Reporting Eric Henderson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Actress P.J. Soles will make an appearance in Minneapolis this weekend at a screening of the cult movie classic Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.
Soles will do a question-and-answer session with fans and talk about the film Saturday night at The Parkway Theater.
Soles stars as tough girl Riff Randell in the rock-music comedy about students revolting against dictatorial school administrators. The movie also features punk pioneers The Ramones.
Tickets are $20 and are available online and at the door. Soles will also sign fan memorabilia.
WCCO’s movie blogger Eric Henderson had the chance to ask Soles a few questions in anticipation of her appearance. Here is their conversation:
Eric Henderson: Few actors have amassed a resume with as many legitimate cult classics as you have — not only the streak including Carrie, Halloween and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, but even into such recent candidates like Jawbreaker, Uncle Sam and The Devil’s Rejects. What’s it like to look back on such an offbeat filmography?
P.J. Soles: Well, I love that you would classify me and my films as “offbeat”; that to me is a terrific compliment. It qualifies me as being in the “original” category, which every artist strives to be. I am amazed and thrilled. Something to be said for standing the test of time.
Henderson: You were chosen to play the rainbow-capped Norma in Carrie by Brian De Palma, who was casting from the same pool of actors George Lucas was considering for Star Wars. As much as Carrie is clearly a classic (and, in my opinion, a much better movie, or at least a better showcase for its actors), do you ever feel regret that you didn’t end up in Star Wars?
Soles: Ha, ha, no regrets! I love “Norma” and all the doors that being in Carrie opened for me as an actress. I love the friends I made. For my first film it has such lasting memories.
Henderson: I love how reluctant you are to do the calisthenics in that detention scene! And my sisters and I still sometimes intone “Bal-lots, I need your bal-lots please.”
Soles: That’s funny! Yes, I knew I had to make the character of “Norma” be more of a rebel and tom-boy to compete with all the pretty faces. I wanted to stand out. My attitude went hand-in-hand with baseball hat.
Henderson: From De Palma to John Carpenter — what was it like to be working with two masters of horror at the peak of their game?
Soles: Of course at the time, there wasn’t that awareness, but now in retrospect, I was very lucky. Both had distinct, admirable qualities and both shared a passion for films.
Henderson: Now onto Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, which is the reason you’re in town this weekend. The project was developed as Disco High. How differently could this film have been had it not 180′ed toward the Ramones? (Would you have had to bust some Karen Lynn Gorney moves?)
Soles: I don’t know that “Riff Randell” would have written disco songs. Definitely would have been a very different film. I shudder to think of it!
Henderson: Of all your cult classics, this one might be the culty-est. What do you think has allowed the movie to endure through the years?
Soles: It really is a combination of the characters, its campy style, and the Ramones. They make the film. What teen wouldn’t want to have them come to their school and defy the principal? Every new generation can relate to that. And it helps that now the Ramones are fully recognized for starting punk music. It’s their Hard Day’s Night. It’s pure fun. That’s what makes it last.
Henderson: The one thing these three roles in particular have in common is that you’re kind of a bad girl. And yet before you acted, you were a diplomat! Did you use acting to unleash the beast?
Soles: No, no, I was never a diplomat or a diplomat’s kid, but I knew plenty of them. I was in an unusual category. My dad was Dutch, my mom American. My dad worked for an insurance company that insured American companies overseas; he opened their branch offices worldwide, and my mom always worked as a secretary for an officer in the US military wherever we lived, so we had access to the bases and PX’s. I grew up in Germany, Morocco, Venezuela, and Belgium. And you’re right, I was always the good girl, very responsible, but I took notes from a lot of the American girls I knew that were in those countries with their military or diplomatic families. They always had so much fun. So most of all, I wanted to portray that spirit of excitement and energy, not so much that they were “bad,” but rather “eager to have a good time.” That seemed to me to be the essence of the American teenager. And I was so happy when I finally got to live in the USA!
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