Find out what the real-life Scut Farkus is up to—and what to expect from the second installment of the Christmas classic.
Just in time for Christmas comes a nostalgic sequel to A Christmas Story, where we are happily reunited with the quintessential bully Scut Farkus, (Zack Ward), and the other boys that captured our hearts, who are now grown men.
A Christmas Story Christmas, coming to HBO Max, is giving us an extra reason to rejoice since the original movie remains a holiday staple 39 years after its November 1983 release.
It will be a joyous reunion with Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), now an adult, who returns to the house on Cleveland Street to give his friends and their families a magical Christmas.
As Ralphie says in the trailer for the sequel, "Slowly, I could begin to feel the Christmas ember beginning to glow again."
While the first movie was shot in Cleveland, the sequel was filmed in Sofia, Bulgaria. But to Ward, and his co-stars, the most important aspect of revisiting these characters was finding the heart and holiday spirit of the original movie.
“I think everybody will identify completely with how they grew up with this movie, and how this movie has actually grown up with them Ward exclusively tells Parade.com.
"What I love about both movies is how nice it is to be a center point where there’s a connection with happiness and joy," he says. "There is something so genuine and kind about them.”
Since the original A Christmas Story, Ward has performed in numerous film and TV roles, including Transformers, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, CSI, Mike & Molly, Hawaii Five-0 and Lost. He will also be at the actual Christmas Story house in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday, Dec. 17, signing autographs and taking photos with fans.
Read on for Ward’s thoughts about the 39-year legacy of A Christmas Story, his life-long friendships made on the set and how fans love to say how much the original movie is part of their beloved holiday traditions.
Do have any spoilers from the Christmas Story sequel?
Zack Ward: I’m really proud of it. Well, you know, A Christmas Story, a lot of ideas have been pitched for many years to do a full sequel with Peter Billingsley attached as Ralphie.
The initial ideas were trying to replicate the original, and you can’t do that, especially because people grow and you can’t stay the same age forever. So it wasn’t until Nick Schenk got a hold of the script, and started making a really beautiful script, that captured the idea and the essence without trying to replicate the original film. It’s got the heart of the first, it’s got the characters of the first. It honors them, but it’s not trying to imitate them, because the story takes place 30 years later.
Peter is married and has his own kids. You can’t have Ralphie wanting a BB gun like when he was 8 years old because now that he’s 40; that would just be weird. So, they had to evolve. And they did such a beautiful job of making that connection with the original characters and what Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark created in the first one.
What was it like getting back together with the Christmas Story cast?
It was awesome. To be honest with you, we’ve stayed in touch pretty much for the last nearly 40 years. We do charity fundraisers around the country every year, and so these guys are like brothers to me. But being able to spend two months shooting, and basically quarantined in the hotel together because of COVID, was great. There’s nobody else I want to be quarantined with besides those guys.
What are some of your memories about the original A Christmas Story?
I was 13 years old and remember auditioning for the role and getting the job. I remember meeting Yano Anaya, who played Grover Dill, in the wardrobe room, trying on different clothes, and then being walked out onto set to meet Bob Clark. It was a wintery day, all covered in snow, and he was wearing a down-filled jacket. Then we were put in front of him in our full regalia of costumes with the big hats and the jackets and the wardrobe mistress said, “This is Grover Dill and this is Scut Farkus.”
It was the first time that Bob Clark had ever seen us next to each other because we’d never met before, and I was a foot taller than Yano. He recognized that and said, “Oh! So you get his lines, he gets yours.” Then we went forward and did the movie and Yano and I became best of friends, and it was a lot of fun. It was basically like playing make-believe and dress-up. I think what Bob Clark and Jean Shepherd did in the first film with the casting of the actors who were just goofy kids and so genuine was brilliant.
How did you get into the character of the bully, Scut Farkus, as a teenager.
Honestly, it was pretty easy. I had personal experience to draw on. I went to eight different schools before junior high. My name was Zack, there were no other Zacks. I never met another Zack until I was in 12th grade. I didn’t have a dad. I had red hair and I had a miniature poodle named Tinkerbell. This means that I had a lot of reasons to get into fights with other kids or get picked on.
When you see the same story evolve over and over again because you go to eight different schools, and you see the same experience happen. You see the same kids—the same bully kid, you see the same nice kid, you see the funny kid, and you get to see how similar people are and how the same situations continue to evolve the same way. It’s like you’re looking at the matrix of it.
