The film unfolds as a series of nostalgic-yet-clear-eyed vignettes about growing up in this particular family at this particular time during this particular holiday season, adapted from the novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd (who also provides the film's narration as the adult Ralphie).

"But [he] thought, Well, jeez, you can't just hire the first person you see.

So my assumption was, 'Well, that didn't go well.' But whatever.

He was most well known for a series of commercials for Hershey's syrup playing "Messy Marvin," but he also starred in a couple of big Hollywood movies released in 1981 — Paternity, opposite Burt Reynolds, and a sprawling ensemble comedy called Honky Tonk Freeway that Billingsley refers to this way: "It was like a Terminator 2 budget of its day, I think $21 million, which [was] massive. BOMB." But even though he was a seasoned showbiz veteran by the time he was 11, Billingsley didn't actually live anywhere near Hollywood.

For his entire childhood, his parents and four other siblings remained based in Phoenix, Ariz., flying into Los Angeles a handful of times a year to pack in as many auditions as possible.

"This was long before Macaulay Culkin or the Disney [Channel] kids," he says. She thought, They're cute, maybe they'll get a picture for a scrapbook or something to show their kids one day.

So when it took off [for me], if anything, my parents were like, 'Jeez, we're sorry. This is not what we had anticipated at all.'"But Billingsley wanted to keep acting, so his parents dutifully kept flying out with him to L. for auditions — including one for A Christmas Story's co-writer-director Bob Clark (Porky's, Breaking Point).The 42-year-old even still speaks with the slight lisp he had as a 12-year-old in the film."I guess I've always had a similar-looking face," says Billingsley matter-of-factly.29.)As the rest of Billingsley's office makes plain, however, unlike many other child stars from the 1980s (or 1990s, or 2000s) — many famous for far less lasting entertainments — he has somehow emerged into adulthood successful and unscathed."You know, the transition from a child actor to almost anything is frankly impossible," says Vaughn. There's usually a lot of tragedy involved." Echoes Jon Favreau, who directed Made, Elf, and Iron Man: "The fact that [Peter] turned out to be, like, a good, normal person, with aspirations, coming out of a life a child star — that's not a given.That's no mean feat."As Billingsley explains, in the 30 years since A Christmas Story first opened on Nov."It just doesn't go away."The movie has even been adapted into a musical that opened on Broadway in 2012, earning three Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical.