Mac Engel

How the villain from ‘A Christmas Story’ made it in sports

In 1983 actor Zack Ward took the role of the bully “Scut Farkas” in the small film, “A Christmas Story.” Decades later, the film remains one of the most popular Holiday movies ever made. Ward is currently promoting a sports fantasy game, and remains active in Hollywood.
In 1983 actor Zack Ward took the role of the bully “Scut Farkas” in the small film, “A Christmas Story.” Decades later, the film remains one of the most popular Holiday movies ever made. Ward is currently promoting a sports fantasy game, and remains active in Hollywood. Anderson Group Public Relations

The nice looking man on the right is the little kid on the left forever known as one of the nastiest bullies in film history.

The role of Scut Farkas was not the one child actor Zack Ward wanted for “A Christmas Story.”

“I was supposed to be Grover Dill,” Ward said.

The part of Grover Dill was a buddy to the film’s hero, Ralphie.

“The guy who played Grover Dill made $25,000,” Ward said.

Ward settled for the role of Scut Farkas, the little boy who torments Ralphie at every turn before Ralphie fights back. Ward was paid $5,000 for his role, and every two years he receives a residual check for about $1,800. He says most of that money is from TBS playing the film for 24 hours on a loop every Christmas.

“A Christmas Story” was released in 1983, and no one associated with the little movie about the family of four in 1941 Hammond, Indiana, had any clue they had created one of the most memorable and beloved, relatable, quotable, holiday films ever made.

Last year, Vanity Fair ran this comprehensive look back at the making of the film and it’s climb to becoming an American tradition.

My sister took me to the movie when I was 10, and although I have not seen the film in years I can still see the leg lamp; the Little Red Rider BB gun; the nasty elf at the mall; Ralphie losing the lug nuts on the side of road where he painfully let out the “Ohhhhhhhhhh ... fuuuuuuuudge;” Ralphie eating the bar of soap; you’ll shoot your eye out; the neighbor’s dogs running through the house; the dad reading the crate the said, “Frah-jee-lee; and, of course, Scut Farkas’ obnoxious red face as he laughed.

“I was 13 and I’m on this boat that is drifting through decades towards immortality,” Ward told me in a recent phone interview. “It’s a perfect storm for this movie to exist. It’s no longer a pop culture phenomena but it’s iconic. It’s Yoda level.”

Ward is 48, lives in Los Angeles, and works as an actor. “A Christmas Story” was his first film, and he’s been working ever since. Today, he’s also the CEO of Global Sports Financial Exchange, a site that allows fans to buy stocks in their favorite pro sports teams.

When a PR firm asked if I wanted to interview one of the most famous film bullies ever, I could not say no to talking to Scut Farkas.

Are you recognized often for your role as the bully in "A Christmas Story?"

Yes, usually by the time Christmas hits. People are very, very sweet. They greet me like a long, lost uncle. You keep re-inventing the conversation when you’re having 5-year-olds come up to you and say, ‘You’re Scut Farkas!’”

But they’ll come to a point where I’ll hide in my house and play video games. No, I’m kidding. It’s still a great thing. It was lightning in a bottle. I’m not Tom Cruise. I’m a kid who did ‘A Christmas Story’ and has been working ever since. The audience has seen me grow up but I still have the same face.

When the film came out, bullying was not the national issue that it is now; are you aware that your character is, for so many, the face of bullying?

I was aware of that. For me, playing Scut Farkas was making fun of the guys who beat me up. I was raised by a single mom in Canada, and I had a miniature poodle named Tinkerbell. My hero was Peter Pan. I didn’t know any red-haired heroes. I never had the chance to get into team sports because I was getting the crap beat out of me.

“I’m a black belt now. The small amount of times when I did see my he was a Gold Glove boxer. When I was six, I did shadow boxing. I fought back. I got to watch these guys and learned I was not going to take it.”

For so many of us the film resonates because of the father, Darren McGavin; did you ever spend any time with him?

No, I really didn’t. I didn’t have any scenes with him, and he was a very focused gentleman but he gave of this presences of gravitas. He was the father of the film. I don’t want to throw shade at other films, but usually films are set for demographics only have one point of view. It’s the kid who says, ‘Oh mom, oh dad, you don’t understand us kids.’ It’s pandering. In ‘A Christmas Story,’ it’s all of these generations that mixed together.

When you were making it, did you have any clue the film was special?

No, not at all. I was just hired to play Scut Farkas. So you just show up and do your job. The rest of the math, the editing, the color connection, the leg lamp, all of these things happened organically.

What other tidbits about the film exist that fans may not know?

They’re so many. When the old man gets the leg lamp and walks outside to see it from the street, a neighbor comes up to him to ask what it is. The neighbor was (director) Bob Clark. He’s wearing a down, nylon jacket. Those jackets didn’t exist in 1941 (when the film takes place). When the kids visit Santa and they are in the long line, the guy who tells Ralphie, ‘The line ends here,’ that’s Jean Shepherd (the man who wrote the book on which the movie is based, and who co-wrote the screenplay).

OK, lay it on me — tell me about Global Sports Financial Exchange

It’s not fantasy sports. Fantasy sports you have about a 0.2 percent chance to win. They run massive algorithms and it’s a job. What we do is we allow you to buy shares, like a stock, into your favorite team. If the team does well, the stock goes up. If the team does poorly, your stock goes down but you don’t lose your shares. You are paid dividends at the end of a game. And you can adjust how much you have during a game. You still have your shares, and a bookie isn’t taking your money. You get to own it.

What I like about it is that it’s never been done before. What we did is to create a stock market for sports teams.

I sincerely appreciate your time and always know, for so many of us, you made a movie that none of us will ever forget, and always makes us smile.

Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. It’s always nice to know I was a part of something that means so much to so many people.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof