Everyone who has seen the movie remembers the time when Ralphie Parker nearly shot his eye out. And everyone remembers Scut Farkus, the bully with “the yellow eyes.”
“A Christmas Story,” which premiered in 1983, tells the tale of a young boy (Peter Billingsley) living in the 1940s who attempts to convince his parents, his teacher and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun is all he really wants for the holidays.
Zack Ward starred as Farkus when he was just 13 years old. And even though the film came out over 30 years ago, it still airs continuously during Christmas.
These days, Ward is the CEO of The Global Finance Sports Financial Exchange, a platform that allows sports fans to invest in their favorite teams, earning money each time their team wins and each calendar quarter. The 48-year-old still acts both in films and on television — but it’s “A Christmas Story” that fans continue to bring up.
Ward spoke with Fox News about his favorite memories bringing “A Christmas Story” to life:
The snow was painful.
“A lot of the snow was fake,” recalled Ward. “It was made out of potato flakes and shaving cream. Potato flakes and shaving cream and little pieces of plastic. The little plastic pieces, they look good, but they hurt when they get stuck in your eye. The shaving cream also burns. And the potato flakes did not taste good.”
A winter wonderland was created from scratch.
“The outside of Ralphie’s house, it looks so picture-perfect with the icicles hanging from the tree — that’s all fake,” said Ward. “At that time in Cleveland, there was no snow. My mom and I walked from the hotel to get there and every other street, every house had their front yard covered with brown dead grass. But then you would turn the corner and there was this one house, which was turned into a winter wonderland. It was the first time I really saw what movie magic can do.”
Director Bob Clark played a cameo role.
Bob Clark made a brief appearance in “A Christmas Story” as the dim-witted neighbor Swede who inquires about Old Man Parker’s (Darren McGavin) “major award,” also known as the infamous leg lamp. “What he’s wearing is a nylon-filled jacket, which is a very 1980s thing to wear,” chuckled Ward. “It is not a 1940s thing to wear. So he is a time traveler in the movie. He’s completely inappropriately dressed.”
“A Christmas Story” wasn’t a major hit.
Vanity Fair reported that while “A Christmas Story” did respectably at the box office, it disappeared in a few weeks. It also didn’t completely earn favorable reviews by critics at the time. “When I was a kid and the movie came out, nobody cared,” said Ward.
“A Christmas Story” saw a resurgence that still exists today.
Vanity Fair pointed out that at the same time “A Christmas Story” was taking off, MGM was heavily in debt. It ultimately sold its film library to Ted Turner in 1986. When Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner Inc., in 1997, Time Warner began running the film in a continuous loop. “I guess somebody liked it and thought it was a good choice,” said Ward. “Perhaps the film had a following within Turner and they already had the film.
“But then it started to become a thing. Even though the film never had a big release, it did well on VHS. People were collecting it and it became something that they were proud of. And back then VHS tapes were costly, so it was a collector’s item. There were marathons of the film. People just kept watching. And every year, people still buy the DVD even though you can watch it every year on TV. It’s pan-generational.”
Zack Ward escaped the child star curse.
While many child stars in Hollywood ultimately struggle transitioning into adulthood both in front and behind the camera, Ward has managed to live a scandal-free life all while maintaining his high-profile career over the years. The secret? He avoided living in Hollywood. “I did not grow up in Los Angeles,” he explained. “I grew up in Toronto, Canada. Traveled around with my mother, who was also an actress. I asked her if I could be an actor and she said no. She wanted me to have a normal life. But eventually, she decided to give it a shot.
“But I think the reason why I missed that after-school special of kids gone bad is that I only looked at acting as a craft. It was something to be honed. I was never into drugs. I was never into the party scene. I’ve never been cool. So I don’t think I was given the opportunity to fall from grace just because I wasn’t very high up.”
Zack Ward still gets recognized as Scut Farkus.
Ward insisted that even now, fans of “A Christmas Story” still recognize him on the street and aren’t shy to approach him. “I have a prominent place as that red-headed kid with the funny eyes,” he said. “It’s not a level of say, Tom Cruise, but it’s recognizable. I’ve done over 100 films, but I’m always that guy. And there’s just not a lot of redheads on television. So you do stand out when you’re in something. Even if I’m wearing a hat with glasses, if I’m walking down the street or having dinner, people will still come up to me and ask questions about the film. I think it’s very sweet.”
Zack Ward never got to keep those hats.
Farkus’ signature look was undoubtedly his raccoon fur cap. However, Ward never got the chance to keep any of them as prized mementos from his time on set. “The funny thing is that back then, I just didn’t see them as collectibles,” he said. “No part of me thought this was going to be something that the whole country, Australia and Canada fell head over heels in love with. I didn’t collect anything.”
Zack Ward today.
Zack Ward still gets paid for “A Christmas Story.”
In 2017, Page Six reported that the actors are still getting royalty checks. However, it’s not as much as many think. “You’re going to be so disappointed,” he told the newspaper. “It’s basically about $1,800 every two years… and it comes in Canadian money because we shot in Canada.” Ward added he puts the extra cash in a special account just in case his mom needs it in the future.
Zack Ward isn’t worried about a backlash.
The classic Christmas melody “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” stirred headlines during the holiday season after some listeners felt it was a prelude to date rape. However, Ward isn’t fazed by the notion that some viewers today may consider viewing “A Christmas Story” differently. “If someone wants to get upset about things, they can totally choose to,” he said. “I know that some people take issue with the bullying in the movie. But there’s also a kid standing up for himself. Not that I think all problems should be solved with your fists by any stretch of the imagination.
“[But] if people are upset with that concept in ‘A Christmas Story,’ then they should change the channel and go watch something else. And I fully support their right to make that decision. But they should let the people who want to watch it, well, watch it.”
Bruce Willis in “Die Hard.”
Zack Ward’s favorite holiday film is NOT “A Christmas Story.”
Many fans may assume Ward enjoys reliving his childhood by tuning in and watching “A Christmas Story” as a beloved holiday tradition. But when asked about his favorite Christmas film, Ward didn’t hesitate to give his answer. “‘Die Hard,’” he revealed.