The return of Macaulay Culkin: The star's journey from Hollywood's poster boy to going off-grid for a decade

Whatever happened to Macaulay Culkin, the poster-boy of the '90s?


                            The return of Macaulay Culkin: The star's journey from Hollywood's poster boy to going off-grid for a decade
Macaulay Culkin (Getty Images)

Early stardom has always said to have its own baggage of troubles. Macaulay Culkin, everyone's favorite '90s kid, achieved an almost-cult level of stardom and then vanished for a decade, with several rumors circulating around him. 

Culkin won acclaim in the film 'Uncle Buck' and filmmakers were convinced that he had the same level of comedic prowess as John Candy. However, it was in the 'Home Alone' franchise where he really struck gold.  Who didn't love Kevin McAllister, the smart and cheeky fellow left to his own devices after his entire family leaves for a trip to Paris without him? Of course, Kevin knew how to take care of himself and even managed to keep thieves at bay by engineering some devious traps.

In the second film, he gets lost in New York, and chills at a hotel with his father's credit card. Smooth, suave and smug, you couldn't help but love him, and maybe some of the kids at the time wished they were like him too. Culkin became the first child actor to be paid $1M for his follow-up role in 'My Girl', as well as the second-youngest celebrity to host Saturday Night Live at the age of 11. The world was at his feet and he was even friends with Michael Jackson. 

After that, there was no dearth of roles for him, and Culkin became a known face in the  1990s. He starred in 'My Girl', 'The Pagemaster', 'Only the Lonely', and 'Home Alone 2' in quick succession, which were all tremendous successes. His father, Kit, became his manager and one of the most powerful people in showbiz at the time. It was often said that Kit would try to use his power to wrest creative control of Macaulay's movies and promote the other siblings. Eventually, he began to choose the wrong films for Culkin and studio executives turned away from him. 

However, things took a turn for the worse after 'Richie Rich' bombed. The Culkin family began to unravel. Macaulay's parents began a custody war. Later, Macaulay described how he quit acting after a series of box office failures. He told his parents: "I'm done, guys — hope you all made your money, because there is no more coming from me."

He took a long time to come to peace with his troubled childhood years.  In his memoir, 'Junior', a 25-year-old Culkin writes rather haunting letters to his father. "Dear Father... It didn't have to be like this," he writes in one letter. "We could have stayed poor... You showed me what it was like to be afraid... You hurt people a lot, you know. I am not just talking about your family and the other important people around you; you hurt our name. I should know. Did you know I had to apologize on your behalf way too many times? You made a lot of people cry. You made my mother cry."

Culkin is also said to have suffered much drug abuse. Years later, it was said that he pleaded guilty to drug charges, but he has since furiously dismissed the rumor that he was doing $6,000 worth of heroin a month. In a recent interview to Esquire, Culkin spoke at length about the drugs, and said they were "actually his friends". "One of my favorite jokes: I've been accused of having a drug problem, but nothing could be further from the truth. Drugs are the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life," he said.

On how bad it got with drugs, he said, “I played with some fire, I guess is the best way to put it. At the same time, I've never been to rehab or anything like that. I've never had to clean out that way. There were certain times when I had to catch myself, once or twice. You're having too good a time, Mack. I mean, I've had friends who ask me, ‘How do I get clean?’ And I go, I’m the last person you should ask because I’m gonna give you the worst advice, which is: Just stop. Just stop! And that’s not the way it works."

He added, "But I never went so far down that road where I needed outside help. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t had drugs in my life at some point or another. I had some illuminating experiences—but also it's f**kin' stupid, too, you know? So besides the occasional muscle relaxer, no, I don't do drugs recreationally. I still kinda drink like a fish. I drink and I smoke. But I don’t touch the things. I do love them. They're like old friends. But sometimes you outgrow your friends."

At the age of 17, he got married to Rachel Miner. They separated two years later. Then, he dated Mila Kunis for eight years. Throughout those troubled years, the  real constant in his life was his long friendship with Michael Jackson's daughter, Paris ("she  is beloved of me", he once said).

The childhood disturbances and the alleged drug abuse took him away from his fans for a long time. We didn't see him for a decade. Then, he reappeared in a guest role on 'Will & Grace', along with roles in several small films. He wasn't the cute kid we remembered and looked markedly different. He seemed to have suffered weight loss and gained an unhealthy appearance.

Rumors began to do the rounds about drug and alcohol use, health issues, and even psychological problems. He was also choosing to portray mentally unstable characters in his art projects. Now, Culkin seems to be sorted with himself, even if he does not have the same stardom. He finds it amusing that people think of him as wacky and calls himself a "snowflake".

"People assume that I'm crazy, or a kook or damaged. Weird. Cracked. And up until the last year or two, I haven’t really put myself out there at all. So I can understand that. It’s also like, Okay, everybody, stop acting so freaking shocked that I’m relatively well-adjusted. Look: I’m a pretty peerless person. If I was an accountant, I could look left and right, and there are other accountants sitting next to me in the office. It’s not like that. It’s one of those things where, like, the cliché that we’re all snowflakes? That we’re all unique? Well, you know what? I actually am a snowflake."

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