Macaulay Culkin is known to people the world over as the adorable yet mischievous Kevin McAllister, the little boy from the “Home Alone” movies from the ’90s. And even though he grew up and continued working as an actor, albeit in more niche and alternative roles, he’s never really shaken his image as the “Home Alone” kid.
In the decades since he first burst onto our screens, the details of Macaulay’s life as he grew up have come to light. The picture of a happy child actor that we might have glimpsed onscreen was shattered when the world learned about his home life. Pushed to work by his father, it was only in his teen years when his parents were divorcing that Macaulay was able to gain independence and live his life on his own terms.
Since then, he’s led a much quieter life outside of the public eye. And we don’t blame him. Thankfully, though, he has found his passion for acting once again. In the last two decades, he’s appeared in various movies and shows, and even reprised the role that made him most famous, albeit in a commercial instead of a full-length feature film.
After turning 41 in August 2020, Macaulay played up the association that the public has with his childhood acting career with a joke that made his fans feel incredibly old. Considering many of us grew up watching him in movies, it resonated strongly with the public. Let’s take a look at Macaulay’s life and what he’s up to now.
Macaulay Culkin was born on August 26, 1980, to Christopher Cornelius “Kit” Culkin — a former Broadway actor as well as the brother to actress Bonnie Bedelia — and Patricia Brentrup. One of seven children, Macaulay lived a modest childhood. His younger brother, Kieran Culkin, told Vanity Fair in 2018 that the family lived in a tiny railroad apartment “barely suitable for a couple.”
“It was just a hallway, and there were no separating doors, except for the bathroom, which didn’t have a lock,” Kieran shared. “They raised seven kids in that apartment — for years! They just kept bringing babies home to this little space.”
Their parents would spend nights on the sofa and work shifts to ensure one of them was home at all times to look after the kids. While they never married, they lived as if they were. Also a lover of the acting profession, Kit had once graced Broadway as an up-and-coming star in the ’60s. After becoming a father, he took up a job as a church sacristan so the Culkin kids could get staff rates to attend the parish school. Patricia, on the other hand, worked at a telephone-answering service.
According to Emily Gerson Saines, the Culkin family’s longtime agent and manager, Patricia (whom she affectionally refers to as Patty,) took her role as the matriarch quite seriously.
“[She] maintained strong family values, like the family having a meal together, the Christmas tree, Thanksgiving,” Saines said. “These are all important things to Patty, and she instilled that in her kids.”
Patricia and Kit were eager to get their brood into show business. According to Kieran, the two would seek out every opportunity to get their kids into acting. “My parents’ friends were running a little theater, the Light Opera of Manhattan, and whenever a production needed a kid, they were like, ‘What age and what gender? We’ve got seven of them right over here,'” he explained.
So it comes as no surprise that Macaulay’s acting career began at the tender age of four. The “Home Alone” star started with small parts in off-Broadway productions before working himself up to more prestigious gigs, including the “Bach Babies” at the New York Philharmonic. Although Macaulay was already landing role and role in New York, his family was still struggling financially. Billy Hopkins, the casting director to give Macaulay his very first job, said that even getting the boy to his rehearsals was a struggle.
“They were so poor I had to use my own money to make sure that he got to and from rehearsal,” Hopkins told New York magazine in 2001. “Macaulay would crawl under the bleachers at the theater to look for change that had fallen out of people’s pockets. They were like the Beverly Hillbillies.”
Macaulay’s on-stage appearances quickly turned him into a sought-after child actor of the ’80s. By 1988, he had already landed his first role on the big screen as Cy Blue Black in the hit drama “Rocket Gibraltar.” That following year, Macaulay would land roles in two more high-profile films, “See You in the Morning” and “Uncle Buck.”
Then, just shy of 10 years old, the child prodigy made his big break as Kevin McCallister in the blockbuster comedy film “Home Alone.” The movie quickly proved to be an immense success. Reining in at $476.7 million worldwide, “Home Alone” was listed by Guinness World Records as the highest-grossing live-action comedy of its time. It also became the third most successful film worldwide, just behind “Star Wars” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” In contrast to those films, however, it wasn’t the revolutionary CGI effects that ensured “Home Alone”‘s success, but rather Macaulay’s hilarious portrayal of Kevin McCallister.
His fame, the actor says, came about almost overnight. He became the talk of the town among the kids in his neighborhood, and he was suddenly surrounded by cameras everywhere he went.
“It was one of those paranoias like, ‘There are people in the bushes! There are people in the bushes!’ But there really are people in the bushes. It was that kind of thing,” Macaulay told New York magazine.
Still just a young kid, he became uncomfortable with the increased attention.
“Hats don’t really help,” he admitted. “They say if you cover your forehead, you cover 80 percent of what people associate with you, but it doesn’t work. When I was 9 years old, I got recognized wearing a ski mask. Maybe it’s the lips. I couldn’t hide from the world at all.”
