Peter Billingsley says a prop man made him sick on the set of A Christmas Story.
The star of the 1983 holiday movie opened up about his role as Ralphie Parker in a new interview on the That Scene With Dan Patrick podcast.
Billingsley, who turns 50 in April, told the podcast host that in the famous fantasy sequence in which Ralphie dressed up as a sheriff and saved his family from a group of bandits with his trusty BB gun, a misguided prop guy gave him real tobacco to chew. Billingsley was 12 at the time.
Billingsley told Patrick the crew member “totally screwed up” by giving him a pouch of Red Man to chew on in the scene.
“I said, ‘What do I do with this?’ He says, ‘Here, jam it down in here.’ He says, ‘Don’t swallow, just spit,” Billingsley said, per People.
“So, I do it, we get ready to go, and about 15 minutes in, the world starts tilting. I start sweating. My stomach starts hurting, and I start throwing up.”
Director Bob Clark ultimately stepped in and asked what was going on, and that’s when the unnamed prop guy admitted he gave the child actor whole-leaf cut Red Man. The director reportedly yelled at the crew member and asked him what he was doing giving real tobacco to a 12-year-old kid.
“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 this sh*t out of my system,” Billingsley recalled. “Then they did what they should have done …they took a bunch of raisins, squished them together and then stuck that in my mouth, and I had brown spit.”
Billingsley admitted “it was a very different time” back then.
Elsewhere in the interview, the former child star noted how the holiday film was nothing like a Disney movie, complete with a sweet ending. While the theme of A Christmas Story included everybody telling Ralphie he’d shoot “his eye out” if he got a Red Ryder BB gun, at the end of the film, he really did shoot himself in the eye and shattered his glasses while playing with the gun.
You can listen to Billingsley recount the famous ending and get a look at the sheriff outfit he wore in the tobacco-chewing scene in the Dan Patrick podcast clip below.
The chewing tobacco scene wasn’t the only time Billingsley was put in an adult situation. In a previous interview with Buzzfeed, the actor said that he worked with adults in so many scenes in the movie that he had to grow up fast. For the famous moment where Ralphie says “oh fudge” after the family’s car breaks down on the way home from getting their Christmas tree, Billingsley revealed he actually did say the queen mother of dirty words, the F-bomb.
He clarified that even though he was a child, he had already been in Hollywood for a long time at that point and it wasn’t the first time he heard the word or even said it.
A Christmas Story airs on TBS and TNT in a 24-hour loop on December 24 and 25.