After years of wild partying, public outbursts, and multiple drug charges, former child star Macaulay Culkin beat the curse that has unfortunately befallen so many other kids who were thrust into the spotlight at a young age.
The Home Alone alum, who has largely stepped away from the public eye in recent years, made a rare appearance last week, while receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
During the event, the actor got emotional as he thanked his fiancée, actress Brenda Song – who cheered him on from the audience with their two young sons – with ‘giving him purpose’ and for being his ‘champion.’
It was certainly a dramatic transformation from Macaulay’s early years of adulthood, when he was often caught leaving a nightclub in the wee hours of the morning looking bleary eyed and getting into screaming matches with paparazzi.
Macaulay Culkin became one of the most well-known child stars on the globe after he starred in the beloved Christmas classic Home Alone in 1990. He’s seen in the movie
After years of wild partying, public outbursts, and multiple drug charges, Macaulay (seen in 2017) beat the curse that has unfortunately befallen so many other kid stars
So how did he go from an admitted drug user to a devoted family man? Macaulay’s journey has been a rollercoaster ride filled with numerous ups and downs that started long before he turned to partying to cope with his difficult childhood and immense fame.
The star, now 43, grew up in poverty, sharing one room in a tiny apartment with his six siblings.
He started acting when he was only four – after a neighbor suggested that his parents try to turn him into a star – and right away, thanks to his adorable looks and charismatic personality, his star power was undeniable.
Macaulay landed role after role, and by the time he was 10, he was cast as Kevin McCallister in the beloved Christmas classic Home Alone – which turned him into one of the most well-known kid stars on the globe.
And while Macaulay’s sudden stardom seemed like it would be a dream come true to most children, he later admitted that he struggled with his newfound fame and began to crumble under the immense pressure that came with it.
To make matters worse, he says his father, who also worked as his manager, began ‘physically and mentally abusing’ him, forcing him to stay up for hours to learn lines even when he was exhausted, and threatening physical violence if he ever messed up on set.
To the outside world, Macaulay seemed like a happy-go-lucky kid who was in for the ride of his life, but behind-the-scenes, he recalled feeling desperate for a break.
His dad also kept his earnings a secret from him, while unbeknownst to Macaulay, taking a big chunk of the profits for himself.
The Home Alone alum, who has largely stepped away from the public eye in recent years, made a rare appearance last week, while receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
The actor was finally able to take the much-needed break from acting that he longed for after his parents separated in 1994 and his mom got full custody of him.
Soon after, he became embroiled in a fierce legal battle against his dad in order to get access to his massive fortune, which he ultimately won.
While it seemed like things were looking up for Macaulay, when he returned to the spotlight in 2000 and started acting again after a six-year hiatus, the former child star struggled to adjust back into the glitz and glamor of Hollywood.
As the actor re-emerges to accept his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, FEMAIL went ahead and recapped his descend to being one of the most recognized faces in the world – as well as his harrowing fall from grace in the years that followed
Pictures began emerging that showed him looking extremely frail, and rumors quickly started to swirl that he was using drugs. And in 2004, he was arrested for possession marijuana and two controlled substances.
In addition, he was involved in a very-public romance and split with actress Mila Kunis, and got dragged into hitmaker Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial.
It seemed as though the star went from living a semi-normal life to having the eyes of the entire world on him again in a matter of months, and the question quickly emerged: Would he be able to turn his life around or would he continue on his downward spiral?
Thankfully, Macaulay was able to ultimately overcome his problems, and he now lives a much quieter and drug-free life mostly out of the spotlight.
Instead of acting – his last role was in 2021 – his main focus is now being a dad to his two sons.
As the actor re-emerges to accept his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, FEMAIL has laid bare his ascent to being one of the most recognized faces in the world – as well as his harrowing fall from grace in the years that followed.
From the horrible things that Macaulay was facing in secret as he stole the nation’s hearts in Home Alone to how he ultimately prevailed – here’s a breakdown of his journey from start to finish.
