ByJames M. Tate, writer at
Top Shark Cinema Writer at and Now a Movie Pilot Remora...
James M. Tate

Actress P.J. Soles is the epitome of a "modern day" scream queen, having in appeared in two cult classic 1970's horror flicks, CARRIE, directed by Brian De Palma and based on a Stephen King bestseller, and John Carpenter's groundbreaking HALLOWEEN... And here she describes and compares the directorial styles of De Palma and Carpenter...

After Brian De Palma's CARRIE you worked on HALLOWEEN with director by John Carpenter... How does Carpenter’s directing style differ from Brian De Palma?

Brian allowed as many adlibs as John but Brian was definitely in control, you know. When we did go those three weekends to his house, I was just amazed that his entire dining room, all four walls were covered with the entire movie, in storyboard form, of CARRIE... Every single shot had been drawn, and penciled, by Brian... And I was just amazed. It was a “comic book” of the entire movie. So it was very pre-planned, except for those little incidents.

One scene comes to mind when he pulled me in… When Amy Irving is hanging a star in the gym, getting ready for the prom and Nancy and I are standing there, and whispering, and she’s telling me she has a secret, and I’m telling her, “Come on, tell me, I’m your best friend.” He gave us five minutes to do that scene. He said, “We’re gonna break for lunch, but if you can think of something to show that you guys are best friends, and she knows something you don’t, then go for it.”

And we shot that, and got it in one take. I never thought he was going to keep that in because it went so fast. It went “Whoosh” and yet, you know, he really didn’t need to do that but he let us do it and it was fine.

  Nancy Loomis with P.J. Soles in HALLOWEEN (1978)
Nancy Loomis with P.J. Soles in HALLOWEEN (1978)

John Carpenter on the other hand was very collaborative. He would talk about your character. And “What did you want to do here?” And “We’re thinking of this” and “Whatever you want to add.”

And, like in the beginning, walking out of the schoolyard, there was no dialog there; it was just directions in the script when they were walking out of the school. But he wanted to put something. And when he got it, he would say, “That was great” or, you know… He was very enthusiastic.

But Brian would kind of grin and smile and move on. For Brian it was the bigger element of how the scene was gonna look. The cinematography of it and the effect of the scene, but not so much the tiny, tiny little details even though he invited those. But for John I think it was the little tiny details that made the thing the bigger picture. So he really enjoyed the collaboration we were giving to him. And we all felt like part of the team.

At the end of the shot we all had to go out and pick up all the leaves because… there were no leaves… And they’re on the ground and we had two big garbage bags full. We all picked up the leaves. And it’s not like we could comment on other people’s scenes but you were responsible for, in your own scenes, whatever you wanted to contribute.

John was very gracious and excepting more times than not. And he’d go “That was great.” But you never got a “That was great” from Brian. You just got a smile. And an, “Okay, let’s move on.”

By James M. Tate

P.J. Soles with Nancy Allen in CARRIE (1976)
P.J. Soles with Nancy Allen in CARRIE (1976)

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