Skip to comments.Former child actor remembers cinema fun of ‘A Christmas Story’
Posted on 12/15/2005 6:04:54 PM PST by presidio9
Some former child actors cringe and protest when reminded by loyal fans of long-ago projects. Not Peter Billingsley, star of A Christmas Story.
According to journalist Rebecca Murray, he seems to genuinely light up when the movie is mentioned.
Billingsley is also used to passersby tossing their favorite quotes at him. They all still love it, he told Murray. People ask him if hes tired of talking about it, but hes not. Im really, really proud to be a part of it.
Billingsley still appears in front of the cameras now and then. (He had an uncredited role in last years seasonal hit, Elf, playing - what else? - an elf. He also served as the movies executive producer.
He was executive producer on Zathura, which is still playing locally in theatres. In the upcoming comedy, The Break-Up, starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anniston, he also does dual duty in front of and behind the camera.
Its all part of a day in the life of a talented man who, unlike some child stars, was able to make his way gracefully from kid to grownup and remain in show business.
He credits his parents with this successful transition. From the beginning, back in New York City, the Billingsleys looked on the whole thing as fun, and never let themselves take their sons stardom too seriously. It was also something that was just done for fun, Peter said, in a 2002 interview with Wayne Chinsang. If it wasnt fun, it was going to stop.
On the advice of friends who told her that her sons were cute, Peters mother took them to a agent. The first one said we were too fat, the next one said too ugly, but the third one said, Yeah, theyll work, Peter said.
The three-year-olds first gig was a Geritol commercial. Other commercials followed, and then some forgettable movies. The Billingsleys moved to Phoenix, Ariz., and struck gold in 1983 with A Christmas Story.
Well, not literally gold. The movie was made with a modest budget by a director, Bob Clark, who believed in it. They (Bob and Jean Shepherd) tried for 12 years to get that film made, Peter said. Bob had to agree to direct another junky film for the studio to greenlight it. They hardly gave him any money. MGM didnt support the release of the movie.
It was so different, Jean Shepherd said in a 1998 interview for TV Guide. It was too real, and MGM didnt think kids would like it.
Theres no way for Peter to avoid the movie, even if he tried, not even in his own family. When the Billingsleys get together in Phoenix for Christmas, someone will invariably slip it in the VCR.
He doesnt mind the connection. Its a great film, he told Chinsang in the 2002 interview. Its something I want to be known for.
Besides a modest paycheck from the movie, Peter was allowed to keep one of the specially made Red Ryder BB guns, the cowboy suit, and the pink bunny suit. Its tucked away, he said. But the gun is really cool.
Peter never really left Hollywood, although he did vanish from sight for a while, leading to those predictable rumors that he died a derelict drug addict and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Thats not his style. He joked with Chinsang about his unremarkable, non-glamorous upbringing. Theres nothing to talk about, he said. I grew up in a loving family in Phoenix. I tried a cigarette once.
What Peter did do was move into editing, some writing, directing, and then producing, where he is most active today. He frequently teams up on projects with friends such as actor Vince Vaughn and director Jon Favreau.
Favreau and Peter collaborated on IFCs popular Dinner for Five, which ran for five seasons. Zathura and The Break-Up continue their association as director and producer.
Peter acknowledges there have been many changes since 1983 in the way Hollywood markets pictures. Today, there are so many things that are our of your control, he said. All that you can really ever do, which is what we did with A Christmas Story, is tell a great story.
Is that weird or what?
thanks for this!!! A Christmas Story is a huge part of my family's Christmas. We love it!!
I can't believe how old his is now
A great movie. Really captured the mood of that era.
I could've sworn that kid grew up to be Phil Donahue.
See post 11. I forgot to ping you into this.
Let me be the first to say that he still has both eyes.
Hopefully he's not still sticking his tongue to a pole.
"Fra-gee-lay." That must be Italian.
It doesn't mention his role as "Messy Marvin" in the Hershey's chocolate syrup ads!
Phil probably never HAD a BB gun!
