Fame and Misfortune: The Culkin Family’s Secrets

Unlike the Kardashians, the Culkin family has real drama. The Culkins are a testament to the fact that child stardom can be a curse. After becoming a household name when he starred in Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin turned his family into millionaires overnight. However, they quickly learned the dark side of success.

Kieran Culkin, Macaulay Culkin / Brenda Song, Macaulay Culkin / Mila Kunis, Macaulay Culkin / Patricia Brentrup, Macaulay Culkin, Michael Jackson.
Source: Getty Images

Beyond the negative consequences of fame and fortune, the Culkins had horrible luck in the form of tragic accidents. The family’s struggles raised questions about the actual price of child stardom. The Culkins have their fair share of secrets that they hoped would never see the light of day.

Kit Culkin Failed as a Child Actor

Christopher “Kit” Culkin had dreams of becoming a Hollywood star, but that is not how things worked out. His lifelong goal of being a world-famous actor ended up failing because he barely had a career. He once performed King Lear off-Broadway and fell off the stage. The injury was enough to keep him from acting.

A picture of Kit Culkin with his wife and children.
Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images

While Kit failed to achieve his dreams, he focused on his children in hopes that they would become famous. He was determined to have his name known, and he would do anything to get there. However, he later learned that fame is not all it’s cracked up to be because he was famous for all the wrong reasons.

The Culkins Were Dirt Poor

While the family lived well off Macaulay’s fame, they struggled for years before his big break. With seven children, Kit and Patricia crammed their family into small apartments because it was the only thing they could afford. However, everything changed when Macaulay was discovered, and he started making money.

A picture of Macaulay Culkin with his brother Kieran.
Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images

At one point, directors were paying for Macaulay’s transportation so that he could make it to rehearsals. The family went from living in poverty to living like stars, and they loved it. At just ten years old, Macaulay supported his entire family, which must have been a lot of pressure.

Kit Pushed His Children to Start Acting

Although Macaulay started his family’s success, that wasn’t his family’s first attempt at fame. Kit first pushed his eldest son, Shane Culkin, into acting. He forced Shane to go to several auditions, hoping his son would land a starring role. However, there was another child who stole the spotlight.

Macauley Culkin and his father attend an event.
Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

When Shane would go on auditions, Macaulay would join him, often stealing the directors’ attention. When Kit saw that Macaulay had more potential than his older brother, he pushed Shane aside and focused on Macaulay. It was like he saw a goose that could lay golden eggs. He had money signs in his eyes.

Kit Culkin Had a Dark Side

In 1990, Home Alone became a box office hit, and Macaulay was an instant star. He was one of the most famous kids in the world. It is still one of the most iconic films. While his fame and fortune were exciting, it created a whole new set of problems for the family.

A portrait of Macaulay Culkin with his mother and father.
Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images

Macaulay’s overnight fame brought out the worst in Kit. His dark side emerged, and he became emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive. It caused Kit and Patricia to fight, and she reached her breaking point. The parents went through a public and bitter divorce, which put the children in the middle of their problems.

Kit’s Behavior Got Worse

After the divorce, Kit became even more challenging to deal with, and his children suffered. He took his anger from the divorce out on his kids, and their situation was rough. The Culkin kids often stayed with their father, and he would force them to sleep on the couch instead of sharing his bed.

Kieran and Macaulay Culkin attend an event.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Kit told his children they had to sleep on the couch, so they knew he was still in control. He was awful to them and only saw Macaulay as a cash cow. It caused them long-term trauma that would come back to haunt them later in life.

Demanding Dad

Kit was very involved in Macaulay’s career. After the massive success of Home Alone, Kit was on the search for the next significant role and found The Good Son. Kit was determined for his son to land the part and even threatened to pull Macaulay from Home Alone 2.

A picture of Macaulay and Kiernan during the Home Alone 2 Premiere.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Because of his demanding nature, The Good Son was put on hold until Home Alone 2 was finished. The Good Son’s director wanted to move on and start shooting, but Kit threatened again, so they waited, and Kit got his way.

Stage Dad

Macaulay had a few more hit movies during his career besides Home Alone. Each time he landed a part, Kit was there with a long list of demands. He had issues with aspects of production and wrote letters to producers demanding changes.

