Zack Ward looks back on playing Scut Farkus in legendary Christmas movie
By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger
Scut Farkus is known for his yellow eyes, but actor Zack Ward, who portrayed the terrorizing bully in the 1983 hit "A Christmas Story," remembers the role in his own way in this episode of Fueled By Death Cast.
Ward landed a handful of commercials before he was cast in the beloved movie set in the 1940s. He describes being “lucky” in securing the role of his first feature film at age 13 that has led to a career in acting, writing and directing.
“It’s not weird for me because it’s been my life for so long, but the math on that could not be duplicated. You couldn’t be like ‘I’m going to make a movie, it’s going to be good, it’s not going to do well in theatres, but then it’s going to play forever!’ – You can’t plan that,” he said in his interview.
For every Christmas eve and Christmas day since 1997, the film airs for a full 24 hours consecutively on TNT or TBS. It is ranked as one of the best Christmas films since its 1983 release and changed the game for both popularizing holiday-themed films and predominately casting children in roles.
“I don’t remember a lot of kids movies prior to 'A Christmas Story,'” Ward explains. This film debuted before classics like "The Goonies" and "Home Alone."
Director, writer, and producer Bob Clark is shown briefly on screen in "A Christmas Story" helping “The Old Man” center his treasured leg lamp in the front window wearing a nylon jacket. Btw, nylon jackets didn’t yet exist during the time period that the film takes place — whoops.
Ward describes the late Clark as “awesome. He was an amazingly talented, very sweet, very patient man.”
Clark let the kids be kids and relished in letting them be who they were. This isn’t to say Ward is, in fact, a bully. He just played one on the big screen.
“I went to eight different schools before junior high. I was always the new kid, named Zack, with no dad, who didn’t play hockey – which is a big deal because I grew up in Canada, and had a miniature poodle named Tinkerbell. There was an ass beating waiting to happen," Ward said.
Ward adds that playing the role of Scut Farkus was his way of getting his own revenge on intimidators.
“I was making fun of the bullies who beat me up or that I’d get into fights with all the time.”
He goes on in describing the moral meaning of "A Christmas Story" after hearing Warner Brothers' decision to edit out Ralphie’s scene of beating up Farkus as “offensive." He explains:
"Revisionist history is a lie. We all have bumps and warts and mistakes in our past, and our job is to be better than that. But how do you know that if you can't access that information? The whole thing with 'A Christmas Story' is that it's kind of like Homer's 'The Iliad' in the sense that the boy has to go on this adventure to become a man, a coming of age, and earn his father's respect. The BB gun is not a toy, it's not just a present. It's his father respecting him enough to think he's not going to shoot himself in the foot with it, and him saying, 'Yes, I see you like this now.'
And I think that's why it's always been a galvanizing story regardless of your background, ethnicity or culture because you want to earn the respect of the people that you care about — mother, father, older brother, sister, whatever it is. And taking away the hurdles that Ralphie has to overcome to stand on his own two feet, I think is a mistake."
Lessons learned from life are the greatest lessons of all. Sometimes, those are learned the hard way.
"The character arc is what the kid goes through to become that person, and if you take that away, then what is the hero's journey? Are we going to pretend that nobody's mean, ever, and that everybody's just going to have to need a timeout when they get triggered and needs to sit in a corner and find a safe place?
I don't think that's a reality. I don't think solving all your problems with your fists is for smart people. I think that's a rabbit hole you fall down and it can destroy your life. That's a fact. And there's a lot of ways to stand up to a bully that doesn't require you punching them in the nose. On the flip side, there are times when you need to punch somebody in the nose. That's just a fact. It always will be. Denying that bullying exists in dangerous.”
Sometimes a fuse blows and we just go out of our skulls.
Catch Fueled by Death Cast - Episode 150 that features Zack Ward just in time for the Holidays, or while you're watching "A Christmas Story" for the fourth time in a row on Christmas Day.
LISTEN TO THE CLIP FROM HIS INTERVIEW: