Many instantly recognize him as Kevin McCallister from Home Alone. With his adorable nature and leading roles, Macaulay Culkin was the ultimate child star of the 1990s and became an A-List actor in his own right at a very young age. He was known on-screen as a cute and mischievous kid but off-screen, there were many tension building up. Culkin’s life later took a drastic turn and led this once-lovable Hollywood wunderkind to a dark lifestyle nobody expected. From his much-questioned relationship with Michael Jackson to his strained relationship with his family, here are the little-known details of Macaulay Culkin’s unusual childhood.
1. A Star is Born
Macaulay Culkin was destined for the limelight ever since he was born on August 26, 1980. His father, Kit, was a Broadway star and his aunt, Bonnie Bedelia, was an actress. He learned from a young age how to captivate an audience. Even his younger brother Kieran Culkin had a flair for acting.
Macaulay Culkin first stepped into the limelight when he was just a young boy of four, years old. Even though his professional career seemed promising at the time, he was also too young to comprehend the tough Hollywood life that awaited him.
2. From Theater to the Big Screen
Macaulay Culkin’s first roles were largely theater productions. However, he moved on to television, taking a role in the ’80s drama The Equalizer. After that, he appeared in a made-for-TV movie called The Midnight Hour as an uncredited trick or treater.
Culkin finally reached the big screen in 1989, when he starred in the successful comedy Uncle Buck. In the film, he portrayed the middle son of the Russels. At that point, Culkin could call himself a real movie star. His star power was rising but not everything was perfect.
3. Dad, the Manager
For someone who falls into stardom at such a young age, it is expected that parents will still play a huge role. That is exactly what Macaulay Culkin’s father did. However, Kit Culkin did more than just cheer from the sidelines. He was Macaulay’s manager too.
Kit Culkin could be fairly tough on his son. Macaulay revealed in one interview that his father had an extreme method for memorizing lines. Kit made his son memorize the most complex monologues a script had to offer. Surprisingly, this helped Macaulay shine at every audition. All the hard work would soon pay off too.
4. The Rise to Fame
In 1990, Macaulay hit it big. He scored the role of Kevin McCallister in the now-classic Christmas film Home Alone. But there is much more to this story. Macaulay Culkin was not only a perfect pick for the role; the role was designed for him.
The character of Kevin McCallister was carefully crafted to fit Macaulay’s personality and showcase his best talents. The film put him back on set with many of the same people from Uncle Buck, including director John Hughes. But most importantly, it put him on the map as a true Hollywood Star.
5. Home Alone…and a Hit
With a modest budget of $18 million, Home Alone grossed a total of $476.7 million at the box office and remains a hit to this very day. He was now a star and this was just the start. In 1991, he became first child actor ever to receive $1 million for a single film, for his role as Thomas in My Girl.
At only the age of 12, Macaulay solidified his star power once again with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The film was released in 1992, just two years after the first film took the world by storm. It was also commercial success grossing over $350 million against a $20 million budget. With all the fame, he made many famous friends, but not without controversy.
6. Family Turmoil
As Macaulay Culkin’s childhood career blossomed, his family life seemed to deteriorate more every day. Not only was Macaulay beginning to feel burdened by his father’s demand, but all of it was taking a toll on his parents’ relationship too.
With so much drama going on off-screen, Macaulay tried his best to focus on acting. His was moving at a breakneck pace with new TV shows and movies. The coming years would prove to be a time of experimentation and growth for the young actor. Could he handle it all?
7. Wunderkind of the Screen
In 1992, Macaulay became the voice of Nick McClary in the Saturday morning cartoon Wish Kid, which is about a lucky young boy who catches a shooting star in his baseball mitt. Like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone, the character was molded heavily to fit Macaulay’s best attributes. The show lasted one season and had a total of 13 episodes.
Macaulay seemed to be showing up everywhere. He seemed to be able to do it all and the audiences ate it up. Behind the scenes, though, Macaulay was longing more than anything to live a normal life. This would soon cause conflict with his manager father.
8. Serious Roles
Things got serious in Macaulay’s next role, the 1993 drama The Good Son. He played Henry, a troubled boy whose grisly behavior strikes fear in his cousin. Indeed, the role was quite dark compared to the fun comedy atmosphere of Home Alone.
The movie fared well enough at the box office. Its budget was just $17 million, and it managed to rake in $60 million. Critics, however, were not so enthusiastic. Famed critic Roger Ebert awarded the film a reluctant half star and warned that the film is not suitable for children. Still, Macaulay Culkin trekked on.
9. A Dancer at Heart
Macaulay Culkin also happened to be quite the skillful ballet dancer. He started dancing at a very young age and eventually enrolled at the School of American Ballet in 1993, something that proved to be quite rewarding for him in the future.
