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'A Christmas Story' actor Zack Ward looks back on playing bully Scut Farkus

Actor Zack Ward, who played the menacing neighborhood bully, opened up to TODAY about what it was like to film the 1983 holiday classic.
/ Source: TODAY

"A Christmas Story" has many iconic moments: Flick's tongue stuck to the flagpole, the arrival of the "fra-jee-lay" leg lamp, and of course, Ralphie's climactic defeat over nemesis Scut Farkus.

Actor Zack Ward, who played the menacing neighborhood bully, opened up to TODAY about what it was like to film the 1983 holiday classic.

“I get recognized as Scut Farkus quite a bit," Ward, now 47, revealed. "I kind of look very similar to how I did when I was a kid; I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. The best part of it, to be honest, is that the way people talk to me is that I’m their long-lost uncle that they haven’t seen in ages and they’re just so happy to embrace and welcome back into the family. I’ve never met these people, but they kind of treat me like Norm from ‘Cheers’ and want to give me a big hug.”

One of Scut's hallmarks — along with his "yellow eyes" and signature coonskin cap — was his evil laugh, so we had to know whether it took a lot of practice to perfect.

“That was just me being a creepy little kid," Ward explained. "That came naturally. I think I still have that if I watch a funny movie.”

He also clarified, “My eyes are green. I never had yellow eyes; it was just always the power of the narration.”

Of all Scut's taunts, Ward said his favorite is "say 'uncle.'" "It’s the epitome of every single bully," he said. "And ‘cry, crybaby, cry.’ That’s just the best.”

A Christmas Story - 1983

And as for the famous fight scene with Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), Ward assured, “They don’t let children just punch each other in the face on camera. That’s not how the film industry works."

However, he continued, "There was a danger aspect to it because he had these things called idiot strings. That’s when you had string that ran through your jacket and held your mittens on, so you didn’t lose them. And so when he’s punching me, he’s missing me. But the mittens are slapping the crap out of me and they’re frozen solid, so when you see bright red cheeks, that’s me being slapped on camera. So yeah, that was a lot of fun.”

Ward also has fond memories of the Parker family home, in Cleveland, Ohio, where the movie was shot.

“We went to go visit set one day, me and my mom. And there was no snow in Cleveland. It was completely dry, and I’m sure everybody out there who knows what cold, dead grass looks like — it’s brown and gross, and lots of garbage bags floating around Cleveland back in the day. And we turn around the corner and the house, the ‘Christmas Story’ house, is absolutely covered in fake snow. And the tree has got icicles glistening from every single leaf or bough or branch."

"It was the first time I really witnessed movie magic and it just took my breath away," said Ward, who still acts (recent credits include "American Horror Story" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") and also serves as CEO of Global Sports Financial Exchange. "Even to this day, it’s one of my favorite memories.”