Peter Billingsley Reveals Why He Agreed To Return For A Christmas Story Christmas

2022 has been a good year for holiday legacy-quels, particularly in the streaming world. Disney+ subscribers have The Santa Clauses to look forward to, which will be unfolding over the next couple of weeks, and that’s on top of all of the new movie releases that have already hit in the past couple of weeks.

One of the most promising is the HBO Max (opens in new tab) original A Christmas Story Christmas, which sees actor Peter Billingsley returning to the role of Ralph “Ralphie” Parker almost 40 years after the original holiday classic. As it turns out, his return to the series that helped kickstart his acting career was built around some very mature thinking.

Being a fan of A Christmas Story since my childhood, having the opportunity to speak with Mr. Billingsley for this sequel’s press day was something I couldn’t pass up. Though there have been plenty of sequels and ill fated attempts to revive the franchise, A Christmas Story Christmas is the one that feels most appropriate. That’s not a coincidence, as Peter Billingsley shared with CinemaBlend the factors that brought him back into the fold:

It’s something that I had obviously thought about over the years. As you said, it’s been nearly 40 years, so it was probably time. … I wanted to be in a place in my life, I feel, where there was enough meat on the bone so to speak, to step back into the role of Ralphie Parker. So the idea of him having his own kids now, his own family, wanting to give them a Christmas like he had had growing up, felt like that was the right entry point. Also, the passing of The Old Man as the sort of inciting incident that calls Ralphie home… Other than the musical, I’ve had nothing to do with the franchise. Haven’t touched it, wouldn’t have dreamed of touching it, until we could do something we could get right.

The passing of author Jean Shepard’s classic patriarch isn’t a spoiler, as the trailer for A Christmas Story Christmas puts that plot point right on the table. Giving Ralphie Parker an excuse to bring his family over to the house that once proudly displayed a leg lamp in the window as a “major award,” memories of the past start to crop up. Nostalgia is definitely strong with this one, which leads to some pretty impressive efforts to recapture the atmosphere of the Bob Clark-directed predecessor.

While this new Christmas Story chapter is a streaming exclusive, it sounds like home studio Warner Bros went all out on bringing everyone back to the little old house on Cleveland Street. In his quest to do another Ralphie Parker Christmas right, Peter Billingsley had a supportive team that included The Christmas Chronicles director Clay Kaytis and producing partner Vince Vaughn, among others. 

Scoring a story credit on the new film, you can see above how Billingsley helped shape the tale that would be told, which was also a huge win. But perhaps the largest assist seems to have come from the studio level, which the actor/collaborator spelled out saying,

To do this, you’re going to want to have the resources. So with Warner Bros and Legendary, we were able to build 11 structures on Cleveland Street, including the original house, built to scale, the Bumpus house. … We were able to recreate everything. It was important for fans and audiences to feel like they were transformed back to that world. We wanted to have the original pieces, the original cast was a major component, getting the timing of that right. All of the kids come back in this.

Jumping ahead into 1973, the world has somewhat moved on since A Christmas Story’s events. Ralphie moved to Chicago, and is still trying to be a writer that’ll knock everyone’s socks off as this story begins, but fate eventually reunites him with old friends Flick (Scott Schwartz) and Schwartz (R. D. Robb). Just as Peter Billinsgley said above, both of those characters are reprised by the actors that originated them, and there’s a couple more that make appearances too good to spoil.

Legacies of Christmas movies as iconic as the one that sits at the heart of Jean Shepard’s works are not easy to come by. Just like any popular franchise, continuing the story can be a risky move if the right pieces are missing. Sometimes, even the stuff that didn’t make the final cut can color the memory of a classic like A Christmas Story.  As far as things look from this end, Billingsley’s return for A Christmas Story Christmas was absolutely the right decision, as his grasp on the character of Ralph Parker is quite keen.

That’s good news for families looking for more snarky, light hearted magic underneath the tree this year. Although for some of you, it might be a bit too early to watch A Christmas Story Christmas, or its predecessor, seeing as it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. However, if you have an HBO Max subscription, and the holiday spirit already lodged in your heart, both of those movies will be available to make the season bright. We won’t tell if you don’t. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.