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Past Chronicles
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Young Peter Billingsley Given Chewing Tobacco On Movie Set

Peter Billingsley is the actor known for his iconic role as Ralphie in the timeless film “A Christmas Story.” He was just 12-years-old when the film was released in 1983. Now, Peter is 49-years-old and would often talk about what transpired behind the scenes of the classic Christmas movie.

Billingsley worked with Melinda Dillon as his mother, Mrs Parker, Darren McGavin as his father, Mr Parker, Leslie Carlson as Christmas Tree Salesman. The movie was presented in a string of vignettes narrated by adult Ralphie Parker, voiced by Jean Shepherd.

One of his most famous anecdotes was when they were shooting the scene where his character was daydreaming about being a sheriff. According to Peter, the man provided him real chewing tobacco for the scene. He said that a line from the script said that Ralphie was chewing tobacco.

He added that the prop man, responsible for all the things touched by the actors, came up to him and got a box in his pouch with the label “Red Man” on it. Since he does not know what it was, he asked the prop man what to do with the item. The man only told him to chew it. The man also instructed him to avoid swallowing it and spit it out once done.

Since chewing tobacco was not suitable for kids, the incident made him sick. Film director Bob Clark reprimanded the prop department.

Billingsley recalled that they need to stop filming after the tobacco’s effects started to manifest in his young body. He had to go away from the set and lay down on the couch of the movie’s living room area for at least 40 minutes until he can get the effects out of his system. When he fully recovered, someone from the production had a better idea for replacing the tobacco prop.

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The staff brought many raisins and squished them before asking him to put them in his mouth. The effect caused him to have brown spit trickling at the sides of his mouth. It helped him achieve the impact that they are hoping for.

The movie became one of the most revered holiday films in history. It was even chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress at the National Film Registry for its historical and cultural significance. It is also recognized as one of the most loved films for Christmas.

His role in “A Christmas Story” earned Billingsley his second Young Artist Awards nomination. The first one was in 1981 when he starred opposite Burt Reynolds in the movie “Paternity.” But he finally won the award in the 1985 film “The Dirt Bike Kid” when he portrayed the role of a motorcycle-riding kid named Jack Simmons.

The actor went on to have a lucrative acting career in the late 1980s. He also appeared in another iconic Christmas film, “Elf,” alongside Will Farrell. He also joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the former Stark Industries scientist William Ginter Riva in 2008’s “Iron Man,” then reprised his role in 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Riley Brown
Written By

Riley is a history, lifestyle, and entertainment writer living in San Diego. He received his bachelor's degree in Journalism and Multimedia from the University of Oregon. His work has been featured in many finance and lifestyle publications throughout the US. When he is not writing, Riley enjoys reading and hanging out at the beach with his dog.

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