The same year, he scored the leading role in a film adaptation of the famed ballet The Nutcracker. This role signaled a new beginning for Macaulay. His life became jam-packed with rehearsals, filming, interviews and all the other trappings of fame. Was this the kind of life Macaulay wanted to live forever?
10. A Productive Year
The year 1994 was a busy year for Macaulay. He starred in three movies that year: The Pagemaster, Richie Rich, and Getting Even with Dad. Hopes were still high for Culkin, even if his last outing with Good Son was less than encouraging. Sadly, none of these films fared too well critically or commercially.
Getting Even with Dad was something of a box office flop, earning just over $18 million of its $30 million budget. The Pagemaster saw similarly grim results, making a little over $13 million against its $27 million budget. Richie Rich did slightly better, nearly making back its $30 million budget. However, critics lambasted the film, citing Macaulay Culkin’s performance as hollow and boring. Alas, Culkin’s early ’90s success seemed to be winding down.
11. Retired as a Teen
When it came to family—his father in particular—not everything was so rosy for Macaulay Culkin. In 1995, the actor’s parents entered a fiery custody battle. His mother, Patricia, argued that Kit’s excessive drinking and questionable behavior made him an unfit parent and family man. Ultimately, Kit lost.
Although his father proved to be an excellent manager for a while, it became to be too much for Macaulay. After appearing in movie after movie without break, the young actor burnt out fast. This put another strain on the relationship with his father. Macaulay found himself estranged from his father and retired as an actor at only 14 years old.
12. Taking a Break
After a rather questionable run in 1994, Macaulay Culkin slowly faded into the backdrop. He did not appear to be bitter or upset because he was more than ready to take a break and just live a normal life for a bit.
For the first time he could remember, he was no longer subject to prodding directors, tight schedules and brooding critics–at least for a little while. He would eventually return to the screen in shocking roles hoping to throw off his cute-kid image. But not before a bit of personal drama first.
13. The King of Pop
Macaulay Culkin was pretty close with the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. In fact, you can spot him in Jackson’s video for “Black or White,” which was released during Culkin’s Home Alone glory days. They became incredibly close friends, to the point of odd speculations.
In 2005, when the news was abuzz about sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, Macaulay revealed to a court that as a child, he had actually spent time at Michael Jackson’s Nederland Ranch several times, even sharing the bed with him.
14. Neverland Ranch
Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch was raided in 2003 amid claims that the pop star had stockpiles of child pornography and had molested children at the location. Over 70 police officers searched the premises and what they found was beyond disturbing. Authorities confiscated numerous items, including a “collection of pornography that included images and footage of naked children and adults, as well as animal torture, bondage, and sadomasochism.”
And this wasn’t the first time that such allegations had been brought against the pop star. In 1993 the father of a 13-year-old boy accused Jackson of sexual abuse. The two parties eventually reached a financial settlement of $23 million. Michael Jackson’s relationship with the boy was eerily similar to that of Macaulay’s…
15. “Don’t Leave Me Alone in the House”
Inside the Neverland Ranch, police found a chilling photo of Macaulay Culkin, signed with the message- “Don’t leave me alone in the house.” However, what could be seen as a desperate cry for help, was simply a Home Alone reference. Macaulay stated in an interview with Larry King that Jackson called him up randomly one day after seeing him on Home Alone and asked him to hang out at the ranch. He said that the two mainly played video games or rode carnival rides, he even slept over on occasion.
Macaulay has emphasized that he was never abused or ever felt uncomfortable or unsafe during the times they were together. Through and through, he refused to let his friend’s reputation be tarnished. At Jackson’s trial in 2005, the singer was acquitted of all 14 charges with the help of his formidable team of lawyers.
16. Growing Up Fast
Although he chose to lie low during his years of inactivity, Macaulay Culkin still had a life to attend to. And there was indeed a lot for him to deal with off screen. In 1998, at the age of 18, the actor married actress Rachel Miner.
Sadly, the marriage did not last. The young pair ultimately divorced in 2002. For much of their marriage, Macaulay shied away from the acting scene. Nonetheless, the world was anxiously waiting to see what the beloved Home Alone star would do next.
17. Trouble with the Law
While Macaulay was glad to lay low following a stressful childhood, it seemed that darker times were on their way. In 2004, the actor would gain media attention for a run-in with the law that would certainly erase his formerly squeaky-clean image.
Police caught Macaulay Culkin in Oklahoma City with a slew of illegal substances on hand. In total, police found 16.5 milligrams of Xanax, 32 milligrams of Klonopin, as well as a little over 17 milligrams of marijuana. Could he go any lower at this point?
