‘A Christmas Story’ Separated Child Actors During Filming to Create Tension

Zack Ward and Yano Anaya were kept distant from the other child actors during the making of the Christmas film in order to create real hostility on set.
A CHRISTMAS STORY, from left, front, Peter Billingsley, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Ian Petrella, 1983, ©MGM/courtesy Everett Collection
A CHRISTMAS STORY, from left, front, Peter Billingsley, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Ian Petrella, 1983, ©MGM/courtesy Everett Collection
©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

Holiday favorite “A Christmas Story” is the tale of a typical boy Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) as he deals with the typical struggles kids face during the Christmas season. One of the many thorns in his side during the film is his issues with bullies Scut and Grover Dill, played by Zack Ward and Yano Anaya, who harass him throughout the movie. In order to create real tension between the two and the other child actors, they were kept separate from the rest of the cast, as Ward revealed in a recent interview with Insider.

“Most of the time Yano and I were not hanging out with the other kids. They had different shooting schedules than we did,” Ward said. “[Director Bob Clark] told our parents, ‘I just want Yano and Zack to hang out and be friends, and if possible, without being rude to the other kids, don’t really hang out with the other kids that much.'”

According to Ward, Clark made this decision in order to create “an innate nervousness” among Billingsley and the other child actors, including Ian Petrella, who played Ralphie’s brother Randy Parker, when “these two kids — the two bullies — show up on set like they’re not quite sure what’s gonna happen.”

In spite of the intentional separation of the cast, Ward said that the cast mostly got along whenever they were on set. Ward, Anaya, Billingsley, Petrella, and their costars Scott Schwartz and R.D. Robb all returned decades later to reprise their roles from the film in this year’s “A Christmas Story Christmas.”

“We liked each other,” Ward said. “And then as we grew up, we just always had this touchstone that we could relate to, and then we got to build that touchstone into another movie.”

“A Christmas Story Christmas” released this past November to mixed reviews. In her review for IndieWire, executive editor Kate Erbland wrote that “Despite the apparent warmth with which [director Clay] Kaytis, co-screenwriter Nick Schenk, and returning star and co-writer Peter Billingsley approach the material, whatever magic propelled the original to holiday film canon glory is sorely lacking.”

“A Christmas Story Christmas” is now streaming on HBO Max.

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