Macaulay Culkin was decidedly one of the most beloved and iconic child stars in his heyday. Dominating the ’90s, most notably with his performance as young vigilante Kevin McCallister in the first two Home Alone films, Culkin could have lived in our heads forever solely on the strength of his role as a stranded, smirking troublemaker. And all this was after he had already played (uncredited but memorably) Tim Robbins’ dead son in Jacob’s Ladder and one of the kids John Candy was incompetently trying to babysit in another John Hughes comedy classic, Uncle Buck.
As a child star — and Culkin is among the most iconic — he had a few more notable entries in film. First, he appeared playing the doomed first love for Anna Chlumsky in 1991’s extremely successful My Girl. It’s too bad he was too old in 1999 to play Cole in The Sixth Sense, because he already had played a dead kid twice by this point and probably would have been a shoo-in for a kid who can talk to ghosts.
The latter part of his childhood acting career didn’t yield quite as many hits, although certainly he appeared in some notable roles. Fully embracing his murderous nature first hinted at in the Home Alone films, he appeared as the psychopathic cousin to Elijah Wood in 1993’s critical disappointment The Good Son. And although The Pagemaster was a box office failure in 1994, there’s a bit of a cult following for him in the movie’s lead, playing a shy left-brained child who finds himself trapped by a storm in a library where he has to deal with classic literary characters come to life in order to get through the night.
It was 1994’s Richie Rich, where he played the titular insanely rich kid from the comic books, that firmly put an end to his child acting career — although we’d love to see a modern-day sequel where he returns as the character with more of a Succession vibe. Getting nominated for three Razzie awards for all of the films you did in one year (the third was the completely forgettable Getting Even With Dad) can be a bit dispiriting to be sure. Culkin chose to retire from the spotlight for a while and went about trying to live a more or less normal life.
Culkin attended a private school for a few years and other than an appearance in a video by the NYC legendary art-rock band Sonic Youth, he kept a low profile. Eventually, the acting bug struck him again and he first reappeared on camera to favorable response as a lawyer on the popular NBC sitcom Will and Grace before claiming the lead in 2003’s film Party Monster, playing a drug-addled party promoter whose run of dangerous fun ended in murder. Afterward, he largely appeared in smaller parts in indie films and in a few TV series, including some voice-over work for the animated satire show Robot Chicken where, of course, he had some fun at the expense of his Kevin McCallister character.
Trying on different hats, Culkin also wrote an experimental sorta-kinda autobiographical novel called Junior in 2006, messed around on YouTube a bit as himself in a series of videos, launched a comedy website and podcast called Bunny Ears, posted the tenth most-liked tweet of all time (“Hey guys, wanna feel old? I’m 40. You’re Welcome.”) and started a pizza-themed comedy rock band called The Pizza Underground, which culminated with him angrily leaving a show after the audience showed their lack of appreciation for his kazoo solo by tossing their drinks at him.
The once ubiquitous but still legendary child star recently had a run on the tenth season of “American Horror Story” to quite a bit of critical praise, playing a homeless meth addict/wannabe writer whose addictions lead to a dark demise. But probably nothing got him more attention than his return to playing Kevin McCallister in a 2018 ad for Google Assistant that went ridiculously viral.
So what’s next for Culkin? Other than being a new dad, he recently pointed out to fans on his Twitter that he’s decidedly not involved in the new Home Alone reboot. Although with the preponderance of “I’m not in that movie”/”Ok, I lied, I’m in the movie” stories going on recently, I wouldn’t write it off entirely.