18. Deep in Drugs
Macaulay Culkin was arrested after being caught with a considerable number of illegal substances. At this point, the actor risked tarnishing his record with a misdemeanor for the possession of drugs. He spent some time in jail but was ultimately released on a $4,000 bail.
Originally, he pleaded not guilty to the crime. However, he later chose to plead guilty. Consequently, he was slapped with a fine of $540, as well as a one-year delayed prison sentence. This trial went on from October of 2004 to June of 2005. It was during these trying times that Macaulay tried to re-take his place in the acting world.
19. Back to the Stage and to Set
In 2000, Macaulay Culkin returned to acting for the first time in years, but not on the big screen. He re-emerged into the world he had known so well from the beginning: the theater. He scored a part in the play Madame Melville, performed at London’s West End. But this was just the beginning for the actor.
His career would gain momentum in the coming years, especially in 2003 when he made an appearance on the popular television series Will & Grace. Also in 2003, he finally returned to the big screen again in the film Party Monster. Unfortunately, that film proved to be a disaster both critically and commercially. Was it the end of his career for the Home Alone darling?
20. Rumors Flying
While it is true that years ago Macaulay Culkin was caught with a significantly large stash of drugs, the actor maintained that he does not have a problem with drugs himself. Still rumors continue to fly and some have speculated that he was addicted to heroin, a rumor that was sparked when the public saw a particular photo of him in 2012.
In that photo, he looked eerily thin, bones jutting from beneath paper-thin skin. He also appeared to be older than he actually was. Some onlookers speculated that the former child star had turned to drugs following a breakup. Still, the actor denied such allegations.
21. A New Relationship Blooms
As Macaulay Culkin worked hard to make a name for himself as an actor once more, he was also dealing with the pain of his failed marriage. But he soon found himself lovestruck once again, this time with one of the hottest stars of the small screen.
In 2002, Culkin started dating the beautiful Mila Kunis, best known her role on That ’70s Show and for voicing Meg Griffin from Family Guy. The two would remain together for the next several years, as both actor and actress continued to strive for their best.
22. Meanwhile with Mila Kunis
Although the two never married, Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin enjoyed a close relationship, even though they couldn’t always be together. In fact, at one point, Macaulay was residing in New York while she was all the way in California. Still, they provided each other with the emotional support they both needed.
They made it work for a while, until 2011 when they finally decided to break up. While the news came as a shock to many, their relationship never publicly went up in flames. In fact, it was said that the two parted ways amicably and that they still remain good friends to this day.
23. A Long Friendship with Michael Jackson
Over the years, Macaulay Culkin stayed friends with Michael Jackson and remained loyal to him until the very end. When Michael’s daughter Paris was born in 1998, he named Macaulay the godfather. Macaulay was also at the singer’s defense during his child molestation trials.
After advocating so strongly and passionately for Michael Jackson, Macaulay was there until the very end, mourning next to his grave at the singer’s funeral in 2009. Macaulay’s then-girlfriend Mila Kunis was by his side through it all as well. There’s still more ahead about the actor’s life that perhaps you didn’t know.
24. The Loyal Mother
While so much of the Culkin family enjoyed a life on the stage and screen, Macaulay’s mother Patricia Brentrup lived a different kind of life, one that seemed to better fit the family’s modest apartment that they once lived in all together.
Patricia worked as a telephone operator and though they had seven kids together, she never married Kit Culkin. In 2011, she ended up marrying a man she knew from high school. It was at that time that her children saw their mother truly happy.
25. Brothers in Acting
It was already mentioned earlier that Macaulay Culkin grew up in a theater-loving household. Not only was his father an actor. His brother Kieran was an actor too. Kieran was quite the skilled actor and went on to score some respectable roles.
In fact, the brothers even had the opportunity to act together on occasion. In Home Alone, you might remember Kevin McCallister’s cousin, Fuller Mcallister. He wore glasses and was somewhat gawky but nonetheless charming. That was Macaulay’s younger brother Kieran.
26. Acting Again
Macaulay Culkin had to deal with quite a lot as a child. While he had to seem sweet to the public, he also had to watch helplessly as his family fell apart. Some might expect such things to break even the strongest of spirits. And while Culkin did struggle in the early 2000s when he reappeared into the spotlight, he quickly found his footing.
After his film Party Monster failed to grab audiences, he managed to earn some redemption when he starred in Saved! in 2004. The teen comedy-drama was relatively small budget-wise. Still, it attracted a decent audience and even garnered some critical praise. Was Macaulay Culkin finally making a comeback?
27. Indie All the Way
Although Macaulay Culkin’s acting career seemed to be picking up once again, he never really struck it quite as big as he had in the ’90s. That was quite all right. He was enjoying more offbeat roles in independent films. In 2007, he starred in an independent film entitled Sex and Breakfast. He played one of the main characters in this film.
