At the height of his fame, Macaulay Culkin was regarded as one of the greatest child actors since Shirley Temple. But after starring in more than 15 projects before he was 14 years old, Macaulay faced serious burnout and left Hollywood for nearly a decade.
Despite his time away from the spotlight, he still made headlines — mostly for the wrong reasons. From his parents’ nasty custody battle to his odd relationship with Michael Jackson, read about the controversial life of one of our favorite child stars and see where he is today. Macaulay has even opened up about what really happened at Neverland Ranch.
Macaulay Culkin Was Destined For Stardom
Photo Credit: Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images
Macaulay Culkin was born on August 26, 1980, in New York City. He was raised by his father Kit, and his mother Patricia, although the two were never married. Kit was a Broadway star, and Macaulay’s aunt, Bonnie Bedelia, was an actress.
With acting in his blood, Culkin began appearing in various roles on stage as early as four years old. Macaulay’s career showed promise almost immediately, and soon enough, he would transition from the stage to the big screen.
Macaulay Lands Bigger Roles
Photo Credit: Archive Photos / Stringer
Macaulay started his acting career in various theater productions but soon transitioned to television and film. He starred in the ‘80s television series The Equalizer as well as a made-for-TV movie, The Midnight Hour.
In 1988, Macaulay made his big-screen debut in the drama Rocket Gibraltar. His performances led to more roles the following years including See You In the Morning and the family-favorite, Uncle Buck. All of this was preparing him for the role that would put him on the map.
Home Alone Changed Everything for Macaulay
Photo Credit: Hughes Entertainment/20th Century Fox
By 1990, 10-year-old Macaulay had already been acting for six years, but everything would soon change with the release of Home Alone. He scored the lead role of Kevin McCallister in what is now considered an iconic Christmas classic.
The film put Macaulay on the map and solidified him as a true Hollywood star. The move was a huge success, pulling in a whopping $476.7 million with an $18 million budget. Interestingly enough, the writers and directors of Home Alone specifically designed the character of Kevin McCallister to fit Macaulay’s personality.
Macaulay Was The First Child Actor To Make $1 Million For a Film
Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Contributor
With the immense success of Home Alone, Macaulay was in demand in Hollywood. The following year he starred in My Girl alongside Anna Chlumsky and earned a cool $1 million for his role.
Macaulay had no time to slow down as filming for Home Alone 2: Lost In New York started in 1992. The sequel cost $20 million to make, and although it didn’t pull in quite as much as the first, it was still a commercial success, earning $359 million. Macaulay Culkin was arguably the busiest child actor in the business — and his schedule was about to get more hectic!
Shifting To More Serious Roles
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
In 1993, Macaulay took on a role that was unlike any role he had done before. He starred alongside Elijah Wood in The Good Son, where he played Henry, a troubled boy who terrorizes his cousin.
Although Macaulay was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain, the movie didn’t do as well as expected thanks to its graphic nature and mature themes. Still, Macaulay’s career didn’t slow down, and he starred in three films the following year: Getting Even with Dad, The Pagemaster, and Richie Rich.
Macaulay Takes a Break From Hollywood for Nearly a Decade
Photo Credit: Eric Robert/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images
Macaulay starred in 15 films in a seven-year period. That’s a lot for any actor but is particularly mind-blowing when you consider that he was between seven and fourteen years old during that time.
After wrapping up filming for Richie Rich in 1994, he found himself longing for a “normal life.” He decided to take a break from his career and enrolled in a private high school in Manhattan. Over the next decade, Macaulay remained relatively off the radar. Soon, however, he would find himself in headlines for his unique friendship with Michael Jackson.
Macaulay Culkin and The King of Pop
Photo Credit: splendaas/ Twitter
Macaulay Culkin and Michael Jackson’s friendship was nothing short of controversial. He became friends with the then-middle-aged superstar around the time the first Home Alone movie was released. The two became close, spending lots of time together, and Culkin even appeared in Jackson’s music video for “Black and White.”
