Comic Book Divas sits down with actress and that “TOTALLY” Awesome horror hottie herself PJ Soles. We talk with PJ Soles about her life, her career and of course about the upcoming Alfred Hitchcock :”The Birds” parody comic book “SQUIRREL”
PJ Soles: My father was from Holland, and got a job in Germany after WWII with a new company called AIU that insured American companies overseas. He spoke six languages, so as the company grew, he was sent to different countries to open branch offices. I was born in Germany, then we lived in Casablanca, Morocco; Maracaibo, Venezuela and Brussels, Belgium.
Q: What was your favorite place to live growing up, and do you travel overseas a lot today?
PJ Soles: I really loved each of the countries that I lived in. I learned to speak French and Spanish, and I cherished my experiences in each place. I love Moroccan food, because as a five year old in Casablanca, what could be better than sitting on pillows on the floor and eating with your fingers?
I loved the vast beaches there and the exotic feeling of the bazaars – all of those memories have remained a very strong influence in my creative world. I loved Maracaibo because that is where I used to pick mangos for lunch from the trees in my elementary school yard. I used to water ski across the Lago de Maracaibo every weekend with my dad in his small wooden motor boat, and we would collect shells and eat our picnic lunch on tiny deserted islands out in the bay leading to the ocean – it was paradise.
I loved Brussels because that’s where I had so much freedom as a teenager riding the city bus to school and the tram to downtown to work on my high school newspaper as the editor, and I used to go to the Grand’ Place on weekends to meet my friends for the night and take the train there and back. We took two school trips, one to Greece and one to Russia. How great was that?!
Q: Reading your bio, it said you wanted to be ambassador between the United States and the then Soviet Union, why did you want to be an ambassador?
PJ Soles: Because of my high school trip to Russia, I felt that the American connection to Russia was very important. I felt in the future it would be about our communication with each other that would help the world become a better place. I was a Russian language major in college, but I dropped out to pursue acting.
Q: How did you begin your acting career?
PJ Soles: My roommate in college (Briarcliff College and then transferred to Georgetown) was from Manhattan, so every weekend Lorraine and I would take the train from college to her mom’s apt. I loved it there. I spent the summer in between my first and second year with her because my parents had moved to Istanbul, Turkey while I was in college.
Since there wasn’t the communication at that time that exists today, they didn’t know that I had gotten a job at the Actor’s Studio, met a guy (Joshua White of the “Joshua Light Show” from the Fillmore East) who helped me get an agent, “The Lester Lewis Agency”. The first audition I ever went on (for Crisco Oil) I got, and I filmed three more commercials that summer, so I started making some good money. And I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend. Then I got a modeling agent, Stewart Models, and then I was meeting photographers and casting people all the time. It was between me and Susan Dey for “The Partridge Family”, but when they asked me on camera if I would like to move to Los Angeles, I frowned and naively said that didn’t sound like something I wanted to do!
I also was on a soap opera, “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing” as well, before I decided to come out to LA.
PJ Soles: When I first moved out to LA in 1975, I was only in town for two weeks when my LA modeling agent told me about a casting call for two films. So I went to this studio and waited in the hallway with every other teen in town for about two hours. Finally it was my turn, and I walked into this room with one desk and two directors sitting behind it: George Lucas and Brian de Palma. Brian turned to George and said,” I’ll put her on my list.” George shook his head.
When I turned to leave, Brian said to me, “At the next audition, wear your hat.” I was wearing the now famous red baseball hat, since I was trying to keep the hot LA sun off my face. The next three auditions were fun, with pretty much every actor there ending up with some part in “CARRIE”. When I got the part of “Norma”, Brian said, “Make sure you bring your hat.” I think he really liked the hat as much as he liked me. Even though I auditioned for the part that Nancy Allen got, I am glad I got to play “Norma”, and thankful to Brian for being so keen on that red hat!
Q:: Carrie to me was more a psychological movie for me and seemed it would have been a very draining movie, how did you and the other actor’s keep the set loose?
PJ Soles: We had so much fun. Watching a film is certainly nothing like filming one. We all were called to the set every day, and we just entertained ourselves with each other. We were very involved in the shooting .