In 2011, he appeared in another independent feature-film called The Wrong Ferrari. This film was unique in that Macaulay got the opportunity to play himself. It was shot in many different places around the world, from Prague to the Jersey Shore. Most impressive, it was shot entirely on an iPhone. What other quirky ventures did this former child star dive into?
28. Time for TV
Along with his appearances in independent films and projects, Macaulay Culkin has also managed to land several roles on notable television shows, starting with Will & Grace in 2003. Just a year later, he made an appearance on the show Foster Hall.
In 2009, he scored a more substantial role in the NBC drama Kings. He appeared in several episodes as the character Andrew Cross, the exiled nephew of a king. Additionally, from 2005 to 2010, Macaulay was involved heavily in the Adult Swim sketch comedy show Robot Chicken.
29. Three Friends and One Apartment
At one point, Macaulay Culkin shared an apartment with two of his close friends, Toby Goodshank and Adam Green. But the three friends did more than just share a trendy and expensive New York apartment. They put their talented minds together and created art.
That is what you get when you combine an actor and two musicians, formerly part of a music group called the Moldy Peaches. Artistic visions run wild. The result? A peculiar but creative art collective called Three Men and a Baby, or 3MB for short.
30. A Family Tragedy
It is no secret that Macaulay Culkin has been through a lot, both personally and professionally. Having to endure a rocky family situation while balancing an acting career as a child was hard enough. Sadly, he found himself shaken with confusion and grief once again in 2008.
That was when Macaulay’s sister Dakota was struck by a car and died at the age of 29. Fortunately for him, he had plenty of support at his side, including his then-girlfriend Mila Kunis. Dakota was the second oldest of the seven Culkin children.
31. Friends in High Places
Michael Jackson was not the only star that Macaulay Culkin rubbed shoulders with over the course of his career. Although he has a reputation for preferring to keep to himself, he still remained close to some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
One of Macaulay Culkin’s closest friends is actually another actress whose career also took off when she was relatively young: the talented Natalie Portman. In fact, Macaulay eagerly attended Portman’s wedding to Benjamin Millepied back when they wed in 2012.
32. The Pizza Craze
It can be argued that it is not his latest television appearances or extensive involvement with indie projects or even his gilded past as a child star that has thrust Macaulay Culkin back into the spotlight. Instead, it was something unexpected, perhaps even silly.
In 2013, Culkin posted a video of himself on YouTube. However, the video was not of his acting or partaking in any kind of clear project. It was just footage of the actor doing something quite mundane: eating a slice of pizza. The quirky video quickly went viral.
33. The Pizza Underground Tour for Real
When viewers saw Culkin’s strange video, which parodied Andy Warhol, they understandably thought the whole thing was a joke. But it turned out that this was just a slice of Macaulay’s next off-beat project. The venture was called The Pizza Underground, a comedy rock band.
The Pizza Underground was definitely real and it was spectacular. The group even went on tour the following year. The ensemble’s first tour stop was Brooklyn and it ensued with hilarity, as you would expect for a band with such a deliciously crazy name.
34. Pizza Gets Booed
But The Pizza Underground was not about to stop in Brooklyn. It turned out that Macaulay and his crew really did have an elaborate tour planned out, and they intended to follow through with it the way any rock band devoted to its fanbase would. A noble sentiment–if fans existed, anyway.
In 2014, The Pizza Underground performed at Rock City in Nottingham, England. Needless to say, the crowd was not exactly pleased with the band’s parody music. The audience ended up booing the band mercilessly. Macaulay, in the middle of a kazoo solo, fled the stage out of rage.
35. The Short-Lived History of The Pizza Underground
Predictably, The Pizza Underground was not as much of a commercial success as Macaulay Culkin might have hoped. Even so, he and his band planned to put out a new album before they broke up for good. Macaulay says the Underground disbanded due to consensus among band members and had nothing to do with the band’s poor reception.
So what kind of music did this revolutionary band play? All of the songs were largely parodies of rock band The Velvet Underground but with all the lyrics changed to be about pizza. The band would not let you forget that it was all about the pizza. They even gave out pizza boxes at their shows.
36. His ‘Autobiography’
Macaulay Culkin has clearly dabbled in more than one artistic medium. He excelled in ballet as a child, but then grew up to find out that he would rather create strange and colorful art and sing in a silly band devoted to pizza. Surely the actor also had a novel up his sleeve.
And a novel he did write, an autobiographical one specifically, entitled Junior. Published in 2006, the book is not exactly your traditional autobiography, in that it does not offer a linear narrative of Culkin’s life. It is much more experimental, although it does offer some genuine glimpses into the life of a young actor and his family life.
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