People couldn’t help but think that the odd friendship was inappropriate, considering the stark age difference between the pair. When Jackson was accused of sexual abuse and child molestation, things only got more intense. Many speculated that Jackson had sexually abused Macaulay. In 2003, Macaulay testified at Jackson’s trial.
Macaulay Testified at Michael Jackson’s Hearing
Photo by AFP / Pool
Macaulay and Michael Jackson remained friends until Jackson’s death in 2009. When Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation in 2003, Macaulay spoke at Jackson’s trial.
During his testimony, he admitted that he had slept in Jackson’s bedroom on numerous occasions, but that the bedroom was arranged over two stories and nothing inappropriate happened. In another statement, the child star referred to the allegations as “absolutely ridiculous.” Jackson was eventually acquitted, but rumors swirled that he had bribed Macaulay to keep quiet about their inappropriate relationship. Macaulay finally opened up about his time at Neverland Ranch in 2018.
Macaulay Culkin Opens Up About His Time at Neverland Ranch
Photo Credit: babayoungblood/ Twitter
Macaulay has always led a private life. But he opened up about his time at Neverland Ranch in 2018 when he was a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast. During the interview, Macaulay said, “He enjoyed my youthfulness. He liked being a kid with me. It never struck me as odd. I never felt uncomfortable. That was just the way he was.”
Macaulay added that following the trial, Jackson didn’t want to go back home because everything in his life felt tainted. “That was what happened with that last trial [in 2005], everything felt tainted,” Macaulay said. “The only thing that was important to him was his immediate family.”
Caught In The Middle
Photo Credit: Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images
Throughout his early career, Macaulay’s father Kit had acted as his manager. Macaulay’s career was undoubtedly successful, but his dad subjected him to extreme methods for memorizing lines and rehearsing to “help” him succeed.
Soon, Macaulay found himself in the middle of a custody battle. In 1995, his parents decided to split up. While Patricia claimed that Kit’s drinking had gotten out of hand, Kit said he was fine. In the end, the court ruled that Kit’s excessive drinking and abusive behavior made him unfit as a parent. Patricia won the custody battle and Macaulay became estranged from his father. Unfortunately for Macaulay and the rest of the Culkin family, the drama didn’t end there.
His Parents’ Custody Battle Almost Cost Him Millions
Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz / Contributor
Macaulay may have played Richie Rich, but his own fortune was in danger thanks to his parents. During his parents’ nasty custody battle, Macaulay’s net worth — which was estimated to be around $17 million — was right in the middle.
In court papers, entertainment lawyer Kenneth Weinrib wrote that the Culkin’s were quickly running out of money and could no longer pay their rent. With Macaulay’s fortune, rumors swirled they were vying to get their hands on his bank account. But because Macaulay was a minor at the time, lawyers needed court clearance to spend a single dollar of his money. In the end, Macaulay’s trust was put in the hands of the family accountant until he reached adulthood.
Macaulay Got Married at 18
Photo Credit: Steve Granitz/Contributor / Dimitrios Kambouris/Staff
Macaulay Culkin is notoriously private about his personal life, especially when it comes to romantic partners. But in 1998, he turned heads when he married Rachel Miner. The two were both just 18-years-old. Miner, an actress, made her debut in Woody Allen’s Alice and earned critical acclaim in 2001’s Bully.
Their relationship didn’t last long and the two separated in 2000 and were divorced by 2002. Just a few months later, Macaulay started dating That ‘70s Show actress, Mila Kunis. The couple dated for nearly nine years before calling it quits, but remain close friends. Mila even showed her support for Macaulay and attended Michael Jackson’s funeral with him.
Drug Possession and Stint In Jail
Photo Credit: AFP / Stringer
By 2004, Macaulay had been out of the spotlight for years. He began making headlines for all the wrong reasons, mainly his legal issues. In September of that year, he was arrested in Oklahoma City for possessing more than 17 grams of marijuana and two controlled substances.
He spent a brief time in jail before being released on $4,000 bail. In a later court appearance, he pled not guilty to the misdemeanor drug offenses, but late reversed his plea to guilty. He got off relatively easy, receiving just a one-year suspended prison sentence and minimal fees.
