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Macaulay Culkin in 'The Pagemaster'
Image via 20th Century Studios

What happened to Macaulay Culkin?

Macaulay Culkin is best known for playing Kevin McAllister in the 'Home Alone' films. But what has the former child star been up to since?

While the holiday season usually boasts a blockbuster or two that viewers flock to the theatres to see, there is one movie that many people are guaranteed to watch every year. That movie is Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin.

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He was catapulted to stardom after the success of Home Alone and a few other hit movies but then seemed to disappear from the spotlight. So, what happened to him? Let’s start at the beginning.

Who is Macaulay Culkin?

Macaulay Culkin, wearing black glasses, smiles for the camera.
Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center

Culkin was born on Aug. 26, 1980, to Christopher Cornelius “Kit” Culkin, a former child star on Broadway, and Patricia Brentrup. The fourth child of eight, Culkin began acting in television and film at the age of four in projects like The Midnight Hour, The Equalizer, Rocket Gibraltar, and See You in the Morning. It wasn’t until he landed the role of Miles Russell opposite the late John Candy in Uncle Buck that he began to hit it big.

Director John Hughes loved Culkin’s performance so much that Culkin inspired Hughes’ next blockbuster comedy, Home Alone. It’s reported that Hughes wrote the screenplay with Culkin in mind and always knew that the young star was going to play Kevin McCallister.

Culkin’s portrayal of Kevin was so good that Home Alone broke box office records, turning Culkin into a big-name star overnight.

The transition was a lot for young Culkin, who received a $110,000 paycheck for the film. Riding off of that success, he starred in an animated TV series called Wish Kid in 1991, which ran for almost a whole year on NBC before its finale in 1992. He then returned to star in the Home Alone sequel, Lost in New York, to the tune of $4.5 million. The film was a success despite its mixed reviews and went on to become the third highest-grossing film of 1992.

The peak and decline of Macaulay Culkin’s career

Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin, both wearing black, sit together and look at the camera.
Photo by Chris Polk/FilmMagic

Twice proving that he could carry a film, Culkin returned to the screen in the thriller The Good Son. The film did okay but wasn’t able to carry Culkin to the same heights as the Home Alone films. After that, he continued to try making a name for himself while his stardom was still relevant, snagging leading roles in films like Getting Even with Dad, The Pagemaster, and Richie Rich, all of which were released in 1994 and performed horribly at the box office.

After that, Culkin grew tired of acting and decided that he would retire for a while. 

“I was tired of it, to be honest. I did like 14 movies in six years or something like that,” Culkin said in a 2018 interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I was away from home a lot. I was away from school. I needed something else… It was the smartest thing I could have possibly done, was to take eight years off.” 

While at the time, his desire and decision to step out of the spotlight may have not been completely understood by the public, it makes total sense with what we know now. With the rise of child stars through “family vlogging”, people are becoming more aware of the consequences that are associated with fame at a young age.

Culkin’s unfortunate circumstances at home

Culkin wasn’t able to fully enjoy his downtime, however, as drastic changes in his family life began to occupy most of his time. People reports that according to Culkin himself, his father was abusive and often violent during his childhood. He was also in total control of Culkin’s finances.

In an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast in 2018, Culkin spoke candidly about what he had to deal with at the hands of his father. He shared “My father was jealous of me. He was a bad man. He was abusive. Everything he tried to do in life, I excelled at before I was 10 years old.”

According to Marca, after Culkin retired from acting, he began to mistrust his parents’ “good intentions” to watch over his money and eventually took them to court to block them from controlling his trust fund. At the time this fund was reported to be between $15 and $20 million. The media ran wild with the story, claiming that Culkin had divorced or emancipated himself from his parents, which would have made him the first teen actor to publicly do so.

Years later, Culkin elaborated on the rumors, denying that he ever got emancipated. Instead, he explained that he had simply removed his parents’ name from his trust fund and filed an executor to manage his money for him. His reason? 

“Just in case anyone wanted to stick their f***ing pinky in the pie,” he explained in a 2020 interview with Esquire. “But the next thing you know, the story was that I divorced my parents. I just thought I was doing it cleanly — taking my father’s name off, taking my mum’s name off.”

It was reported at the time that his parents, Kit and Patricia, were pocketing 15 percent of his paychecks.

Culkin’s return to acting

Macaulay Culkin is standing in an office in Will & Grace.
Image via IMDb

After almost nine years away from Hollywood, Culkin began his long-awaited return to acting with a guest appearance on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace as Karen Walker’s deceptively immature divorce lawyer in 2003. He returned to the big screen with the film Party Monster, in which he played the role of a drug-using murderer and party promoter.

The next year, he was cast in a supporting role in the 2004 religious satirical comedy Saved! as a cynical non-Christian student in a conservative high school alongside America’s sweetheart at the time, Mandy Moore.

According to CNN, around that same time, Culkin was arrested for marijuana possession and prescription pills, to which he eventually pleaded guilty. The news was not necessarily a shock to fans who already knew of his alleged substance abuse thanks to the tabloids, and though it added to his somewhat “bad boy” image, the bad press also put a damper on his resurgence. 

Between 2004 and 2006, Culkin signed on to various projects, including voiceover work in Seth Green’s Robot Chicken and a leading role in the dark comedy Sex and Breakfast. About two years later, Culkin once again returned to television to play the role of Andrew Cross in the 13-episode NBC television series Kings.

After a few appearances in TV ads for insurance and a return to his role as Kevin McCallister in an advertisement for Google Assistant in 2018, Culkin once again disappeared into obscurity.

What is Macaulay Culkin doing now?

Macaulay Culkin has a confused look on his face scene in Dollface.

After 2018, Culkin decided to take advantage of the new social media age by launching his first comedy website and podcast called Bunny Ears. In 2019, he snagged himself a supporting role in a film made by his friend Seth Green alongside fellow child star Brenda Song. It’s ironic that the film was called Changeland, because during production, Culkin’s life changed forever.

He began dating Song during filming, and the two have been together ever since. In mid-2021, Song gave birth to the couple’s first son, Dakota Song Culkin, named after Macaulay’s late sister, Dakota. The couple got engaged in January of 2022 and, in 2023, it was confirmed that they quietly welcomed a second baby into the world.

Despite unfair speculation that Culkin had gone off the deep end, Song confirms that he is a great guy. “People don’t realize how incredibly kind and loyal and sweet and smart he is,” Song gushed about her boyfriend to Esquire. “Truly what makes Mack so special is that he is so unapologetically Mack. He knows who he is, and he’s 100 percent okay with that. And that to me is an incredibly sexy quality. He’s worked really hard to be the person he is.”

Culkin recently returned to the acting circuit in the tenth season of American Horror Story: Double Feature in 2021 and the second season of The Righteous Gemstones the following year. Both roles were critically praised, a testament to his continued skill.

On December 1, 2023, Culkin’s acting career was celebrated with him receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Both his wife and son were in attendance, and Culkin made an adorably sweet tribute to Song. It’s great to see Culkin’s legacy of great work commemorated in such a special way!

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