Macaulay Culkin is maybe the most iconic child star in the history of the entertainment industry. From his first big role as Miles Russell in the John Hughes comedy Uncle Buck with John Candy, Mack, as he likes to be called, had something special. He didn't have to wait long to achieve superstardom, with his next movie being Home Alone, the hit that made him a household name and launched his career. Unfortunately, the true story behind his success isn't as well known, probably because it's a lot darker than anyone could imagine…
While he ruled the pop landscape of the '90s, with multiple roles showcasing his amazing personality and talent, life off-screen wasn't as good. Despite his professional success, Mack dealt with a lot of difficult challenges that were kept private for many years. No one knew about his rocky relationship with his father, as well as other family drama, and how these problems were also interestingly connected to how he was able to become so popular. This article will examine the reality behind the celebrity and try to understand why Mack disappeared from the limelight...
Macaulay Culkin was born on August 26, 1980 in New York City as the third of seven children. His mother, Patricia Brentrup, was originally from North Dakota and is of German and Norwegian descent. His father, Kit Culkin, was originally from Manhattan and has Irish, German, English, Swiss-German, and French ancestry. But Mack wasn't brought into a normal American family. His aunt, Bonnie Bedelia, was an actress and his dad is a former child actor who worked on Broadway as a theatre player, which is how Macaulay got his start at just 4 years old.
He first experience on stage was in an Off-Broadway production of the New York City Ballet's The Nutcracker. He acted in multiple plays for the next few years before trying his hand at performing in front of the camera. He did a couple small roles on television and then transitioned to the big screen in lesser known movies like Rocket Gibraltar and See You In The Morning. Even in these smaller films Mack was already receiving rave reviews from The New Yorker and The New York Times. It was only a matter of time until...
Everything was going well for the young actor, but that type of early success isn't always easy to achieve. Life for any actor, whether in theatre or Hollywood, comes with a lot of difficult sacrifices and obstacles that can be even more challenging for a young person. But on the bright side, before he was even 10 years old, he was holding his own against one of the best comedic actors in the world, John Candy, in the aforementioned Uncle Buck.
The movie was written and directed by John Hughes, the man behind the films that starred The Brat Pack, a group of young actors he made famous. His most notable movies were Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science. Hughes clearly had an eye for talent, so after Uncle Buck, as he prepared his next project, he knew there was only one kid for the part. Even though he wasn't directing, his script fit Mack's personality perfectly...
Chris Columbus, the director of Home Alone, looked at Mack first before auditioning over 200 other options. By the end of casting, he said no one else even came close. His portrayal of Kevin McCallister helped the movie become a $476.7 million box office hit, with almost $300 million in the U.S. alone. Everything was looking good for the young star, but sadly, issues with his father were about to get worse...
Child stars are required to have a parent or guardian around at all times. Mack's father Kit not only watched over him, but also became his manager and played a huge part in his rise to fame. But at what cost? One of the reasons that Macaulay was so successful was his ability to always be prepared, knowing all his lines and having a well-rounded idea of what was to be expected of him on set...
But surely this type of preparation and discipline didn't come naturally to Mack, who was just a boy. It was actually brought on by his father. Kit was really tough on his son, forcing him to know all of his lines front to back before he even auditioned. While this certainly helped him land all of his roles, it also kept him from enjoying his life off-screen.
Things were going so well for Mack, from the success of Home Alone and its sequel Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, which made over $350 million worldwide, to his dramatic turn as Thomas in My Girl. His casting and payday was record-breaking, seeing as he was the first child star to get paid $1 million for just one part. But as his career exploded, his family suffered.
Despite his parents' relationship falling apart, Macaulay was still able to thrive as an actor. He was soon cast in the Saturday morning cartoon Wish Kid as Nick McClary. He would go on to star in 13 episodes that definitely showcased all of things that made him successful. His star power continued to guide him through multiple performances and audiences couldn't get enough. But drama with his dad was building...
Professional success can only mean so much to a kid, who would much rather have a normal life than work what is essentially a demanding full-time job. For Mack's manager, who also happened to be his father, Macaulay's desire to distance himself from the spotlight didn't go over well. As tension between them escalated, his career suffered, with multiple roles in films, like The Good Son, that failed to perform like his previous hits...
The Good Son saw Mack playing his darkest part yet. He starred as Henry, an evil child who was incredibly different from what audiences expected from the lovable young star. Despite getting paid a salary of $5 million, a deal his dad forced on the studio by threatening to pull him off the Home Alone sequel, the movie got bad reviews, making just $60 million. His luck was changing...
