Former child star Peter Billingsley dished on why he reprised his role as Ralphie from 1983's A Christmas Story for the much-anticipated sequel that was just released on HBO Max.
Billingsley was known for his infamous portrayal in the perennial holiday cult classic as Ralphie Parker, a preteen in Hammond, Indiana who was hell-bent on obtaining a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle for Christmas in 1940.
Four decades later, Ralphie is back as a husband and father of two children.
In the sequel which takes place in 1973, Ralphie is tasked with taking up the mantle to make Christmas special for his family after the passing of his father.
While there, his kids experience their own memorable misadventures.
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment, Billingsley–who has continued acting in smaller roles but has largely been active in the industry behind the camera as a producer on films like Made (2001), The Break-Up (2005), and Iron Man (2008)–revealed why he decided to reprise Ralphie.
“It’s been officially in the works for about four years,” Billingsley told Yahoo correspondent, Kevin Polowy.
“But over the years it would enter my head, and then nothing necessarily stuck. I don’t know that the timing was right, or the entry point was right."
"There’s been some bad ideas that I’ve been pitched. Or people been wanting to kind of monetize it. Any time something’s successful, you know Hollywood: ‘Do it again, do it again, do it again.’"
“But for me, just knowing the history of the original, it’s almost sacred now, that movie, at this point. So you really want to have the confidence at the starting point to get it right."
"And so it’s taken a while to build the story around the elements that we needed.”
The positive reviews are in.
When Polowy asked about the so-called bad ideas for a sequel that were tossed around, Billingsley said:
“The low-hanging fruit [was always], ‘Ralphie wants something new. What object do adults want? And he’ll go crazy trying to get it.’ [There’s] just no thought being put into what that journey was."
“So the starting point [in A Christmas Story Christmas] is, what’s Ralphie like as a father? What’s his family like? The thesis that we open the movie with is that as a kid you want the perfect gift, but as a parent you want Christmas to be perfect for your kids."
"And he’s kind of in that shift where he’s in that place now and that’s what he wants to do. And his struggles are the passing of The Old Man recently, so him not able to rely on anyone, and going home [when] his life is not where he wants to be.”
"He’s got a great family. He’s in The Big City. But with his career, he hasn’t quite measured up yet.”
Regarding the pressures of reviving such a beloved property as A Christmas Story, Billingsley said he and the creatives involved in the production described the experiences as:
"a real combination of playing offense and defense, which you generally don’t do in a movie, you just want to be offensive and go and score and win and make something great."
"But you’ve got to be smart and protective of it. You’ve got to be disciplined."
"Have your Easter eggs, but don’t dip in for too long [when it comes to] your callbacks. Have the nostalgia but don’t overstay it. Create something new.”
He produced A Christmas Story Christmas with his close friend and colleague, Vince Vaughn–along with Cale Boyter and Jay Ashenfelter, Marc Toberoff, and Irwin Zwilling.
Joining Billingsley in front of the camera for the sequel were Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R. D. Robb, Zack Ward, and Yano Anaya, who reprised their roles as Randy Parker, Flick, Schwartz, Scut Farkus, and Grover Dill, respectively.
Airplane's Julie Hagerty was cast as Ralphie's widowed mom, Mrs. Parker.
Hagerty replaced Melinda Dillon–who originated the character in the first A Christmas Story –since Dillon had retired from the business.
“It took a while to get right,” said Billingsley of his return to continue telling Ralphie's story.
“We had to have the pieces in place, and the resources. Otherwise it was go do something else. This was not the one to be tackling.”
A Christmas Story Christmas is currently streaming on HBO Max.
You can watch the trailer, here.
A Christmas Story Christmas – Official Traileryoutu.be