Macaulay Returns To Acting
Photo Credit: United Artists / MGM Distribution Co.
After nearly a decade-long break, Macaulay returned to television in 2003, making a guest appearance on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace. It seemed he was ready to take a deep-dive into acting again, and later that year played a drug-addicted murderer in Party Monster.
Soon after, Macaulay had a supporting role in Saved! His portrayal of a wheelchair-bound, atheist high school student at a Christian academy received rave reviews and showed that Macaulay was more than just a child star. That same year he also tested the waters of other creative projects, appearing in a South Youth music video and doing voice-over work in Robot Chicken. Despite his on-screen success, Macaulay was still struggling with family issues.
Macaulay Is Still Estranged From His Dad
Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images
Following his parents’ divorce, Macaulay became estranged from his father. In 2006 he revealed the sad details about their rocky relationship in his novel Junior. Then in 2018, Macaulay appeared on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast and opened up about their strained relationship.
“We didn’t like each other,” Macaulay said. “He was a bad man. He was abusive, physically and mentally. I can show you all my scars if you want to. He was a bad dude.” In the interview, Macaulay said his father’s abuse wasn’t limited to him. He abused the rest of his family as well and admitted that forgiveness is tough. Sadly, the Culkin family drama continued to mount, until they experienced a tragic death in 2008.
Dakota Culkin’s Tragic Death
Photo Credit: Sarah Guerrier / Twitter
In 2008, Macaulay’s older sister Dakota was killed after stepping in front of a car in Los Angeles. She was rushed to the hospital but ultimately succumbed to her massive head injuries and passed away on December 10th.
Dakota, who was born one year before Macaulay, had been drinking with friends when she was struck outside of Brennan’s, an Irish bar. This was especially devastating to the family, as Macaulay’s half-sister, Jennifer, died of an overdose a few years prior. Soon, it was rumored that Macaulay had a drug problem of his own.
A Suspected Drug Problem
Photo Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage for Turner Networks
At this point, Macaulay was considered a wild card. Between his early family, dad drama, prior arrest, and relationship with Michael Jackson, no one was sure what he would do next. But when pictures of Macaulay emerged in 2012, people couldn’t help but noticed his sunken cheekbones and disheveled appearance.
Although the star was 32 at the time, he appeared much older. Some speculated that he turned to drugs due to his family issues and his break-up with Mila Kunis.
Up next: see what Macaulay is up to today!
Photo Credit: Daniel Boczarski / Contributor
In 2014, Macaulay reemerged in the spotlight, only this time for music. Along with five friends, he started a band called The Pizza Underground. The comedy rock band performed parodies of Velvet Underground songs around Brooklyn before taking their talents abroad.
While we’re sure the band was very talented in their own right, the crowd didn’t agree and began booing the group at a Rock City show. Thanks to the band’s poor reception, they decided to split for good.
Macaulay Culkin Today
Photo Credit: Robert Kamau/GC Images
Today, Macaulay appears happy and healthy. He’s still working as an actor and starred in the 2015 film Adam Green’s Aladdin and was a guest star on eight episodes of The Jim Gaffigan Show. Most recently, he has been working on an upcoming comedy-drama written and directed by Seth Green, called Changeland.
For the last five years, Culkin has mainly been living in Paris, but still spends lots of time in New York. And while he still occasionally turns up in a tabloid, Macaulay says “I’m a retired 30-something, walking around with a baguette tucked under my arm, living the romantic life.”
He and Paris Jackson Are Close
Macaulay and Michael Jackson were so close that Jackson made him Paris’ godfather. Today, Macaulay and Paris share a tight-knit bond and spend lots of time together. The two even have matching spoon tattoos!
Macaulay is fiercely protective when it comes to Paris. In an interview with Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, he said “I am close with Paris,” when asked about their friendship. ‘I’m going to warn you now I am very protective of her so just look out,’ he added. “I am a very open book when it comes to things but like with her, she is beloved by me.”