'A Christmas Story': Peter Billingsley Recalls How He Became Very Ill After Prop Master Mistake

A Christmas Story (1983)-Peter Billingsley
MGM/UA Entertainment/Photofest

The actor, director and producer is best known for his role as Ralphie Parker in the 1983 holiday staple.

Peter Billingsley pulled back the curtain on the making of A Christmas Story this week, sharing several behind-the-scenes tales about the holiday classic.

The actor, director and producer, best known for his role as Ralphie Parker in the 1983 film, dropped by That Scene With Dan Patrick, an IMDb podcast, to discuss the movie, which was a box office sleeper before becoming a seasonal juggernaut.

One of the more entertaining — in the way he tells it, and not because of what actually happened — anecdotes Billingsley shares is how sick he became after a bone-headed mistake by the prop master.

The scene in question is when Ralphie is daydreaming about owning a Red Ryder BB gun and how he would use it to protect his 1940s family from bad guys, namely Black Bart.

"Well, they totally screwed up, Dan," Billingsley begins. "The scene says he’s dressed as a sheriff. So I put the costume on. And the script says he’s chewing tobacco. Sure enough, the prop man, who’s responsible for the chewing tobacco, comes up to me with a pouch that says Red Man on it. I don’t know the difference, I said, 'What do I do with this?' He says, 'Here, jam it down in here. Don’t swallow, just spit.'"

A little bit of time passed while shooting and that is when Billingsley says it all went south.

"So, I do it, we get ready to go, and about 15 minutes in, the world starts tilting," he tells Patrick. "I start sweating. My stomach starts hurting, and I start throwing up. [Director] Bob [Clark's] like, 'Cut cut. What the hell is going on?' There was the prop man, 'Oh, I gave him Red Man, you know.' Bob says, 'What are you doing? He’s 12 years old!'"

Billingsley continued, "So we shut down, I go and lay on the couch in the living room of the set for about 40 minutes until I can get the shit out of my system. Then they did what they should have done earlier, someone took a bunch of raisins, squished them together and then stuck that in my mouth, so that I had brown spit. You can imagine, it was a very different time then. He just gave me straight-up, whole cut-leaf Red Man."

Billingsley said he remains blown away by the film's popularity, and he gets a kick of how much people enjoy it to this day. The actor also jokingly reassured listeners that he had nothing to do with the annual 24-hour Christmas marathon on TNT and TBS. And, yes, Billingsley says he still has the bunny costume and a special version of the BB gun given to him by the director.