Then + Now: The Cast of ‘A Christmas Story’
Never has one movie so perfectly captured the excitement and anticipation of being a kid at Christmas than Jean Shepherd’s classic ‘A Christmas Story.’ Set in 1940, Ralphie Parker’s relentless quest for his beloved “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle” is a holiday tale filled with leg lamps, schoolyard bullies, family squabbles, and the sheer joy of getting exactly what you wanted for Christmas.
2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the heartwarming film, and to honor it, we’ve found out what the cast has been up to these past three decades. Read on to see where your favorite ‘Christmas Story’ actors are now.
Peter Billingsley (Ralphie Parker)
Then: There’s something about Peter’s portrayal of bespectacled Ralphie that resonates with every child and child-at-heart. As the nine-year-old hero of ‘A Christmas Story,’ Billingsley played a typical, midwestern all-American boy whose longing for a Red Ryder BB gun forced him to endure countless rounds of “You’ll shoot your eye out!” — a torture that was ultimately worth it in the end.
Now: Since ‘A Christmas Story,’ Billingsley has had a successful career behind the camera, serving as an executive producer on many major motion pictures, including ‘The Break-Up,’ ‘Four Christmases,’ and most notably, ‘Iron Man.’ (Billingsley also had a cameo appearance alongside Will Ferrell in ‘Elf.’) In 2009, he made his directorial debut with the Vince Vaughn comedy ‘Couple’s Retreat.’ But despite his Hollywood success, Billingsley has not forgotten his roots, and was instrumental in bringing ‘A Christmas Story… The Musical’ to the stage, and he serves as the executive producer of the show.
Ian Petrella (Randy Parker)
Then: Ian Petrella is best remembered as Ralphie’s kid brother Randy, who eats like a “little piggy” and is so tightly squeezed into his snowsuit that he “can’t put his arms down!”
Now: Petrella had bit roles in several TV shows following ‘A Christmas Story,’ but halted his acting career and instead focused on his interest in animation and puppetry, a field in which he works today. In 2010, he gave ‘Christmas Story’ fans a treat when he gave tours of the original house used in the film.
Darren McGavin (The Old Man)
Then: Darren McGavin starred in ‘A Christmas Story’ as ‘Old Man Parker,’ Ralphie’s furnace-loathing, leg lamp-loving, foul-mouthed father. At the end of the film, he comes through with the ultimate Christmas present: Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun.
Now: By the time he starred in ‘A Christmas Story,’ McGavin already had a successful acting career, with roles on Broadway, in film, and on television, most notably as the the title character in ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker’. But it was his recurring role on ‘Murphy Brown’ in the late ’80s/early ’90s that garnered him an Emmy Award. Later on, McGavin continued his trend of playing fatherly characters, and starred as Adam Sandler’s dad in 1995’s ‘Billy Madison.’ McGavin died in 2006, at the age of 83.
Melinda Dillon (Mrs. Parker)
Then: Melinda Dillon portrayed Ralphie’s stern-but-loving mother, who was the first to utter that dreaded phrase: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Prior to ‘A Christmas Story,’ Dillon was an Academy Award-nominated actress, with her roles in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Absence of Malice’ garnering her critical acclaim.
Now: Since starring in ‘A Christmas Story,’ Dillon has mostly kept to herself, though she has had more than 20 credits to her name. Her most recent role was a recurring guest appearance on the 2007 TV show, ‘Heartland.’
Scott Schwartz (Flick)
Then: Scott Schwartz played Ralphie’s friend Flick, who, on a dare, gets his tongue “thuck” to a frozen flagpole in one of the film’s most memorable scenes.
Now: Following ‘A Christmas Story,’ Schwartz put his tongue, to, um, other uses in the adult film industry, appearing in both sexual and non-sexual roles in countless porn movies. “Scotty,” as he was known in the industry, quit the scene in 2000 and instead focused on getting back into mainstream films. When this did not prove successful, Schwartz, who owns a movie and sports memorabilia store, instead created a line of celebrity trading cards and wrote for a sports card magazine. He is reportedly working on a memoir.