How it all began: Macaulay spent the first years of his life living in poverty, sharing one room with his six siblings in a tiny apartment – before he was propelled into the spotlight at only six years old
Macaulay was born to Christopher Cornelius ‘Kit’ Culkin, a former child star himself, and Patricia Brentrup, a traffic controller. He’s seen in 1990 with his parents and brother Kieran
The Home Alone alum was the third oldest of seven children. The family-of-nine lived in a tiny apartment on the upper east side of New York City for the early years of Macaulay’s life
Macaulay was born on August 26, 1980, to Christopher Cornelius ‘Kit’ Culkin, a New York City native and former child star himself, and Patricia Brentrup, a traffic controller from North Dakota.
The Home Alone alum was the third oldest of seven children. His father also had a daughter from a previous relationship.
The family-of-nine lived in a tiny apartment on the upper east side of New York City for the early years of Macaulay’s life.
His parents struggled to make ends meet – his dad, a washed up Broadway actor, worked as a taxi driver and a sacristan for a Catholic church, while his mom quit her job to take care of their large brood before eventually landing a part-time gig as a telephone operator.
All seven of the kids shared one bedroom, with Macaulay’s brother Kieran later telling Vanity Fair of their childhood home, ‘It was barely suitable for a couple [let alone a family-of-nine].
‘It was just a hallway, and there were no separating doors, except for the bathroom, which didn’t have a lock.
‘They raised seven kids in that apartment – for years. They just kept bringing babies home to this little space.’
Macaulay landed his first major role in the 1988 movie Rocket Gibraltar (seen) – at age six – after a neighbor introduced his family to casting director Billy Hopkins
After that, he was cast in the 1989 rom-com See You in the Morning alongside Jeff Bridges and Drew Barrymore, followed by the beloved comedy filmed Uncle Buck (seen) later that year
In 1990, at age 10, he landed the role that would change his life forever – the beloved holiday flick Home Alone
According to New York Magazine, a neighbor, named Susan Selig, who worked as a stage manager at the Ensemble Studio Theater, encouraged Kit and Patricia to try to turn Macaulay into a star.
She introduced the family to casting director Billy Hopkins – who instantly saw his potential.
The movie grossed $476 million worldwide and went on to become a Christmas classic that is still watched by millions each time the festive season rolls around. It earned Macaulay a nomination for a Golden Globe and launched him into mega stardom
‘He was like a little angel with a tilted halo,’ Billy recalled to the outlet, when asked about his first impression of the star.
At age four, Macaulay joined the New York Philharmonic production of Bach Babies, which was followed by a small appearance in the TV movie The Midnight Hour and a guest role in the show The Equalizer.
‘They were so poor I had to use my own money to make sure that he got to and from rehearsal,’ Bill revealed of Macaulay’s early years.
‘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 then landed his first major role in the 1988 movie Rocket Gibraltar – at age six.
After that, he was cast in the 1989 rom-com See You in the Morning alongside Jeff Bridges, Alice Krige, Farrah Fawcett, and Drew Barrymore, followed by the beloved comedy filmed Uncle Buck later that year.
Thanks the immense success of those two movies, Macaulay was quickly becoming a success.
The movie roles poured in after that, and he went on to star in the coming of age drama My Girl (seen), the psychological thriller The Good Son, and 1994’s Getting Even with Dad
His other early roles included the filmed live performance of The Nutcracker, the comedy movie Richie Rich (seen), and of course, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
In 1990, at age 10, he landed the role that would change his life forever – the beloved holiday flick Home Alone.
The movie grossed $476 million worldwide and went on to become a Christmas classic that is still watched by millions each time the festive season rolls around.
It earned Macaulay a nomination for a Golden Globe and launched him into mega stardom.
In the following years, he voiced the main character in the animated series Wish Kid and appeared in the music video for Michael’s Black or White.
The movie roles continued to pour in after that, and he went on to star in the coming of age drama My Girl, the psychological thriller The Good Son, the filmed live performance of The Nutcracker, 1994’s Getting Even with Dad, the comedy movie Richie Rich, and of course, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
But as Macaulay’s career flourished, the kid star began to crumble under the weighing pressure of being in the public eye at such a young age – as well his father and manager Kit’s ‘abusive’ and controlling behavior.
Struggling behind-the-scenes: Macaulay’s ‘abusive’ father-turned-manager forced him to work despite him begging for a break, and was secretly taking a large chunk of his earnings
Macaulay has been open about how he struggled with the attention that he received following his sudden stardom. He once told New York Mag that fans would ‘scare the s**t out of him’
Macaulay has been very open about how he struggled with the immense attention that he received following his sudden stardom.