Q: Carrie centered around to some extent around bullying which is a very point subject today, do you think bullying has increased over the years or do you think it just was not talked about as much in the past?
PJ Soles: I definitely think bullying has always existed. We are just more aware of it today, and that is a good thing. Now with cell phone video and kids not afraid to tell, there is a better outcome for kids. They never should be afraid to stand up for their human rights, but without being able to prove anything, it never seems to carry weight. Nowadays, parents are very proactive in helping guard their kids against bullying. And schools and courts seem better equipped to handle it, provided there is positive evidence. Now we have to focus on why kids bully to begin with. Something must be off in their life that they feel the need to resort to that type of reckless behavior of hurting other kids.
Q: You wore your red baseball cap to the screen test of Carrie, Brian De Palma loved it so much he asked you to wear it during filming. Whatever happened to that hat?
PJ Soles: Well, it went through many wash cycles, and one day it just fell apart. If I had only known what a treasure it would be so many decades later, I would have put it in a box. As it was, I loved that hat and wore it all the time.
Q: Here is the second question you have been asked 1000 times; How did you get the role of Lynda Van Der Klok in Halloween?
PJ Soles: My agent sent me on an audition. I met and read with John Carpenter. I can’t tell you how unusual that was to meet with just the director on a first audition, and then have him tell you at the end of your reading that you have the part. It was awesome. He asked me to stay and read with three actors to choose my boyfriend. Years later, I had heard that John had seen me in “CARRIE” and he and Debra Hill wrote the part with me in my mind. That is very flattering.
Q: Do you find that more people call you the “Totally Girl” rather than PJ?
PJ Soles: Ha, ha, more people call me PJ, but at conventions, it is a popular ice breaker opening line. I love it!
Q: Did you think that the original Halloween would be such an iconic horror movie?
PJ Soles: Not in any way. But I wasn’t thinking in those terms at that time. I just wanted to do a great job, and hopefully, get another part. I didn’t think about the legacy of any film. Just the now to get the next.
Q: When you watch Halloween, what do you think about the movie?
PJ Soles: It is really hard for me to watch it objectively. While there are moments I can feel a little tingle, especially because of the music, I just remember so much about the making of the film, and the day to day, and the crew, that it is just so hard to get into it as a movie to just enjoy. But I love it, and I understand how it has become such a classic. It is a perfect little film.
Q: You were in one of my all time favorite comedies Stripes, how did you get that role, and what do you remember most fondly about making the movie?
PJ Soles: I was just finishing filming a movie in Texas called, “SOGGY BOTTOM, USA” with Don Johnson (trust me, this is a really good film with so many talented actors) when my agent called and asked me to fly to Kentucky to audition for “STRIPES”. Apparently, they had trouble finding an actress to play against Bill Murray, and they had already been to NY and LA.
I flew in, read on camera with Harold Ramis, felt a great rapport, didn’t meet Bill, but met Ivan Reitman, and when I landed back at LAX, I called my agent who told me to go home and pack and get back to Kentucky the next day. So there I was at Fort Knox, in the exact same army boots & uniform I had worn in “PRIVATE BENJAMIN”. My favorite memory is filming the kitchen scene with Bill. By then, I had become familiar with Bill’s way of working.
The best thing to do was just let him lead and you could follow, but you had to keep him on his toes, too. It was 3AM and everyone was tired, but we needed a scene to show that the two characters had fallen for each other. We were in the kitchen and Bill opened the fridge and pulled out a carrot. I innocently asked, “What are you going to do with that?’ It started that whole “spatula” scene. I love it because it was spontaneous and real and tender and funny. It also felt like I was on even turf with Bill. And he was Bill Murray – comedic genius!
Q: I am sure you have been asked this a lot but I have to ask; “How did you get into that footlocker?
PJ Soles: Ha, ha. Where Bill goes, I follow. Let’s just say, I was thinner then, and it wasn’t easy, but worth it for the laugh it always gets!
PJ Soles: I don’t watch a lot of horror films, but if you are talking about Rob Zombie’s “HALLOWEEN”, I have to say, I appreciate it for his artistic vision. Rob is stunningly multi-talented, and I so appreciate his energy and abilities in whatever he undertakes be it music, comics, movies. I think it’s strange to take a classic and try to remake it, but if that’s what people want to do, go for it. Just because someone climbs Mt. Everest, doesn’t mean you can’t. But remakes of most original classic films are never going to be “better”, just “different”.
