Christmas for 2021 may be over, but we’re still enjoying the afterglow of our yearly rewatch of the 1983 seasonal classic “A Christmas Story”. Although some of us still prefer the previous and equally iconic Xmas outing by director Bob Clark, the adventures of young Ralphie have left an indelible mark on our culture. From stocking leg lamps to making ‘triple dog dares’, the cultural impact has become inextricable from the holiday. But many wonder, what happened to Ralphie anyway? I mean, there IS a sequel, 1994’s “It Runs in the Family” later retitled “My Summer Story” or in an alternate universe, there’s the “A Christmas Story 2” from 2012. For the record, you can skip both of them. Really what folks wonder is, what happened to actor Peter Billingsley who played Ralphie in the original film?
The answer is, quite a lot, although it certainly would be understandable if you blinked and missed a lot of his appearances in films and tv shows over the decades. Initially best known for his prolific tv commercial appearances, especially as ‘Messy Marvin’ for Hershey’s Chocolate syrup, he had some prominent film roles before “A Christmas Story” made him iconic. He was nominated for a “Best Young Comedian” Young Artist Award for his part opposite Burt Reynolds in 1981’s “Paternity” and got another nomination for a multi-year run as a co-host on NBC’s insanely popular “Real People” tv series. But did he ever do anything to match the legendary status of Ralphie?
As he got older, as with many child actors, his acting output was reduced, although he still appeared in any number of tv shows and in supporting roles in films. It wasn’t till the mid to late 90s that things really took off for him in two big ways.
1- He decided to move more into a producer role and was involved in a number of successful films.
2- He became good buddies with Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn.
But what if we told you he’s one of the secret villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Well, not so secret if you’ve been paying close attention.
Portraying scientist William Ginter Riva, he first appeared in “Iron Man” as a team member recruited from Star Industries by baddie Obadiah Stane to try to recreate Tony’s Arc Reactor. But, as Riva said himself in response to Stane’s displeasure at the lack of progress, “Sorry, I’m not Tony Stark”. And while that was a long time ago in the MCU, just as of the latest release “Spider-Man: No Way Home” his actions have massive repercussions in the primary storyline. He last appeared as the character in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” working for Quentin Beck/Mysterio by helping him equip his drones with the illusion tech that is Mysterio’s trademark gimmick. But more importantly, he edited the footage of Mysterio’s death to make it appear as if Spider-man was responsible and released it as well as the outing of Spidey’s identity to the Daily Bugle.
So, there you have it. From winter neighborhood threat with a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model air rifle, to the most dangerous keyboard nemesis in the MCU that no one seems to realize is lurking out there with a grudge against the heroes. What will happen next for Billingsley? You can bet he’ll continue his successful producing (and even some directing) work. But we’re reasonably sure you should keep an eye out for him in future Marvel films and shows. But don’t shoot that eye out (sorry, “A Christmas Story” reference, it had to happen).