Mack got his start in theatre, and as his Hollywood career shifted, he wanted to return to his roots. After studying at the School of American Ballet, he starred in the movie adaptation of The Nutcracker, going full circling from his first part ever in the same production when he was 4. As happy as he was to land the part, it meant his already busy schedule would get even crazier...
The AV Club
On top of starring in The Nutcracker, Macaulay also got cast in three other movies, none of which were able to achieve the success of his previous films. Sadly, they didn't even make back their production budgets. The Pagemaster only brought it $13 million, Richie Richie made $30 million, and Getting Even With Dad received just $18 million. And if this wasn't bad enough, they were all poorly reviewed.
Flickr - Alan Light
His career wasn't the only thing that was suffering, his family situation also got worse as his parents began battling over who would have custody of young Mack. His father's alcoholism and subsequent bad behavior caused him to lose power over Macaulay, which immediately gave Mack the option to finally step away from the insane lifestyle he'd been forced to endure for the majority of his life.
While most actors do everything they can to maintain their fame, Mack was happy to retire at just 14 years old. His dad had run him ragged from movie after movie with no breaks for almost a decade straight. But this didn't necessarily mean that he would disappear from the public eye completely. At least not for a little while, thanks to his friendship with...
The King of Pop and Macaulay Culkin had a very famous and unconventional friendship. Mack starred in his video for Black or White, and even spent the night with Jackson at his home The Neverland Ranch. It was later revealed in court documents from an interview with Culkin that Mack had even shared a bed with him multiple times, something Michael would come under fire for from others who'd had similar experiences.
Michael Jackson was notoriously accused of alleged instances of sexual assault involving minors. His home was raided in 2003 and authorities found some shocking things, leading to a trail that would take place a couple years later. He had been previously accused of child molestation, settling with the family out of court for $23 million. It was inevitable that Mack would be associated with this stuff considering his similarities to the kids...
As Michael's most well-known young friend, Mack would be connected to the pop star throughout the trial and beyond. He told Larry King that Jackson had called him after watching Home Alone and invited him to come over, which Macaulay did many times. He claims he was never abused, and did everything he could to speak on his friend's behalf. Jackson was eventually acquitted of all 14 charges.
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If his exhausting career wasn't hard enough, the Michael Jackson drama was surely the final straw in causing Mack to try to get as far away from celebrity life as he could. He had said during his parents' custody battle that he wouldn't take any roles for a while, and he didn't. But in 1998, at just 18 years old, he married actress Rachel Miner. Sadly, they were only together for a few years.
The Smoking Gun
Following his divorce from Miner, 22-year-old Mack's life began to get darker than anyone could have imagined. While he spent most of his life being perceived as a squeaky-clean kid, people were about to see another side of him. In 2004, he was arrested in Oklahoma City after being caught with 16.5 milligrams of Xanax, 32 milligrams of Klonopin and 17 milligrams of marijuana. His fans were shocked.
After spending some time in jail, he was released on $4,000 bail and charged with a misdemeanor for the possession of illegal substances. He initially plead not guilty, but later switched and was fined $540. Despite being able to get away relatively unscathed, aside from a trial that lasted almost a year, his reputation was forever changed in the eyes of everyone who had grown up loving him.
Flickr - Macaulay Culkin
Amidst his legal troubles, Mack somehow found it in him to go back to acting. But not in movies, something that had become so toxic to him throughout his career, he instead chose to return to the theatre, where his career began so many years ago. He landed a role in Madame Melville at London's West End and this was enough to remind why he started acting in the first place...
Mack would go on to roles on the big and small screen, with a guest appearance on the hit TV show Will & Grace and a lead performance in the controversial 2003 indie film Party Monster. It was based on the true story of Michael Alig, played by Culkin, a Club Kid party organizer whose life was sent spiraling down when he bragged on television about killing his drug dealer and roommate.
Sadly, Party Monster bombed with both audiences and critics, putting an abrupt end to his comeback. His life off-screen would take a similar turn. Following his previously discussed drug bust, he's had to fight the assumption that he has a substance abuse problem, with some even accusing him of being a heroin addict. Many of these concerns were seemingly confirmed by a shocking photo of the actor.
Despite the rumors that he was spiraling out of control, Mack was able to maintain a decent amount of balance in his person life, even landing a new relationship with another celebrity. Mila Kunis had made a name for herself on That '70s Show and Family Guy, on which she voiced the role of Meg Griffin. The couple started dating in 2002 and they couldn't have been happier until...