Q: Women’s roles in just not horror movies but in action movies have changed over the years, but what would you like to see as both a woman and a movie fan in a female lead in a horror or action movie?
PJ Soles: Well, you asked the right person. I have had an option for a project called ‘NIGHT WITCHES” since 1994. No, it is not a horror film, but it is a true story based on Bruce Myles book about Russian women fighter pilots who flew in combat during WWII. I say “women”, but these pilots were really young girls, from 16 to 18 years old. During that era in Russia, Stalin was crazy for flying, and there were numerous “flying clubs” all around Russia, open to both boys and girls.
When the winning the war was looking grim for Russia, Stalin called upon every able bodied person, and that’s when it even became necessary to use young girls in combat. They flew many missions in PO-2′s, a plane like a crop duster, mostly at night, locating the German trenches, shutting off their engines, and silently gliding down over the sleeping soldiers, letting out a barrage of gunfire before they knew what hit them, and quickly getting away before they could turn on their spotlights.
It was amazing and heroic! The Germans dubbed them “night witches” when they came upon a crashed plane and ripped open the pilot’s flight suit looking for identity papers and found themselves looking at breasts! When the war was over, Stalin asked that these female units not disclose to anyone, not even their families, what they had been doing during the war. He didn’t want the rest of the world to know that he had resorted to using teenage girls to fight his war. It wasn’t until our own women pilots who were used only to ferry planes like P-51 Mustangs over to England found out about this brave and secret group of women that they were given their honors. They were eventually declared “Heroes of the Soviet Union”.
These were the first women to ever fly in actual combat! I would love to see this movie made, but you have no idea how hard it has been to get a green light on a project that is Russian based. I am still hopeful.
PJ Soles: I loved the drawing of me with killer squirrels I love the idea. I think it is really special.
Q: What do people say when you tell them “I’m in a comic book being terrorized by squirrels?”
PJ Soles: Better than Michael Meyers! Squirrels can’t carry knives.
Q: Which do you think would be worse; being stalked by Michael Meyers or a swarm of vengeful squirrels?
PJ Soles: Can you call 911 and tell them that “squirrels” are attacking you?
Q: We met for the first time at Texas Frightmare Weekend, it was great meeting you and you were fantastic to the fans. I have to ask though what is the weirdest question you were ever asked.
PJ Soles: I have been asked for dates, to leave birthday voice messages, to talk to someone’s brother or friend, stuff like that, but those are pretty normal requests. I can’t really think of anything that was truly weird. Oh, maybe when Gary Busey asked me to go to his room at a convention in, uh, somewhere…….ha,ha, just kidding!
Q: And of course the followup question, what is the weirdest thing you were asked to sign?
PJ Soles: Maybe not the weirdest, but I think it was the coolest: a girl had a tatoo of Joey Ramone on her lower leg, and she asked if I would sign my autograph next to it, and then she came back a few hours later and she had had it tatooed. I thought that was pretty sweet!
Q: Where can fans get all the latest news about you?
PJ Soles: Sorry, I am not on Facebook – there are a few Facebook “PJ SOLES” pages, but they are not me. I might put one up soon. I will see. I have a website, but it is just for info for convention appearances and mostly for casting. I don’t sell anything on it: PJSOLES.COM
Q: What are some of the projects you have coming out?
PJ Soles: I have a teeny tiny cameo in a new Barbara Steele film that I think will be very creepy called “THE BUTTERFLY ROOM”. I have only seen the trailer, but it is getting good reviews at various film festivals.
And I hope after the “SQUIRREL” comic comes out, there will be a line of stuffed animals called “Squirrel Survival Girls”, with clothes and hair bows! I always wanted to be something sold at “TOYS R US’! “TOTALLY!
Comic Book Divas and Legends Of Heroes And Villains want to thank PJ Soles not only for appearing in “SQUIRREL” but for the interview and all the support she has given for the comic book.
Also a very special thank you to PJ Sole’s assistant Anthony Masi for keeping everyone up to date and has been great in keeping us in contact with PJ.