December 21st, 2010 by Ralphie
Every year a new audience is introduced to “A Christmas Story,” the 1983 movie about a Depression-era family that became an unlikely Christmas classic when TBS started playing it nearly around the clock every holiday season. Peter Billingsley memorably played Ralphie, the bespectacled blond boy who wanted just one thing for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun. Now Billingsley is all grown up and making movies himself, and talking in depth about “A Christmas Story” for the first time.
Monday night, ABC’s “Nightline” caught up with Billingsley on the occasion of the world premiere of “A Christmas Story: The Musical” in Seattle. Billingsley, who produced the musical and hopes it gains a wider audience in other cities, talked about the role that still gets him recognized on the street regularly.
“No one wanted to make it,” Billingsley says of the film today. “It was, you know, a kid wants a BB gun, not the greatest most cinematic pitch in the world.” Billingsley explains on “Nightline” that the movie’s director had to agree to make a separate horror film just to get the studio to make “A Christmas Story.”
Audiences who remember Billingsley as Ralphie, as well as from the over one hundred commercials in which he starred in the late ’70s and ’80s, might be surprised that he’s now enjoying success behind the camera. Billingsley frequently works as a producer on films like “The Break Up” and directed the hit comedy “Couples Retreat,” and is a regular collaborator with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. He also had small roles in those movies—you might even be one of the people who exclaimed “It’s Ralphie!” when you saw him on the screen.
In the “Nightline” interview, Billingsley also talks about one of the most beloved and hilarious scenes from “A Christmas Story,” in which a classmate of Ralphie’s licks a frozen flagpole on a dare and his tongue gets stuck. Billingsley says he learned not to do that from the movie, joking “It’s 100% true: if you do that, it will stick.” He also reveals that the pole itself was fake, and it’s good to know that no child actors were tortured in the making of the holiday classic.
Once again this year, TBS will air “A Christmas Story” for twenty-four straight hours starting at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and a new generation will discover Ralphie and his chaotic family.
Before “A Christmas Story,” Peter Billingsley was already a well-known face, playing the hapless “Messy Marvin” in commercials for Hershey’s Syrup:
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