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Mack and Mila were together for almost a decade, with some difficult time spent living across the country from each other. Mila was in Los Angeles, living the life of a working actress, and Mack was in New York, as far away from Hollywood as possible. They made it work as well as they could, but eventually broke up in 2011 on amicable terms. They remained good friends long after their relationship ended.
While Mack's father spent his life in the entertainment industry, essentially forcing his son to do the same, Macaulay's mother lived differently than the rest of the family, many of whom also wanted to act. She once worked as a telephone operator and spent most of her time in the family's New York City apartment raising her kids. After leaving Kit years before, she later married a childhood friend.
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Speaking of Mack's siblings, his brother Kieran, who also got his start in the theatre, became a successful actor himself. One of his first big movie roles was opposite his older bro in Home Alone, playing Fuller Mcallister, Kevin's cousin. He and their younger brother Rory have both gone on to have great careers, playing parts in a number of commercially and critically successful films.
Mack would eventually try acting again, this time taking a supporting role in Saved!, an indie dramedy starring Mandy Moore as a girl at a Christian high school who gets pregnant. His performance was well-received, cementing his interest in smaller films like Sex and Breakfast and The Wrong Ferrari, in which he played himself. It was shot all over the world using only an iPhone. Mack was back, or was he?
At the beginning of his career he went from television to movies, as most actors aspire to do, but later on he found himself doing the opposite. After a few films, he worked on multiple TV shows, including the small screen movie Foster Hall, the NBC drama Kings, and Adult Swim's Robot Chicken. He was involved with the latter for five years.
At this point in his life, he decided to move into a hip and pricey New York City apartment with two of his good buddies, musicians Adam Green and Toby Goodshank. What started as a simple living situation turned into a creative project, seeing the three form a trio called the Moldy Peaches. Together they created an art collective known as 3MB, or Three Men and a Baby.
Facebook - @TheCulkins
While he spent much of his chaotic childhood working, he always tried to maintain positive relationships with his seven siblings. It's clear that Mack's life has been filled with ups and downs, with one of the worst moments happening in 2008 when, at just 29 years old, his sister Dakota tragically passed away after being hit by a car.
Throughout all of the drama that he's endured over the course of his hectic career and troubled personal life, Mack has been able to turn to family and friends, some of whom happen to also be celebrities. While he's known for his relationship with Michael Jackson, he's also very close with Natalie Portman. He was even at her 2012 wedding to Benjamin Millepied.
Dabbling in music with his previously discussed art project 3MB, Mack showed he could be creative outside of acting. The way he chose to introduce his next move was one of the most interesting in his career. Out of nowhere, in 2013, he posted a video on YouTube of himself simply eating a slice of pizza. And the odd Andy Warhol parody went viral…
What first seemed like a joke, actually turned out to be a preview of his new project The Pizza Underground. The comedic rock band got its name from The Velvet Underground, a legendary group led by Lou Reed. Mack and the crew announced a tour where they would travel around and perform covers of their namesake's most popular songs, but with the original lyrics replaced with pizza references…
The music was met with mixed reviews. Some loved the quirky idea but others didn't seem to get it. Their shows, which saw them occasionally passing out pizza boxes, started in Brooklyn and took them overseas to London, where a disastrous performance marked the groups low point. While they achieved a decent amount of success, the band eventually broke up. But they insist it was on good terms.
Mack didn't stop at acting and music, he also got really into writing. He's said in interviews that he writes often, from prose to poetry, starting all the way back in 2006 when he published an autobiography called Junior. The experimental book offered a non-linear account of his life, allowing him to discuss and expand on many of the things he'd been through.
While he's avoided acting for the most part, he still starred in some commercials. Mack has helped promote products like Sprite and Aviva Insurance. He even starred with computer-generated animals in an ad for Compare the Market where he plays a hitchhiker picked up by meerkats as they travel across the American desert in a Winnebago.
While he spent most of his life in New York City, he also fell in love with Paris, France, where he’s lived part-time since 2013. It's not hard to imagine why, seeing as he's still incredibly famous in the U.S., where he must struggle with trying to live outside of the spotlight. Paris is where he doesn't have to worry about any of that.
He made it clear at an early age that he wasn’t interested in the celebrity existence, instead choosing to distance himself from his fame. For many years nobody really knew what he was up to, aside from occasionally popping up in all of the random ways that have been discussed in this article. But finally, just this year, Mack emerged in a major way with some exciting news...
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Mack recently launched Bunny Ears, a website that he uses as a lifestyle blog with advice, style tips, recipes, spiritual guidance and even a podcast. He appeared on multiple talk shows to promote the project where he caught everyone up on what he’s been doing since mostly stepping away from the public eye. It’s definitely nice to have him back.