‘I remember I was doing Home Alone 2 and I was getting changed in my trailer on the street,’ he once recalled to New York mag.
‘Next thing I know, there was a group of upwards of about 200 people shaking my trailer. It scared the s**t out of me.’
As soon as Macaulay was skyrocketed into the spotlight, his dad, Kit, quit his job to focus on managing his career full-time. But he later described his father as ‘physically and mentally abusive’ and said he forced him to work even when he begged for a break
‘I was enjoying it at [first]. I was a bit of an attention w***e,’ he also reflected to Esquire. ‘But it started feeling like a chore.’
As soon as Macaulay was skyrocketed into the spotlight, his dad, Kit, quit his job to focus on managing his career full-time.
But the star later revealed that Kit would ‘deny him certain things’ – including a bed, which meant he had to sleep on the couch – and often forced him to stay up all night sometimes to study lines, despite the young actor feeling exhausted.
‘I think it was just a way of him wanting to break my spirit,’ he later told ABC News. ‘He wanted me to know to know that he was in charge and if he didn’t want us to sleep on a bed, we weren’t gonna sleep on a bed.’
He also remembered his dad threatening physical violence if he didn’t perform well during an appearance on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron.
‘[He said], “Do good or I’ll hit you.” He was a bad man,’ Macaulay admitted. ‘He was abusive, physically and mentally – I can show you all my scars if I wanted to.’
He told New York magazine that as he grew more and more tired of acting, he begged his dad to let him take a break, but he wouldn’t let him.
Macaulay eventually stopped acting in 1994, and soon after, his parents split and his mother filed for full custody of him and the rest of his siblings. He’s seen in 1994
The actor revealed: ‘I 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, like, “OK, there’s basically nothing I can do to make this stop.”‘
‘I started vocalizing [wanting to stop] and not being heard,’ he added to Esquire. ‘I was saying, “I wanna go to school,” I haven’t done a full year of school since first grade.’
The Home Alone alum suspected that his father was resentful towards him because he had wanted to become a child star and had never made it.
‘Everything that he tried to do in his life, like, I excelled at before I was 10 years old,’ he continued to New York magazine.
Macaulay eventually stopped acting in 1994, when his parents split and his mother filed for full custody of him and the rest of his siblings.
And it wasn’t until his parents’ court battle that he learned he was worth $50 million.
He explained to New York magazine, ‘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 also discovered that his father had been taking 15 per cent of his earnings for himself.
‘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,’ he admitted.
Macaulay and his dad have been estranged ever since. In 2016, while speaking to DailyMail.com, Kit (seen in 2016) said he ‘doesn’t consider Macaulay a son anymore’
‘That’s something for future generations of child actors to figure out, whether parents should be creating that dynamic.’
Macaulay ultimately had to fight in court to gain control of his massive trust.
‘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,’ he later explained.
‘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.
Macaulay and his dad have been estranged ever since. In 2016, while speaking to DailyMail.com, Kit said he ‘doesn’t consider Macaulay a son anymore.’
But the actor now credits his father with helping him to become a good dad himself.
He told New York Magazine, ‘I knew from a very early age that I better take notes on him. Notes on how not to be, notes on how I don’t want to be when I grow up.’
He also reflected on it to Esquire, explaining, ‘Look, I mean, it sucks. But: It coulda been worse, you know? I wasn’t working in a coal mine. I wasn’t a child soldier. My father was not sexually abusing me.
‘Certain f**ked-up things happened, but f**ked-up things happen to kids all the time and they don’t come out the other end.
‘I’ve got something to show for it, man. I mean, look at me: I got money, I got fame, I got a beautiful girlfriend and a beautiful house and beautiful animals.
‘It took me a long time to get to that place, and I had to have that conversation with myself and go, like, “Honestly, Mack? It’s not so bad.” I want for nothing and need for even less. I’m good, man.’
Downward spiral: Macaulay was arrested for numerous drug charges, went through an extremely publicized breakup, and had multiple outbursts throughout the early 2000s
After stepping away from the spotlight in 1994, Macaulay went back to school and enjoyed a quiet life. He married actress Rachel Miner in 1998 but they split after two years together
For six years, Macaulay stayed mostly out of the public eye – but in 2000, he returned to acting when he landed a role in the West End play Madame Melville (seen)
He then went on to starred in the movie Party Monster (left), the comedy film Saved! (right), the hilarious flick Sex and Breakfast, and the NBC series Kings
After stepping away from the spotlight in 1994, Macaulay went back to school and enjoyed a quiet life while living in Manhattan with his mom.
