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Peter Billingsley (born April 16, 1971), also known as Peter Michaelsen[1] and Peter Billingsley-Michaelsen,[2] is an American actor, director, and producer known for his role as Ralphie in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story.

Billingsley's first acting role was as a two-year-old baby in a Geritol commercial with Betty Buckley playing his mom. He went on to star in about 120 television ads throughout the seventies and early eighties. At twelve years old he was quoted as saying: "After 100, you lose count." Early articles refer to him as "the Chicken Franks' commercial cutie," but his most famous ads were a series of commercials for Hershey's chocolate syrup in the eighties as the popular character Messy Marvin.[9][10]

One of the earliest film roles for Billingsley was the 1978 film If I Ever See You Again which was written and directed by Joseph Brooks. In 1981, Peter acted in the film Paternity opposite Burt Reynolds and was nominated as "Best Young Comedian - Motion Picture or Television" at The Young Artist Awards for his work.[11] Later in the year, he was featured in Honky Tonk Freeway. In October of 1981, Billingsley was a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

In 1982, he starred in several features including Death Valley, Massarati and the Brain, and the made-for-TV movie Memories Never Die with Lindsay Wagner and his sister, Melissa Michaelsen. Billingsley also had a featured guest role as Gideon Hale on Little House on the Prairie. The best role he landed that year, though, was being himself on the popular hit Real People which would bring him into America's homes each week for the next three years. He was again nominated for The Young Artist Award trophy for Real People.[12] This gig also led to a stint on the two episode series Real Kids.

In 1983, Billingsley starred in A Christmas Story, based on Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, built its audience slowly over the years and is now shown twenty-four hours a day on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A Christmas Story is a story about a young boy named Ralphie (Billingsley) who wants a particular BB gun for Christmas and all the grown-ups trying to discourage him by warning that he'll shoot his eye out. Along the way, there are many side stories. This film earned Peter another Young Artist Award nomination.[13]

The following year, Billingsley starred in an adaptation of The Hoboken Chicken Emergency opposite Dick Van Patten, Gabe Kaplan and a 266 pound chicken named Henrietta. This was a special Thanksgiving episode of the PBS series WonderWorks.[14] He also appeared on the popular game show Family Feud on one of their Super Teens specials and another game show called Celebrity Hot Potato, which was hosted by Bill Cullen.[15] As the late-eighties approached, Billingsley's acting career was in decline. He found work as a guest star on series like Who's The Boss?, Punky Brewster, The Wonder Years,[16] and Highway To Heaven,[17][18] and saw occasional film work with The Dirt Bike Kid (for which he won a Young Artist Award)[19], Carly's Web, Russkies and Beverly Hills Brats.

The early nineties saw Billingsley tackling older roles such as a would-be jock who gets hooked on steroids in the CBS Schoolbreak Special The Fourth Man, which also starred Nicole Eggert (as Billingsley's worried girlfriend) and Lyle Alzado. It was on this project where he would meet and form his close friendship with Vince Vaughn.[20]

Another CBS Schoolbreak Special was 1994's The Writing on the Wall, starring Hal Linden as a rabbi who teaches three teenage boys about the horrors of intolerance after they are caught defacing his home, temple, and car with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti. Peter was nominated for an Emmy for this role.[21][22]

[edit] Other work
The most rewarding of his later film acting assignments was 1993's Arcade, in which he starred as a teenaged "virtual reality" addict, and also worked as the post-production supervisor using the last name Michaelsen. He made some career decisions and began working behind the scenes more. Going under the name Peter Michaelsen, Billingsley worked as an assistant editor on a film called Knights which starred Kris Kristofferson. In 1994, Peter starred in, wrote, and directed the short film The Sacred Fire using the last name Billingsley but was listed with the name Michaelsen as the executive producer. This film won an Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films' Golden Scroll Award. His career behind the scenes continued on with much success including work on The Discovery Channel's A.R.K., The Adventures of Animal Rescue Kids, Patriot Son, The X Show, Made, and Elf . In 2001, he was nominated for an Emmy Award as co-executive producer for the show Dinner for Five. In 2005, he helped produce the movie Zathura (2005). He served as an executive producer for the Universal Pictures production The Break-Up starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in which he also plays the supporting character Andrew appearing alongside frequent collaborator Jon Favreau. Billingsley is currently serving as executive producer on director Favreau's Iron Man feature film.[23][24]

Billingsley has never completely given up his acting career, having small roles in Sherman Oaks,[25] Family Reunion: A Relative Nightmare, Elf, L.A. Heat and No Deposit, No Return, which was voted Best Feature Film at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival in 2000.[26] Peter also took an acting part in an experimental film for the new MaxiVision 48 projection system developed by Dean Goodhill.[27]

Billingsley released a CD titled Christmas Stories...Christmas Songs on Run For Cover Records in 1999 with longtime friend Brian Evans.[28]