Peter Michaelsen or Peter Billingsley-Michaelsen (disputed) (1971-04-16) April 16, 1971 (age 44) New York City, New York, U.S.
Actor, producer, director
Peter Billingsley (born April 16, 1971), also known as Peter Michaelsen and Peter Billingsley-Michaelsen, is an American actor, director, and producer, best known for his role as Ralphie in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story and as "Messy Marvin" in the Hershey's Chocolate Syrup commercials during the 1970s. He began his career as an infant in television commercials.
Peter was born in New York City. His father, Alwin Michaelsen, is a financial consultant and his mother, Gail, was once Alwin's secretary. Gail is the niece of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley, and her cousin, Glenn Billingsley, was married to actress Barbara Billingsley (1915–2010), who used her married name as her acting name even after the divorce. Gail was the one who initially took the children around to auditions.
All five of the children in the family had acting careers when they were young. The oldest of Billingsley's siblings, Dina and Win, had the briefest acting careers working mostly in commercials with brief guest spots on television shows. Peter's elder sister, Melissa, may be best known for her role as Maxx Davis on Me and Maxx. Peter's older brother, Neil, began playing Danny Walton on the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow in 1975 and has had numerous roles in commercials and guest shots on TV series. Following his acting career, Neil works in finance in New York City.
On January 28th, 1985, Billingsley was on-hand at launch pad 39B (at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida) for the doomed launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. He and classmates of the son of America's first teacher-astronaut (Christa McAuliffe) cheered as the space shuttle Challenger lifted skyward. Their delight turned to horror as the shuttle exploded 73 seconds into flight. Billingsley was a spokesman for the young astronaut program.
Billingsley's first acting role was as a two-year-old in a Geritol commercial with Betty Buckley playing his mom. He went on to star in about 120 television ads throughout the 1970s and early 80s. At 12 he was quoted as saying: "After 100 (commercials), you lose count." He was likely best known for a series of commercials for Hershey's chocolate syrup in which he portrayed the popular character Messy Marvin. One of Billingsley's earliest film roles was in 1978's If Ever I See You Again, written and directed by Joseph Brooks.
In 1983 Billingsley starred in A Christmas Story, based on Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, which built its audience slowly over the years and is now broadcast for twenty-four hours from Christmas Eve until Christmas Day on TBS. The film earned Billingsley another Young Artist Award nomination, and is arguably the one role he is most associated with. He has been quoted as saying that people still approach him on the street, only to say "you'll shoot your eye out, kid!"
The early 1990s saw Billingsley tackling older roles such as a would-be jock who gets hooked on steroids in the CBS Schoolbreak SpecialThe Fourth Man. On that project he formed a close friendship with Vince Vaughn. His next Schoolbreak Special appearance was in The Writing on the Wall (1994), starring Hal Linden as a rabbi who teaches three boys about the horrors of intolerance after they are caught defacing his home, temple, and car with swastikas and anti-Semiticgraffiti. Billingsley was nominated for an Emmy Award for this role.
The most rewarding of his later film acting assignments was Arcade (1993), in which he starred as a teenaged "virtual reality" addict; he worked as the post-production supervisor (credited as Peter Michaelsen). He made some career decisions and began working behind the scenes more. Known as Peter Michaelsen, he was assistant editor on Knights, a film which featured Kris Kristofferson. In 1994 Peter starred in, wrote, and directed (credited as Peter Billingsley) the short film The Sacred Fire, and credited as Peter Michaelsen in the executive producer function. This film won an Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films' Golden Scroll Award.
Billingsley released a CD titled Christmas Stories...Christmas Songs on Run For Cover Records in 1999 with longtime friend Brian Evans. He signed on as Executive Producer of a musical adaptation of A Christmas Story that opened in Seattle in December 2010. He is "...honored to be a part of this project and look forward to bringing the play to more stages... Just think about the idea of a leg-lamp kickline."