When I was playing Scut Farkus, I was mocking the bullies that would pick on me. I had a bunch of templates I could use to imitate and then put into that film. So, to all the bullies who beat me up, thank you so much.
What inspired you to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s research?
My father, Todd Ward, has Alzheimer’s. He was diagnosed in 2020 and he’s at stage six, which is basically a walking coma. It’s a horrible disease, it needs to go away, and I think it can. I think if there’s enough research, we can kick it in the booty.
The reality is we are all going to get older, and so there’s a chance that it can affect all of us. I think it’s an incredibly important opportunity to try and make a positive impact. The research that is done on Alzheimer’s can help early-onset Alzheimer’s and not destroy your child’s future. You can start getting early-onset Alzheimer’s in your 50s or early 60s, which is terrifying. Everything can just be snatched away from you and they go, “Well, that’s it. There’s nothing we can do.” I’m just not good with that.
What makes you the proudest about hosting your event to raise funds for Alzheimer's research?
Everything about it. We did it last year, and hundreds of people showed up and they were all very sweet. Some of them are just there to get a photo and have a great Christmas experience, and some of them actually have Alzheimer’s in their life. It’s great for them to find another resource that can give them support for The Alzheimer's Association, and find a community that can help them.
That’s the thing that’s so beautiful about A Christmas Story. When people show up and they’re there for A Christmas Story and they bring their kids and their grandparents, and everybody has a connection to the movie and it’s always a positive one.
They treat me and the rest of the castmates like we’re part of their family. And we love that they regale us with their favorite stories over the years of their best moments with their families and the holidays. That’s very special.
Since A Christmas Story Christmas is a nostalgia trip and part of a lot of people’s traditions, how do you spend your holidays?
I am involved in charity fundraisers with A Christmas Story pretty much from Thanksgiving all the way to the weekend right before Christmas, traveling for about five or six weeks. It’s just me and my wife and as little hurrah as possible. We go out and we visit friends. By the time I get home, my Christmas is quiet and relaxed.
Tell me about your other upcoming movie, Patsy Lee & the Keeper of the 5 Kingdoms.
It’s about a small-town family, a grandfather, and his granddaughter with her best friends who fall through a portal into a magical world. Adventures ensue with lots of crazy characters and old-style practical effects, animatronics, and some cutting-edge visual effects as well. But it’s been a beautiful labor of love and it’s exciting.
I wrote, directed, produced and edited it. We don’t have distribution at the moment. We’re finishing off the movie and then we’ll either be taking it to film festivals or to distributors.
My film stars James Hong, George Takei, Gedde Watanabe, Bai Ling, Dante Basco, Michelle Mao, Anna Harr and Dave Sheridan. I’m extremely proud of this film. It’s a magical family adventure film in the '80s style like Labyrinth, Never Ending Story, The Goonies and Big Trouble in Little China.
What was the one gift that you received as a child that meant the most to you?
When I was 6 years old, my father was living in California and had been a Golden Gloves boxer when he was younger, so from the age of 2 or 3, he taught me how to put my hands in boxing positions. When I was 6, he gave me a standup jab bag to use to practice throwing jabs. That was the best present I ever received in my life.
What's the perfect way to watch the sequel?
Everyone should watch the first one and then the new one. It sounds like a wonderful watch party.
What I love about the second movie is typically films that are trying to do a follow-up to a beloved movie, kind of make the mistake of trying to replicate the same film. And this film, it’s 30 years later, it’s not 1943, it’s 1973. People have grown up.
Just like I’m sure if you look at pictures of yourself when you were a little kid, you still see yourself in there. You’re not a totally different person, there’s still your personality in those pictures, and the smile and the things that you did. You can still see the child that you were inside and who you are now.
I think that’s how we all are. I think it would be great for people to watch the first one and then see how those characters grew up and the choices that they made, and how they’re still those people but have gotten wiser and have had different experiences.
Did you ever wear a coonskin cap after the first movie ended?
Oh, yes, I have one. It was gifted to me by a friend in Toronto. It was made out of recycled antique furs. I have one and occasionally I wear it at events.
A Christmas Story Christmas streams on HBO Max starting on Nov. 17.