‘High school was a great time. When Kit left, it was like, I can finally have my own room, you know what I’m saying?’ the star said to New York magazine.
In 2000, his half sister, Jennifer Adamson, died from a drug overdose, and eight years later, his older sister, Dakota (seen), tragically passed away after she was hit by a car
He briefly got married to actress Rachel Miner in 1998, when they were both 18, but they split two years later.
For six years, Macaulay stayed mostly out of the public eye – but in 2000, he returned to acting when he landed a role in the West End play Madame Melville.
He then went on to star in the movie Party Monster, the comedy film Saved!, the hilarious flick Sex and Breakfast, and the NBC series Kings.
He also released an autobiographical novel, called Junior, in 2006, and formed a rock band called The Pizza Underground in 2014.
During this time, however, Macaulay suffered from a series of heartbreaking blows in his personal life.
Not only did he lose two of his siblings, but he also went through a very-public breakup and got dragged into hitmaker Michael’s child molestation trial.
In 2000, his half sister, Jennifer Adamson, died from a drug overdose, and eight years later, his older sister, Dakota, tragically passed away after she was hit by a car.
He was linked to actress Mila Kunis (seen in 2004) from 2002 until they went their separate ways in 2011 – and the Family Guy star later admitted that his fame contributed to their breakup
In 2004, he was arrested for possession of marijuana and two controlled substances. He plead guilty and received a one-year deferred sentence for each charge
He was linked to actress Mila from 2002 until they went their separate ways in 2011 – and the Family Guy star later admitted that Macaulay’s immense fame contributed to their breakup.
‘You couldn’t walk down the street with him,’ she told Howard Stern on his radio show, adding that fans would often ‘scream when they saw him.’
‘They didn’t know how to react. It wasn’t like a normal response to a celebrity. Fans responded in a very abnormal way to him.’
She also later described their split as ‘horrible,’ while admitting to Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast that she was the one to end it.
‘I was an a**hole in my 20s, and I’ll be the first to admit it,’ she said. ‘It’s f**ked up what I did, and it’s f**ked up how I did it.’
Macaulay had a run-in with the law in 2004, when he was arrested for possession of marijuana and two controlled substances. He ultimately plead guilty and received a one-year deferred sentence for each charge.
In 2005, more attention was put on Macaulay when he was called to testify in Michael’s case.
Macaulay and Michael had grown close after he starred in his music video as a kid, and they spent a lot of time together throughout his childhood.
At the time, a man named Gavin Arvizo accused the music sensation of molesting him when he was 13 years old.
Macaulay testified that while he shared a bed with Michael on numerous occasions, the singer ‘never did anything to’ him and insisted that he never witnessed Michael acting inappropriately – something he has long maintained. Michael was acquitted of all charges.
In 2005, more attention was put on Macaulay when he was called to testify in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial. They are seen together in 1991
Macaulay testified that while he shared a bed with Michael on numerous occasions, the singer ‘never did anything to’ him. They’re seen in 1991
Photos trickled onto the web that showed Macaulay (seen in 2012) looking extremely frail, and photographers often caught the actor leaving nightclubs in the wee hours of the morning
Due to Macaulay’s erratic behavior, his fraught appearance, and his newfound love of partying, rumors began to furiously swirl that he was doing drugs. He’s seen in 2013
‘It was so blown out of proportion. I never did anything more than any upper-class Upper West Side kid you know would,’ he later told New York magazine of his partying. He’s seen in 2014
Throughout the early 2000s, photos often trickled onto the web that showed Macaulay looking extremely frail, sparking concern.
On one occasion, he got into a screaming match with a paparazzi after a long night of partying, and on another, he stormed off stage in the middle of a performance with his rock band after someone booed them.
Due to Macaulay’s erratic behavior, his fraught appearance, and his newfound love of partying, rumors began to furiously swirl that he had a drug problem.
‘It was so blown out of proportion. I never did anything more than any upper-class Upper West Side kid you know would,’ he later told New York magazine of his partying. ‘We weren’t, like, all squatting in the corner shooting heroin.’
