Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Home Alone and My Girl
Currently Known For:
“One of the Greatest Child Stars of All Time” and Sudden Departure from the Spotlight
August 26, 1980
Home Alone and My Girl
“If you want to get into an argument with an artist, ask them what art is. If you want to make an actor feel uncomfortable, ask them what they’re doing next.” The first young actor to ever earn $1 million for a film thanks to the incredible success of My Girl in 1991, Macaulay Culkin still graces the top of every “greatest child actor” list in the industry even at 37 years old. Known for silver screen hits like Uncle Buck, Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, many argue that Culkin was destined for Hollywood especially since his father was a well-known Broadway actor named Kit Culkin. With his father introducing all seven of his children to the theater, Culkin, who was born on August 26, 1980, spent much of his childhood around the stage before his own interests in acting took him from St. Joseph’s School of Yorkville to the Professional Children’s School and the School of American Ballet.
Completely captivated by acting, Culkin was four years old when he made his acting debut with the New York Philharmonic in their production of Bach Babies. He added a handful of credits in Off-Broadway shows, television series and films like The Midnight Hour, The Equalizer, Wish Kid, Rocket Gibraltar and See You in the Morning throughout the late 1980s, most of which earned him rave reviews in publications like The New York Times and The New Yorker. Then, in 1989, he caught a huge break when John Hughes cast him opposite John Candy in Uncle Buck. Thanks to Culkin’s performance, Hughes became an instant fan and wrote his next film with Culkin in mind—that film was none other than Home Alone. Ironically, although Hughes knew the young actor was perfect for the part of Kevin McCallister, filmmaker Chris Columbus auditioned five other children until a meeting with Culkin in New York confirmed Hughes’ intuitions: Culkin was Kevin McCallister!
With Home Alone becoming the highest-grossing live action comedy film of all time in the United States, the film marked the 10-year-old Culkin’s breakthrough as he earned a Golden Globe Award nomination and took home a handful of awards including a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor, a Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Emerging Actor and an American Comedy Award for Funniest Actor. Before reprising his role in the 1992 sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Culkin stunned critics when his $100,000 salary from Home Alone skyrocketed to $1 million for his work on the 1991 coming-of-age film, My Girl.
Taking home an MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss on My Girl, Culkin guest-hosted Saturday Night Live and went on to appear in flicks like The Good Son, The Nutcracker, Getting Even with Dad and Richie Rich but failed to find the same success he enjoyed in his early career. “I just remember the exact point when I was growing a little more tired, during The Good Son,” Culkin recalled. “I had already done one or two things that year, and I just said to Kit, ‘Listen, I’m really getting tired and I’m not at school as much as I’d like to be. I really need some time off.’ He said, ‘Yeah, sure’ and the next thing I knew, I was on the next set doing the next thing and it just kind of clicked in my brain: ‘Okay. There’s basically nothing I can do to make this stop.’”
By the new millennium, Culkin figured out a way to make things stop and became legally emancipated from his parents. The court’s decision put his $17 million fortune back in his hands and took Culkin away from Kit’s watchful eye, which Culkin mentioned in a 2004 interview. “My father was overbearing, very controlling. He was always the way he is, even before my success. He was not always a good person. He’d play mind games to make sure I knew my place. I don’t see him, which is unfortunate. But I don’t have any desire to see him. I vaguely known where he is, and I don’t want to know. As long as he’s not standing outside my doorstep, I’m fine.”
Ultimately running away from fortune, fame and his father, Culkin stopped making films but found himself in even bigger headlines after he married actress Rachel Miner in 1998. Only 17 years old at the time, the couple separated in 2000 and divorced in 2002 just as Culkin started dating actress Mila Kunis. During this time, his friendship with the legendary Michael Jackson also took center stage as the two bonded over the hardships caused by their fathers. “Michael and I had an understanding about my father,” Culkin said. “He knew what that was all about. He’d lived it. it’s not like I can just bump into people on the street and say, ‘Oh! You too!’ It doesn’t happen that often. Michael’s still a kid. I’m still a kid. We’re both going to be about eight years old forever in some place because we never had a chance to be eight when we actually were. That’s kind of the beautiful and the cursed part of our lives.”
Like Jackson, Culkin created his own rules for stardom and sporadically returned to Hollywood with minor appearances in television series like Will & Grace, Robot Chicken and Kings. Also getting into a bit of legal trouble for drug possession in 2004, Culkin stepped even further away from the spotlight until starting his own rock band in 2013 known as The Pizza Underground. With the band often booed during performances, they split in 2016 as Culkin moved to France where he still lives today on the fortune he earned decades ago. “It’s allowed me to become the person I am, and I like me, so I wouldn’t change a thing,” Culkin says of his early fame. “Not having to do anything for my dinner, financially, let’s me treat every gig like it’s the last. If it is the last, I’d think: Culkin, you had a good run.”
Today, the 37-year-old Culkin continues to live by his own rules and, much like his Home Alone character, is still full of surprises as he returns to the silver screen in Changeland in 2018. Coincidentally, the project also introduced Culkin to his current girlfriend, actress Brenda Song. Beyond the film and his new relationship, Culkin says he’s just trying to figure out what really makes him happy. “I try to figure out what makes me happy and not in a superficial way. I keep my soul fit… I’m very much at peace lately.”