Peter Billingsley’s return as Ralphie Parker was nearly 40 years in the making.
The actor, who is more often behind the camera as an adult, reprises his role as the all-grown-up version of the Red Ryder BB gun-toting 9-year-old from the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story” in a sequel premiering on HBO Max this Thursday.
“A Christmas Story Christmas” follows Ralphie as he returns to his childhood home on Cleveland Street as an adult in the mid-1970s.
“It’s an interesting movie,” Billingsley reminisced of the original while speaking to Steve Doocy on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, “Because when it came out, kinda did OK, then it went away.”
He said eventually through video and cable “it started to build a following, and we realized we’d like to do it, but we had to get it right.”
Billingsley said in the sequel Ralphie is “really trying to give his kids a Christmas like he had growing up” in the wake of his father’s death. Darren McGavin, who played the “Old Man” in the original, died in 2006.
He added that the actors who played Ralphie’s childhood friends Flick and Schwartz are returning.
“It was really fun to reimagine where are these characters now 30 years later,” he explained.
He said the original movie takes place in about 1940, meaning the new film is set in 1973.
“So, they’re still in Hammond [Indiana] and Ralphie has to come home. His life isn’t quite where he wants it, and he’s tasked with putting on this great Christmas.”
Billingsley, who wears glasses like Ralphie, said he gets recognized for the childhood role “a lot.” He explained, “It’s just one of those movies that seems to continue to resonate and nobody knew at the time the power that it would have.”
He said after shooting wrapped the producers gifted him the famous Red Ryder BB gun Ralphie had longed for, and he also has the pink bunny suit pajamas Ralphie receives as a Christmas gift from his Aunt Clara.
“No one had any idea what the film would turn out to be, so it’s nice to have it,” he said.
Billingsley, who said he’s been in four other Christmas movies aside from “A Christmas Story,” is also starting a Spotify podcast called “Cinematic Journeys,” in which he’ll “get underneath why these movies resonate.”
He said he thinks Christmas classics like “A Christmas Story” are “like comfort food for us. We just relate and we love them. So, it’s just nice.”
He also said a “third chapter” of “A Christmas Story” “could be in store for us” after Doocy suggested Ralphie might come back in 40 years as a grandfather.