He also insisted to the Guardian, ‘No, I was not pounding six grand of heroin every month or whatever.
‘The thing that bugged me was tabloids wrapping it all in this weird guise of concern. No, you’re trying to shift papers.’
Turning his life around: The star went from wild partier to devoted family man after stepping largely out of the spotlight and meeting his now-fiancée, Brenda
Things slowed down for Macaulay in the late 2010s and he mostly stepped away from the world of acting. He’s seen in 2016
In 2018, he launched a podcast and website called Bunny Ears, which became his main focus. He’s seen in 2018
Perhaps it was meeting Brenda, or maybe it was his ability to step away from the spotlight when he realizes he needs it most, but Macaulay did eventually overcome his problems and was eventually able to transform himself from a wild partier to a devoted family man.
Then, in 2019, he returned to the big screen for the first time in years when he starred in Seth Green’s movie Changeland, alongside his future-fiancée Brenda. He also acted in American Horror Story’s 10th season (seen)
Things slowed down for Macaulay in the late 2010s, and aside from a few brief appearances in a few commercials – most notably, he recreated one of his famous scenes from Home Alone for a Google Assistant commercial in 2018, which went viral – he mostly stepped away from the world of acting.
‘People feel they have to be in perpetual motion, or drown. I’ve never had a problem saying I’ve got nothing lined up. Maybe I’ll take the next year off,’ he said to the Guardian in 2016.
He told the outlet that he was in the midst of ‘trying to figure out what makes him happy,’ adding, ‘And not in a superficial way. Actually, I’m very much at peace lately.’
In 2018, he launched a podcast and website called Bunny Ears, which became his main focus.
Then, in 2019, he returned to the big screen for the first time in years when he starred in Seth Green’s movie Changeland, alongside his future-fiancée Brenda. He also acted in American Horror Story’s 10th season.
Macaulay started dating his now-fiancée, Brenda, soon after they met on set of Changeland. They’re seen in 2019
When asked by Esquire about what lead to his decision to act again, he admitted that it’s hard for him to stay away from something he loves to do so much.
But he explained that it’s the other stuff that comes with being an actor that he despises.
‘It’s just – I enjoy acting. I enjoy being on set. I don’t enjoy a lot of the other things that come around it,’ he explained.
‘Doing junkets and things – that stuff always drove me crazy. It is not really my cup of tea.
‘These are all lovely people, but the poking, the prodding – honestly, it’s part of why I don’t do this anymore. Any of it.’
He also responded to the people who ‘assume he’s crazy or damaged’ from his past, adding, ‘It’s like, OK, everybody, stop acting so freaking shocked that I’m relatively well-adjusted.
‘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.
‘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.
‘I’ve had a lot of fun without being happy. And I’ve been happy without necessarily having fun. But also: You can have it all. Just don’t confuse the two.’
When asked what inspired him to give up on his wild lifestyle, he said he simply ‘outgrew’ it.
They welcomed their first child together, a son named Dakota, in April 2021, followed by their second, another boy whose name they haven’t shared, in December 2022
Macaulay started dating his now-fiancée, Brenda, soon after they met on set of Changeland.
‘People don’t realize how incredibly kind and loyal and sweet and smart he is,’ she gushed to Esquire.
‘Truly what makes Mack so special is that he is so unapologetically Mack. He knows who he is, and he’s 100 per cent OK with that.
‘And that to me is an incredibly sexy quality. He’s worked really hard to be the person he is.
‘I truly believe that he is the actor he is now because of all the things he had to go through,
‘He has gone through so much tragedy, he’s had so many ups, so many downs. He’s seen the ugly side of this industry, but he’s also seen the amazing side of this industry.
‘So he can pinpoint exactly what he doesn’t want and what he doesn’t like about it.’
They welcomed their first child together, a son named Dakota, in April 2021, followed by their second, another boy whose name they haven’t shared, in December 2022.
They got engaged in January 2022 and are now gearing up to walk down the aisle together.
During his Walk of Fame speech, he said of Brenda, ‘You are absolutely everything. You’re my champion.
‘You’re the only person happier for me today than I am. You’re not only the best woman I’ve ever know, you’re the best person I’ve ever known. You’ve given me all my purpose. You’ve given me family.’