Unable to escape the media craze, Macaulay began spending most of his time when he wasn’t working inside his family apartment watching TV. His father then quit his job at the church and became Macaulay’s manager and the two would spend most of their time on the road.
By 1993, the boy had become one of the highest-paid child actors in Hollywood, earning a whopping $4.5 million for his role in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” He had also landed high-profile jobs in multiple films, including “The Good Son,” “The Nutcracker,” and “Getting Even With Dad.” Still, Macaulay was growing tired of life in Hollywood — he had, after all, starred in 15 films in seven years. That didn’t mean much to his power-hungry father, however. He told New York magazine:
“I just remember the exact point when I was growing a little more tired — during ‘The Good Son,'” Macaulay confessed. “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.”
As Macaulay’s fame grew, so did his dismay for his Hollywood lifestyle. But in 1994, he found his way out; His parents had split, so the young actor took his chance to quit acting and pursue a normal life as an adolescent. He attended a private school in Manhattan and turned down multiple acting jobs. “I was just hoping to disappear off the face of the earth,” Macaulay told Time in 2001.
At the time of Kit and Patricia’s split, Macaulay said he had no idea how much money he had actually made throughout his career.
“My father would hide newspapers from me so I wouldn’t read the stuff about him or find out how much I was making,” he explained to New York magazine. “I can understand why they did that; they didn’t want me running off to my friends saying, ‘I just made $8 million!'”
But that information became important during his parents’ custody battle. By 1996, he discovered he was worth around $50 million. But even with that much money to his name, the family could not access it amid the ongoing court case.
“Basically, I had millions and millions of dollars in the bank and my mother couldn’t pay the rent because she was spending all of her money on lawyers,” Macaulay said.
The situation had become so dire, he realized he had to take matters into his own hands. “We were about to get evicted from our apartment. The only way I could get access to that money was to take my father’s name off it, but I didn’t want to make it messy, so I figured I’d take both their names off.”
And with that, Macaulay’s complicated relationship with his father came to an end. Kit never showed up on the last day of the trial, instead, he ran away and Macaulay hasn’t seen or spoken to him since. From then on out, he was free to live his life the way he wanted.
The issue of a parent earning large amounts of money off their children’s work is a contentious topic in show business and one that Macaulay weighed in on in his New York magazine interview. He stated:
“That’s kind of something that’s up in the air in my brain, whether parents should be earning money from their children in that kind of way. That’s something for future generations of child actors to figure out, whether parents should be creating that dynamic.”
The next few years Macaulay lived a relatively normal life as he attended high school — or at least as normal as an incredibly famous child star could have. He had a large group of friends who were “pseudo-punks” as Macaulay told New York magazine. It was during this time that he lived his youth by rebelling against what was expected of him. He dyed his hair wild colors, smoked cigarettes, and drank before he was of legal age, but he claims the media blew everything out of proportion and that he “never did anything more than any upper-class Upper West Side kid you know would.”
Then in 1998, Macaulay got married to his high school sweetheart Rachel Miner when he was nearly 18 years old after they’d first met when they were just 14. Unfortunately, the couple would only be together for two short years before rumors of infidelity arose and they eventually broke up. In the same interview with New York magazine, Macaulay insisted that he’s “always going to love her.”
It wasn’t until the early 2000s when Macaulay returned to acting, making his comeback in London’s West End in the play “Madame Melville.” In 2003, the actor made a guest appearance on “Will & Grace” as Karen Walker’s goofy divorce lawyer.
Since then, he’s only taken up scarce acting projects and has instead focused on picking up projects he feels passionate about. He started a rock band, The Pizza Underground, in 2013, and launched a parody lifestyle website called Bunny Ears in 2018. That same year, Macaulay delighted fans by returning to his “Home Alone” character Kevin in a Christmas ad for Google Assistant.
Today, Macaulay uses his fortune to pursue his own dreams and shows little interest in becoming the famous actor he once was. He told Ellen DeGeneres in 2018:
“I felt like some kid worked really, really hard and I inherited all his money. I had kind of no real sense. It allows me to treat everything like a hobby. I do nothing for my dinner, nowadays. So I can just do all kinds of projects that I want to do whether its’ writing or painting or a new website or whatever it is.”
Be that as it may, Macaulay will always be the boy who brought Kevin McAllister to life — so it might come as a sobering shock to find out he turned 40 years old in August 2020! To mark his milestone birthday, Macaulay took to Twitter with a very considered and subtly hilarious message, poking fun at both himself and everyone else. He wrote:
“Hey guys, wanna feel old?
Simple, yet effective. He even responded to his own tweet, adding:
“It’s my gift to the world: I make people feel old. I’m no longer a kid, that’s my job.”