They are to Hollywood what toast and jam is to breakfast. That is to say, it’s almost unthinkable to have one without the other. But just as peanut butter can spice up any slice of toast and jam, the Vaughn/Favreau recipe for success has a third secret ingredient.
The name may not ring a bell, but say the phrase “You’ll shoot your eye out,” and suddenly the image of the blonde youngster with oversized glasses and a Christmas wish for a Red Ryder BB gun comes to mind.
His portrayal of Ralphie in A Christmas Story is a classic; but that was 1983 and this is now. He’s all grown up and after making over 100 commercials and countless after-school specials he’s now a big time producer and director, most often working as the third leg of Vince and Jon’s tripod.
He produced Iron Man, Zathura and others with Favreau, and The Break Up and Wild West Comedy Show with Vaughn. This weekend he steps behind the camera to direct his two pals in Couples Retreat.
He hasn’t, however, completely from acting. One of the pleasures of the Wild West Comedy show was watching Billingsley and Vaughn re-enact a scene from the after school special The Fourth Man, a hyper-serious drama about a kid who gets hooked on steroids.
But his appearances haven’t been confined to poking fun at his earlier work. In 1993 he starred in an underrated straight-to-video sci fi/horror gem called Arcade (written by Batman’s David S. Goyer) playing a “virtual reality addict” who frees a tormented spirit from a video game. It’s a TRON wannabe, but good b-movie fun nonetheless.
The next year he wrote, directed and starred in the short film The Sacred Fire, a psychological drama about a vampire hunter.
More recently he has confined himself to bit parts in the movies he produces. Catch peeks of him in The Break-Up, Iron Man and Four Christmases.
Billingsley is one of the rare happy endings from Hollywood’s child star system.
“Pete has great ideas and he’s a really balanced, easy, smart and nice guy,” says Vaughn. “He’s really intelligent but really just respectful of people.”
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