Zack Ward, The Actor Who Played Scut Farkus From 'A Christmas Story,' Today
Jul 26, 2021 by apost team
Often ranked as one of the best holiday films of all time, "A Christmas Story" is beloved by audiences spanning multiple generations. First released in 1983, the film follows the story of Ralphie Parker during Christmas time in the 1940s, when he was 9-years-old. The story is presented as a series of vignettes that are narrated by Ralphie as an adult. The film is remembered for the famous line "You'll shoot your eye out," after Ralphie continuously asks for a Red Ryder BB gun.
At Christmas time in the United States and Canada, it is hard to miss seeing the film on TV. There is a marathon of the movie on TNT or TBS for a full 24 hours before Christmas day every year. This is a tradition that was started in 1997, and they haven't missed a year yet. Although some people may not enjoy the marathon, watching the film at Christmas has become a tradition for many families.
According to the "A Christmas Story" House and Museum, the highest viewership in 2013 was during the Christmas Eve showing, and it peaked with over five million viewers. The film was even selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 2012 by the Library of Congress due to its cultural and historical significance.
"A Christmas Story" was directed by Bob Clark and starred Peter Billingsley as Ralphie. Ian Petrella plays the role of Rany Parker, Ralphie's brother. Their parents were portrayed by Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon. With Ralphie's friends and bullies also giving outstanding performances, the ensemble cast is still loved to this day. Read on to see what the cast looks like now and to learn what they have been up to since "A Christmas Story" was released.
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Born in New York City in April 1971, Billingsley was taken to many auditions by his mother, Gail. His father was Alwin Michaelsen, a financial consultant, and his mother was once Alwin's secretary. Gail is the grand-niece of Stork Club owner, Sherman Billingsley who was married to an actress. Gail was fascinated by the industry and took all five of her children to auditions in New York and New Jersey.
Billingsley recalled the time to Vulture, "I think one agency said, 'They're too fat,' and another agent said, 'They're too ugly; I'd have to retire from the business. And a third agent said, 'Oh yeah, they'll work.'" All five of the children ended up booking roles and had acting careers.
Billingsley's first time working in show business was in a TV ad for Geritol that starred Tony-winning actress Betty Buckley. "She was just saying, 'When you have kids like these, take Geritol twice a day,'" Billingsley remembered. "I was just a prop, but I booked it. And that accelerated, for whatever reason. I had an aptitude for it. I guess I could mimic people pretty well, which was the job description."
When asked about "A Christmas Story," which is still the most popular piece of media Billingsley has ever been in, the actor said: "I did that movie, which I guess in some ways changed things."
After moving on from "A Christmas Story," Billingsley went on to direct and produce many films, as well as act. "I had always been interested, when I was an actor, in everything that was going on on the set," Billingsley explained. "I was never the guy to always go back to my trailer. I would watch the crew, what they were doing."
Billingsley credits Bob Clark, the director of "A Christmas Story" for helping him on the path of working behind the camera. "He suggested that I get into the edit room as a basis for learning anything that I might want to do behind the scenes," Billingsley said. "So I started as an assistant editor, and worked my way through post(-production), and learned that, and had different jobs on a lot of low-budget films. And it was my film school, I guess."
One of the most popular films that Billingsley has acted in since "A Christmas Story" was "Iron Man" in 2008. The star even said that Louis D'Esposito and Kevin Feige, co-presidents of Marvel Studios, "welcomed (him) into the family." He added, "I would always read parts at the table reads, if we didn't have other actors designated for those yet." He had a small role in the film, playing a character named William Ginter Riva.
Billingsley got the chance to revive his character in "Spiderman: Far from Home" in 2019. When he first got the call about his character coming back, Billingsley almost missed the call entirely. He told Vulture, "Who knows, maybe William Ginter Riva will live again to fight another day. But if I see Louis or Kevin in the caller ID, I'll definitely pick it up next time."
Petrella started acting at the age of 3, appearing in numerous films, television series, and advertisements. He is still best known for playing the role of Randy in "A Christmas Story." After getting a gig on a puppet show following graduating from high school, Petrella pursued a career as a puppeteer. He currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and Los Angeles and has given tours at the "A Christmas Story" House and Museum.
Born William Lyle Richardson on May 7, 1922, McGavin was a beloved American actor. He starred in many classic films but is best known for playing Kolchak in "The Night Stalker" films and TV show and "Old Man" Parker in "A Christmas Story."
Before pursuing acting, McGavin wanted to be an architect and eventually ended up making sets for his school drama club. Closer Weekly reports him saying, "It was primarily an agricultural school with courses in animal husbandry, crop rotation and so on, so I took mechanical drawing instead. I decided I wanted to be an architect. I studied mostly drafting and engineering, which led me to acting. My English teacher also taught drama."
