SEATTLE — Nearly four decades after a small film became a surprise holiday tradition, there’s a sequel to “A Christmas Story.”
Set 30 years after the original movie, “A Christmas Story Christmas” follows a grown-up Ralphie as he navigates the holidays. A married father of two with unfulfilled dreams, he remains the doggedly determined character of his youth.
Peter Billingsley returns to the role he first played as a 12-year-old, along with some other original cast members. Billingsley also produced the film and helped create the story.
Entertainment reporter Kim Holcomb talked to him about the legacy, and how he hopes audiences will embrace the new chapter.
HOLCOMB: "Like so many other families, we watch your original film every year. And when I watched the new one, my 16-year-old son said, 'This is amazing.' Is that the best compliment you can get, this multi-generational amazement?”
BILLINGSLEY: “It is. Yeah, it's great. It's kind of remarkable the first one did that — that kids like it, obviously, and adults relate to it. And we hope this is a film for the next generation as well."
HOLCOMB: "When you were coming up with this story, what did you know had to be in it?"
BILLINGSLEY: "It's very easy to dive back into the callbacks and recreate some of those scenes and moments, and we wanted to be really judicious about that. I guess really the starting point was, Ralphie wanted a gift, like all kids. And as a parent, you generally want Christmas to be perfect for your kids. You've kind of moved past the point of wanting that coveted gift. And so that idea as a starting point. Being able to build the original house and the original street, to try to transform fans and a new audience back into that world, was something we really, really wanted to get right. Ralphie was a dreamer as a kid, he's going to be a dreamer now. They're more grown-up dreams, but he's got fantasy sequences. His life isn't where he wants it to be, but he's still going to try to make it work, no matter what."
HOLCOMB: "Was it wild when you did your first take of doing that wistful stare off into the distance, all over again?”
BILLINGSLEY: “For sure. It's so interesting because those were things we came up with on the original, just that look up and stare — who knows where that came from, it was just an idea. And then it became this signature dream look. So it was easy to tap back into."
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HOLCOMB: "In a word, describe to me what it was like that first moment with (the cast,) nearly 40 years later?”
BILLINGSLEY: “I think the surprising word is that it was more emotional than I think everyone thought. And in a good way. The movie's become something that no one every expected. You try to make these movies, you hope they're good, every now and then you get lightning in a bottle, and this one certainly was. Just looking at everybody and seeing them there and knowing we were back on set, in that home, it was surprisingly emotional. Having the original cast there was really fun, the dynamic hasn't changed, everyone's remained in touch. I think a lot of those feelings came through on screen because everyone still knows each other."
HOLCOMB: "Is there anything you do in your own life during the holidays that reflects the original film, because so many of us have traditions in our lives that are from ‘A Christmas Story.’"
BILLINGSLEY: "This is not because I like watching myself, but the movie ends up on in the home and it has over the years. And there's something comforting about it now. Not all 24 hours, but for a moment in the house, it's definitely on and I like hearing the sounds."
“A Christmas Story Christmas” debuts on HBO Max Nov. 17.