Peter Billingsley, now 50, was only 12 years old when he took on the role as the imaginative and mischievous Ralphie Parker for the filming of the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story.” In one particular scene from the movie Ralphie imagines a scenario where he protects his family with his new air rifle. In the fantasy sequence, Ralphie is all dressed up like a western sheriff and saves his family from Black Bart. During an interview on the “That Scene with Dan Patrick” podcast, Billingsley recalled the time when a prop master gave him real chewing tobacco for the scene.
“Well, they totally screwed up,” Billingsley began. “The scene says he’s dressed as a sheriff. So you put the costume on. And a line in the script says he’s chewing tobacco. So, sure enough, the prop man, who’s responsible for that — anything the actor touches is the prop man’s department — he comes up to me and he’s got this pouch and it says ‘Red Man’ on it, and he flips it open — I swear to God, I don’t know the difference — I said, ‘What do I do with this?’ He says, ‘Here, jam it down in here.’ He says, ‘Don’t swallow, just spit.’”
“So, I do it, we get ready to go, and about 15 minutes in, the world starts tilting,” he continued. “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!’”
“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 sh*t 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,” says Peter Billingsley. “You can imagine, it was a very different time then. He just gave me straight up, whole cut-leaf Red Man.”
Check out the scene below.