McGavin went on to have a prolific career with 183 acting credits, according to IMDB. He said in the same interview, "I'd go insane if I'm not working. A long time ago when I couldn't get a job in New York, I learned something important. You are an actor only when you're working. When you're not acting, you're unemployed. Nothing."
After making "A Christmas Story," McGavin starred in many films, including Adam Sandler's "Billy Madison." Sadly, the star passed away in February 2006 at the age of 83.
Dillon already had a successful acting career when she starred as Ralphie's mother in "A Christmas Story." She was known for being nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the 1963 production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." Dillon was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in 1977.Scott Schwartz, Melinda Dillon, Mary E. McLeod, Peter Billingsley, Reuben Freed (2018), (Morgan Lieberman/Getty Images)
After "A Christmas Story," Dillon starred in the hugely popular comedy film "Harry and the Hendersons." Her most recent acting credit was for three episodes of "Heartland" in 2007, and she is presumed to be retired. Dillon will turn 82 in October 2021.
A year prior to being in "A Christmas Story," Schwartz was in the film "The Toy." The actor said the exposure from the film helped him get the role of Flick, Ralphie's friend who gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole in "A Christmas Story."
Schwartz told Rediscover the 80s, "Bob Clark called me in for the last round of auditions as he'd seen 'The Toy' and wanted me for the film. I basically showed up, had a one hour chat and lunch with Bob and the film was mine. He just wanted to meet me and see if I was a good kid to shoot with. Before I left Bob said to me, 'OK, you got the film. I'll send over the details to your agent.' Really that was it."
The actor said the scene with the flagpole in the film was not easy to film, but he didn't really freeze his tongue. "The scene was done twice as the first go around the film was 'under-developed' and was too dark. The second time we did it in 11 1/2 hours. Yes, there was a plastic pole and a vacuum type suction tube with a motor buried in the snow. No plastic tongue, that was mine, but the pole didn't taste very good as it was plastic and painted to look real," said Schwartz.Scott Schwartz, Melinda Dillon, Mary E. McLeod, Peter Billingsley, Reuben Freed (2018), (Morgan Lieberman/Getty Images)
Schwartz added, "Being a part of 'A Christmas Story' will always be one of those amazing things in my life. Never gets old, always cherished and always appreciated. I was a small part of a big puzzle and it all worked. Darrin McGavin was fantastic, Melinda Dillon was adorable, all of us kids were perfect, it all worked."
Today, Schwartz is retired from the entertainment industry. "I work mainly for trading card companies providing celebrity autographs for their products. I came up with an idea for a line of cards with Donruss card company (now Panini card company) called Donruss Americana. They came up with the designs and I got them the celebrity autographs for the cards. I now work for four companies and I love what I do," he said in the same interview.
Schwartz continued, "Also, I have a collectibles store in Southern California with my dad called Baseball Cards - Movie Collectibles. We've been in business for the past 24 plus years. Always working, always busy and just enjoying life with my four doggies. I smile each and every day."
Robb played Schwartz in "A Christmas Story" and then went on to be featured in the beloved 1996 adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda" as well as "The Brady Bunch Movie" In 1995, he co-wrote and directed a film named "Don's Plum" which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire before they were huge stars. Due to a dispute between the actors and Robb, the film was never to be distributed or released in the United States or Canada.
Today, Robb works as a producer on the Freeform show "Siren" and is credited as executive producer of an unreleased project called "A Girl Called Fearless," according to his IMDB page.
Ward went on to be one of the most accomplished actors of the film after playing Scut Farkus in "A Christmas Story." He has been featured in numerous films, and television series since the movie was released. Ward opened up about his time filming the movie in an interview with the Spokesman-Review:
"My experience with Bob Clark the director was something that really set a standard for my life as a performer. I was 13 and this was the first feature I had done, and I kept on schlubbing my lines around, and I wasn't really connecting to them, and I wasn't playing them properly. And instead of getting frustrated, Bob just walked over to me and sat down right beside me and ran the lines with me, and ran the moment, and he did it over and over and over, and he did it with a smile on his face."
"And he helped me not be intimidated by the scenario surrounding me, all the people waiting, but he focused on me being present, getting my stuff down, being prepared and having fun with it so I could find the nuance in it," Ward said. "And he spent the time with a smile. It went on for like five minutes, and when we shot it, it worked."
Clark had a profound impact on most of the actors that worked with him on "A Christmas Story." He is remembered as one of the great directors of our time. Ward added, "What Bob taught me as a child is the way I've tried to be as a director, and as a producer, as a writer, as an actor, it's to find a solution. Because the solution lasts forever, and the emotional frustration is fleeting and irrelevant."
Watching "A Christmas Story" together has become a tradition for many families. Do you watch "A Christmas Story" during the holiday season? Do you remember any of these actors? Let us know what you think, and please don't hesitate to pass this on to your friends and family.