraveOnline: So you were in, like, every good movie from 1976 to 1981.

P.J. Soles: [Laughs] Aw… That’s sweet!
 

You had such an effervescent personality in most of your movies in that period. By the time you were doing, say, Stripes, were they still auditioning you? Or were they saying, “We need a P.J. Soles type. Let’s get P.J. Soles?”

[Laughs] No, they were still auditioning me. Trust me, it was never easy to get a part. I had to fight for everything, except for Halloween. That one I got right on the spot.
 

The story goes that you got the role because you said “Toh-tally” correctly.

That’s what he told me. He said, “Wow, you’re the only girl that’s said “Totally” right, the right way. I went “How else would you say it?” So he was like, “Well, that’s why you get the part.” I was like, “Alriiiiight!” [Laughs]
 

From that point on, did John Carpenter even direct you? Or did he assume you got the character?

Really, there was no direction except of course where you’re going to walk to and what you’re going to do. In the bedroom scene there was no script, per se, no dialogue for that one. [When] Michael Myers comes back up in the doorway with the sheet and the glasses on his face, it was just trying to do something to entice him to get back into bed with you, because you think that’s Bob, so that was all ad-libbed there. I happened to have a nail file in my purse, and I’m like, “Okay, I don’t just want to be sitting her doing nothing.” [Laughs]
 

Was the toplessness ad-libbed as well, or was that always planned?

Yeah, that was because he said, “We could have a little nudity here if you want, but it’s totally up to you, and I don’t want to push you into anything. Whatever you think.” So since it was such a relaxed atmosphere and I totally trusted John, and I knew that he trusted all of us, I thought “Well, let me try this.” And it worked, the “See anything you like?” Because his guiding line was “Just try to get him to come back into bed with you. You’re like, ‘What are you doing standing in the doorway? Get back in the bed already.’” So how much more enticing can you be than drop your sheet and saying “See anything you like?” [Laughs] Now it’s become that classic scene.
 

It would have worked on me.

[Laughs] It worked on you!
 

At what point did you start to realize how big Halloween was becoming as a phenomenon?

Gosh, I would say it’s probably about 20 years ago. It just seemed like that was the beginning of people inviting me to horror conventions or screenings or wanting to talk to me around Halloween and do an interview. Then certainly in the last ten years it seems to have grown even bigger. Even just now, I’ve gone already to a couple of conventions, and this weekend I’m going to Horror Realm in Pittsburgh […] and the fans there are just mad for this movie. And they’re ages. The people that have kids, they let their kids watch them now when they’re two, three, four or five years old. I’m like, “What?!” They’re like, “He loves it. He loves that movie. He recognizes you!” And the little boy is looking up at me and can barely look over the table. I’m like, “Okay…” [Laughs]
 

Do you have a favorite fan interaction?

It’s usually pretty much all the same. There are people who watch Halloween every Halloween, and they have parties and they like to get those autographed pictures to put in their Halloween room. They have their Halloween hallway or their Halloween room, and they give a party every year and that’s their big holiday, moreso than even Christmas. So I’m always amazed by that. There’s not anyone in particular. There’s always reverberating the same theme, that they’ve loved this movie since they were a kid and now their kids are going to be seeing it. They save their money to come to a three-day convention to meet everybody. They love meeting the guys who play all the monsters too. They love Tony Moran and Derek Mears and Kane Hodder. They just get such a thrill out of meeting the actors who were in these films.