R.D. Robb (Schwartz)
Then: R.D. Robb played Schwartz, Ralphie’s wise-cracking friend who famously “triple dog dared” Flick to stick his tongue to the flagpole. Schwartz was also Ralphie’s scapegoat when asked how he learned the expression, “Oh, fudge.”
Now: After ‘A Christmas Story,’ Robb landed small roles in ‘The Brady Bunch Movie,’ ‘Matilda,’ and the Keri Russell movie ‘Eight Days a Week.’ He later focused his career on the other side of the camera, directing ‘Don’s Plum,’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Kevin Connolly and other A-list actors. Robb also became a producer, and even worked on a film called ‘Triple Dog,’ about a game of truth-or-dare. Coincidence? We think not.
Zack Ward (Scut Farkus)
Then: Zack Ward portrayed yellow-eyed, green-toothed schoolyard bully Scut Farkus, who eventually “gets his” when Ralphie beats him up in a fit of rage.
Now: Since playing the meanest bully this side of Indiana, Ward has over 80 film and television credits to his name, including a recurring role on ‘All of Us,’ a turn in 2007’s blockbuster ‘Transformers’ and, most recently, a guest appearance on the Melissa McCarthy comedy ‘Mike & Molly.’ In 2012, Ward settled a case with National Entertainment Collectibles Association after suing the company for making a ‘Christmas Story’ board game and allegedly using his image without permission.
Yano Anaya (Grover Dill)
Then: Yano Anaya played Scut Farkus’ “toadie” sidekick, Grover Dill, who aided his pal in torturing Ralphie and his friends.
Now: Before retiring from acting in the late ’80s, Anaya had memorable roles in the Van Halen music video, ‘Hot For Teacher,’ and as the newspaper boy in ‘Better Off Dead…’ In 2008, Anaya appeared with the majority of ‘Christmas Story’ cast for a behind-the-scenes documentary called ‘Untold Christmas Story.’ According to LinkedIn, Anaya is now the Personal Trainer Program Director at the Atlanta School of Massage in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jean Shepherd (Adult Ralphie/Narrator)
Then: Jean Shepherd brought ‘A Christmas Story’ to life, as the creator, writer, and narrator of the classic Christmas tale, which was loosely based on his own childhood Christmas (detailed in his book, ‘In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.’) Shepherd’s smooth voice and penchant for detail made him one of the greatest radio personalities and raconteurs of all-time. It is also a little-known fact that Shepherd has a cameo appearance in ‘A Christmas Story’ as the bearded man in line at Higbee’s who scolds Ralphie.
Now: After ‘A Christmas Story,’ Shepherd continued to regale audiences with his semi-autobiographical childhood tales in film, live shows, and on TV — most notably on PBS, which ran several of his Parker Family stories. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a recent photo of him. He died of natural causes in 1999, at the age of 78.
Tedde Moore (Miss Shields)
Then: Actress Tedde Moore played Ralphie’s kind-hearted-but-firm 4th grade teacher Miss Shields, who, despite being bribed by an enormous fruit basket, still gives Ralphie a C+ on his “What I Want For Christmas” theme.
Now: Moore reprised her role as Miss Shields in the lesser-known ‘Christmas Story’ sequel, ‘It Runs in the Family: My Summer Story,’ and is the only actor (apart from narrator Jean Shepherd) who appears in both films. Moore has continued to act, and has become a drama coach and acting teacher, as well. In 2011, she had a recurring role on mini-series ‘The Kennedys,’ and starred as Mrs. Claus in the Hallmark Christmas film, ‘Mistletoe Over Manhattan.’
Jeff Gillen (Santa Claus)
Then: Jeff Gillen’s red-nosed, nightmarish department store Santa was so scary that kids peed their pants and screamed the whole way down the slide after meeting him. ‘A Christmas Story’ marked Gillen’s second film with director Bob Clark; the two had previously worked together on the comedy-horror film ‘Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.’
Now: After ‘A Christmas Story,’ Gillen only appeared in two more films before his untimely death from a heart attack in 1995 (which is why we don’t have a recent pic of him). Instead, he went on to found Great Southern Studios in Miami, which, to this day, provides films with scenery, set design, props, and everything else under the sun.