PJ Soles is best known for her role as Lynda in John Carpenter’s seminal classic, Halloween - and that is just fine with her. Which is good, because that is what I want to talk to her about.
If you are in Los Angeles, you can find her at the Aliens to Zombies convention in Hollywood on October 30th. She will appear on a panel about women in horror alongside Christine Elise, Brea Grant, Lynn Lowry, and the Soska Sisters.
Is Halloween an extraordinarily busy time of year for you?
It is! But it is really nice to do something in Hollywood, so I am looking forward to doing this event. And it’s nice that it is the 29th and 30th, so I get to give out candy. The kids in my neighborhood like coming to my house. Not that they know who I am, but their parents do.
Do you often get trick-or-treating parents looking for your autograph?
No, they’re all my friends and neighbors. They do like to hear about my adventures, though. The kids just think that I’m this “old lady,” and wonder why their parents like me.
Have you ever tried to have a Halloween screening of Halloween for the kids?
No. When my kids were growing up they were practically the only kids here. There were a few scattered here and there, but now there are a lot of new families and they all have really little kids. I don’t want to be the witch who lives on the hill! After all, I was the victim, not the perpetrator.
Looking back on Halloween, do you ever get tired of talking about it, or reliving it?
No! It’s amazing that it has a life of its own. It’s been in the last five or ten years that it has really had a resurgence. Before that, things were quiet and you didn’t hear a lot about it. Now it’s just ridiculous. Maybe it is social media and the internet, but it has gotten crazy. The fact that they are re-releasing it in theaters for five days across the country just shows the film’s staying power and the fact that John Carpenter really opened up this genre. Obviously, the horror movie has taken on a new look, with the Rob Zombie-types and the Texas Chainsaw Massacres. Blood and gore seems to be the new way, whereas Halloween has no actual blood. It’s just thrills and chills and sound effects - and characters! Let’s not forget characters! That was an important part of it - everyone loved the three girls.
Halloween, to this day, stands as one of only two movies that actually scared me. It may have been because I was ten years old, but I couldn’t watch it at night - I had to wait until morning.
It is scary. It’s the music. Go see it in the theater when it comes out, and see if it has that effect after all this time. I think it will.
I think it will, too. I still get that feeling when I watch it at home.
They had a screening of it a long time ago - my son was 13 and he is 28 now - down in Orange County, where they had Michael Myers, in the mask and jumpsuit, walking around the theater during the screening touching people on the shoulders. My son was so freaked out, and that obviously added to it because he never knew when [Michael] would pop out. You knew it was just a guy with a mask on, but it was really scary.
Even when I watch it, I mean, I don’t get scared, but I am still amazed at what a well-made movie it is. It was crafted by an artist, which John Carpenter and Debra Hill are. It just all came together. And the music! The music is 50% of it. You can put just the music on and be scared, and not see anything but a wall.
It seems like in the last five or ten years, John Carpenter is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
Yes, I think that is very true, and I think he has enjoyed going to the conventions. People say, “He must be a zillionaire, why is he doing that?” He wants to give back to the fans. People are so hungry for autographs since the Star Trekkies started these conventions way back when. Now the horror fans have taken it over. I had a very tiny scene in The Devil’s Rejects, and someone wanted everyone who was in it to sign the poster. It has become a huge phenomenon. It’s very exciting. I don’t get tired of it. It is exciting that the younger generation has taken such an interest in it. John is finally getting his due, although I think people in the business and in the horror genre all along really appreciated him. Now he gets to get out there, he has his panels, his Q&As... People can’t ask enough questions or get enough information.
Are there a lot of new fans to Halloween, or does the younger generation see it as an “old movie?”
That is an interesting question, but the answer is definitely no. They do not say that. If anything, I can get a 15-year-old who wants his picture taken with me, and he is shaking and sweating. Many of them ask me about the Rob Zombie remakes, and they tell me they like them but nothing will ever come close to the original Halloween.
When you first came on to Halloween, did you expect it would be this cultural phenomenon, or was this just a gig?
It was an acting gig, but back then this was only like my third role. I was building my career, so my intent was, “I’ve got to do a really good job so I can get another part!” There was nothing about the script that indicated that. There was such a collaborative spirit on set. You were invited to ad lib or help out in any way you could. In those days I don’t think anyone was thinking box office or 20 or 30 years down the road or sequels or anything like that. We were just thinking, “Let’s make this movie really great.”
Did you ever worry that doing a horror movie - especially so early in your career - would pigeonhole you as a Scream Queen or prevent you from getting mainstream roles?
No. I mean, my first part was in Carrie, which didn’t really feel like a “horror movie” to me. It was a big budget, it was Brian De Palma, it felt more science-fictiony to me. After that I did a bunch of TV movies, so I didn’t really think about it because I was doing so much in between. Then after Halloween I got Rock n’ Roll High School, which is probably the farthest thing from Halloween you can get! So it definitely didn’t, but I am definitely most remembered for Halloween - especially around Halloween time, and because of the conventions. I’m sure if there were military conventions, I would be invited to those for Stripes. I think it is sweet when I am called a Scream Queen, even though I’ve had other parts.
Are you going to be in Lords of Salem?
No. I don’t think he likes to reuse people - he likes to get new people. But I’m sure I’ll be in another Rob Zombie movie at some point. I better be - for his 40th birthday, I gave him my original Halloween script, with all my original notes and everything. He loved it - he said it would be wrapped in plastic and put in his vault. No one was ever going to touch it but him. And that was before he did the re-imagining!
Do you hang on to a lot of your movie memorabilia?
I still have my jacket from Rock n’ Roll High School with the musical notes on it. Mainly because it cost $300 which, at the time, was a lot of money. Rod Stewart and I wrestled for it. He wanted it - but I won. My red baseball cap from Carrie. It was actually my hat. When I moved from New York I wanted to protect my face from the sun. I washed it one too many times and it fell apart. But since then, fans have given me a bunch of different hats, and even remade the little pins that were on it.
Have you ever had any creepy fan experiences, or is everyone pretty cool?
No creepy ones. The amazing thing to me is that I will get 15-year-olds or even 22-year-olds or 50-year-olds and they are shaking in their boots, telling me I was their college crush, or the young kids who say, “Oh my gosh I can’t believe I am standing here next to Lynda.” It’s just endearing. Definitely not creepy.
Tell us about this convention you are doing over Halloween.
The Aliens to Zombies convention. That should be pretty fun. I don’t know the other women on the panel, but I guess we are going to talk about women’s roles and their evolution in the genre. I think we’ve always remained victims so I don’t know that there has been an evolution. But the fact that we are getting more and more women involved in directing is exciting to me.
Have you ever wanted to direct?
I’ve thought about it. I’ve always written poetry and just written in general. The last few years I have been working on my book, The Totally Girl. It has been hard, but one of these days it will come out. The thing that stops me in my tracks is that everyone is writing an autobiography now. How many autobiographies can people read? There seems to be an endless thirst for it.
I finally have some songs. I’ve always been a songwriter. My boyfriend’s band, Cheap Rodeo, a country band, I wrote the lyrics to five of their songs that I am really proud of. That [interests me] more than directing - though I might direct a music video for the band. For any big-scale project, I am more likely to be the writer. Though I have tried for 20 years to produce a film called Night Witches. It’s not a horror movie - it’s about the first women who flew in combat. They were Russian girls, aged 15 to 18, who flew in combat missions during WWII. It is still an open project at Paramount, but as our relations with Russia go up and down, so does our film. And it doesn’t have a serious male lead.