TBS is in the midst of its annual 24-hour marathon of “A Christmas Story,” the 1983 movie about a young boy’s (Peter Billingsley) quest for a BB gun that has become as much a part of the season as “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
But did you know that Jack Nicholson was considered for the role of Ralphie’s father? So says TBS, which says Nicholson was offered the role and he was interested. The movie’s producers became concerned about what they might have to pay Nicholson, however, and went with Darren McGavin instead.
Here are some other little- to well-known facts about “A Christmas Story.”
– Author Jean Shepherd, who narrates the movie and whose book “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” is the basis for the film, also has a cameo. He’s the annoyed man in the department store who tells Ralphie and Randy the line to see Santa starts back there.
– The movie opened Nov. 18, 1983, and did fairly well at the box office, ending up with a gross of $19.3 million.
– Although set in Indiana, where Shepherd grew up, the movie was filmed in Cleveland (where the Parkers’ house and Higbee’s department store were located) and Toronto (Ralphie’s school, the Christmas-tree lot).
– The two movies Bob Clark directed prior to “A Christmas Story” were “Porky’s” and “Porky’s II: The Next Day.” Clark said the success of those films gave him enough leverage to make “A Christmas Story,” which is probably the most enduring film of his eclectic career. His other credits include “Baby Geniuses,” “From the Hip” and another Christmas movie — the 1974 slasher flick “Black Christmas,” which is known mostly for being the first film to use the “The call is coming from inside the house!” trope.
– Clark also directed a sequel of sorts to “A Christmas Story” called “It Runs in the Family” (or sometimes “My Summer Story”). The 1994 movie, again based on Shepherd’s stories, starred Kieran Culkin as Ralphie, Charles Grodin as the Old Man and Mary Steenburgen as Mrs. Parker. It was a flop, however, making only $70,936 at the box office.
– Billingsley, now 40, has made a career for himself in Hollywood as a producer, often working with friends Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. He was an executive producer of “Iron Man” (in which he also had a cameo), “The Break-Up” and “Four Christmases,” and he directed the 2009 comedy “Couples Retreat.”
– Zack Ward, who played bully Scut Farkus, has also stayed in showbiz. He was a regular on the FOX comedy “Titus,” played a soldier in the first “Transformers” movie and has dozens of TV guest credits to his name.
– R.D. Robb (Ralphie’s friend Schwartz) directed and co-wrote a mid-’90s indie movie called “Don’s Plum” that featured Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, as well as “Entourage’s” Kevin Connolly and “Buffy” alum Amber Benson. DiCaprio and Maguire later sued to block distribution of the movie in North America, although it was shown overseas.
– It sounds like an urban legend, but the “kid from ‘A Christmas Story’ works in porn” story is actually true. Scott Schwartz, who played Ralphie’s friend Flick — the kid whose tongue sticks to the flagpole — appeared in a number of adult films in the 1990s (although almost never in sex scenes).
– Yano Anaya, who played Scut’s toadie Grover Dill, didn’t pursue acting as an adult, but his brief career as a child actor included a couple other memorable roles. He played the young version of bass player Michael Anthony in Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” video, and he was the paperboy (“Two dollars!”) in “Better Off Dead.”