What I like about "A Christmas Story" is that it's throwback to the good old days of Hollywood, a nice family film, pure Americana. Such a film today would never get green-lighted. Liberals would scream bloody murder at Billingsley's character requesting a BB gun. And the scene where he kicking the bully's behind? Forget it - the school would make him attend sensitivity classes. And the dogs running around the house eating up the turkey? PETA would get mad as well.
All I see in post #11 is someone calling you a bandwidth-stealing jerk.
He also had an E! True Hollywood Story made about him.
We still talk about the Bumpus' hounds next door.
"Hopefully he's not still sticking his tongue to a pole."
"Young man, do you know where that pole has been???"
I just absolutely love 'A Christmas Story', and I always have one of our TVs set constantly on 'A Christmas Story ', so that no matter what I am doing on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, I can peek in and watch for a while...I always manage to set 2 hours aside, somewhere in all the business of the Christmas season, to watch the film in its entirety...its just such a great movie...
I guess I just love it so much, as it takes place during the time frame, just a little before my time....everything looks so familiar in that movie...kids wearing galoshes, wearing long johns and sweaters in the house to keep warm, the old car, the haggling at the Christmas tree lot...
And the old man(Darren McGavin), just slays me with his facial expressions...when he offers Ralphie a glass of wine on Christmas morning, I am reminded of my own dad and my uncle who lived downstairs, who always offered me and my brother and my cousins a drink of wine of Christmas morning...(it wasnt bad, but it wasnt good either...we must have been drinking the same wine as they were, it was Mogen David wine)...
That movie just takes me completely back to my childhood years, and good years they were...
I see Boobies......
It's a major award!
Did Phil ever grow up, though? I think not. He's still a liberal.
Is it true Chuck Connors also did Porn ????
Wasn't it Flick who got in trouble because Ralphie told his mom that Flick had told him the dreaded "F" word when it was REALLY Ralphie's old man?
Ha Ha Ha But that's an insult to Peter!
I found it to be an incredibly vulgar movie. The language was unreal for kids of that time.
Fragile`! It must be Italian!
I thought it was Schwartz, that Ralphie got into trouble over the 'F' word...but Ralphie did not really care, he figured the kid deserved punishing for something...
I just went to the Post Office and told the postal clerk that the item I was sending was "fra- gee-lay" and everyone started laughing!!!
I just about passed out when I was watching Leave It to Beaver a few months ago. The Beav was the only guy at an all-girl birthday party and went into the den to get away from them. There are rifles up on the wall and Beaver is looking at them intently. The father, also hiding out in the den to escape the girls, asks Beaver, "Do you like guns, son?" "Oh yes, I sure do!" You'd never see that today. I'm surprised they even let it play on re-runs.
Thirty one posts and no one has said it yet?
You'll shoot your eye out!
I grew up in the late 30s and 40s and folks, that's the way it really was! I'll never forget my Granddad's unending war with the coal furnace, kids getting tongues stuck on metallic objects, the guerilla battles with bullies to and from school and my beloved Red Ryder BB gun(s) -- I owned several. I still have both eyes too and I've owned lots of real guns since.
Shepherd remembered the era with amazing detail and totally captured the mood of a time I remember with great longing and fondness.
No it was his other friend, Schwartz.... I always found it funny that the actor who played Flik was named Schwartz in real life.
But I never figured out why he didn't tell his mom that the bully taught him the F - - - word.
XM radios Opie and Anthony had that guy Flick and the little brother of the star on the other day.....funny stuff.
I dont know that I would agree with you about the language...we did not grow up in a bubble during that time...my dad had pretty coarse language, language he picked after 5yrs in the military, and with his buddies in WW11...my mom says, often on a Saturday afternoon, he would take me and my brother into the bedroom, and sing songs to us, as a form of cheap entertainment...mom always wonders if we remember those songs, as she tells us they were quite vulgar...
is that you in that pic??
Yeesh John Kerry looked allot like a girl when he was younger.
Soylent Green!! When my husband and I were in New York City near Rockefeller Center, the crowds were unbelieveable. In fact, at one point, we were stuck and could not go forward or backward....My husband has a "unique" sense of humor and yelled out, "Soylent Green is PEOPLE"...and all the people our age turned and started laughing out loud!
It was great to see New Yorkers with a sense of humor!
Butbutbut... I thought gay cowboys were a novelty.
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