Macaulay and Kit attend an event.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

However, producers didn’t want to put up with his antics and shot back. One producer called Kit’s bluff and made him retract all his demands. Macaulay was much happier when Kit was away. He told his dad he wanted to take a break from acting to go to school, but his dad wouldn’t listen.

Trouble With Macaulay’s Manager

For some reason, Premiere magazine named Kit Culkin one of the most influential people in Hollywood in 1993. This was mainly because he earned a reputation as the most diva-esque stage dad in Hollywood. Kit could be heard yelling at someone on the phone daily.

A picture of Kit during an event.
Source: Flickr

When Macaulay finished filming The Nutcracker in 1993, the producers ran a series of screenings for young audiences. They decided to add extra narration to clear up confusion, but Kit rejected the idea. A producer said he got a letter stating that if they use the narration, they couldn’t use Macaulay’s name.

A still of Macaulay in The Nutcracker.
Source: YouTube

It was outrageous and caused weeks of pushback until the producers decided against his wishes and used the narration anyway. His children knew Kit was a pain to work with because he thought he could walk on any set and shut down production.

In the Middle of a Custody Battle

When Patricia and Kit Culkin divorced, she filed a lawsuit against him for custody of their seven children. Kit moved out of the family’s apartment but stayed in the building nine floors above. Patricia received sole custody of the children, and they were happy not to see him.

A portrait of Macaulay.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: 20th Century Fox

During the custody battle, Macaulay finally learned that his net worth was $50 million, and his father would hide newspapers, so he wouldn’t find out. Kit just wanted money, and he was okay with losing custody if he could still be Macaulay’s manager.

Macaulay Sued for Control of His Finances

After his parent’s custody battle, Macaulay decided to get control of his finances. He learned how to read court papers when he was just 14. He sued to remove his parents as his legal guardians in order to get access to his $17 million fortune.

Macaulay poses for the press.
Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis/Getty Images

Many people think he emancipated himself from his parents, but that’s false. He legally took his parents’ names off his trust fund and found an executor who would look over his finances instead of taking from them. Both his parents took 15 percent from his paychecks and received $7.5 million over four years.

Fame Was Dehumanizing for Macaulay

In 2001, when Macaulay was just 21 years old, he already felt like he couldn’t go anywhere without people staring at him. He told New York magazine, “When I was nine years old, I got recognized wearing a ski mask. Maybe it’s the lips. I couldn’t hide from the world at all.”

Michael Jackson and Macaulay during an event.
Photo by Kevin Kane/WireImage/Getty Images

Fans and cameras constantly bombarded Macaulay, and it took a toll on him. People would grab hats off his head or shake his trailer on a movie set, and he couldn’t get a second of privacy. He didn’t have friends and didn’t want to leave the house.

The Fire That Changed Their Lives

On December 23, 1998, a fire started in the Culkin family’s apartment. When a paper caught fire near a space heater, the flames in the apartment quickly grew. Patricia evacuated the building with her children but accidentally left the door open, allowing the fire to spread down the hall.

An exterior shot of Macaulay’s apartment building.
Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images

The fire took over the stairwell and killed four people on the floors above. Patricia was met with an $80 million lawsuit. While Macaulay didn’t live there at the time, he was implicated and sued for $113,000. The family then moved in with Macaulay and his then-wife, Rachel Miner.

Macaulay Ran Into Trouble With the Law

Like many child stars, Culkin went down a dark path as he got older. In September 2004, 24-year-old Macaulay was pulled over in Oklahoma City with a 22-year-old friend who was driving. They were going 70 mph. in a 60 mph. speed zone and driving erratically.

A mugshot of Macaulay Culkin.
Photo by Kypros/Getty Images

During the traffic stop, police searched the car and found marijuana and $3,000 in cash. Macaulay was arrested for possession of dangerous controlled substances without a valid prescription and possession of marijuana. He was held briefly in the county jail and later released on $4,000 bail.

Macaulay Bonded With Michael Jackson

When Macaulay was nine, he got a call from Michael Jackson, who invited him and his family to his California estate. Neverland was a child’s dream, and Macaulay began spending his vacations there. He built a friendship with Jackson because of their shared experience of childhood fame.

A portrait of Macaulay and Michael Jackson.
Source: Flickr

Macaulay said it was hard to find other people who shared his experiences, which is why he felt close to Jackson. In an interview, he stated, “Michael’s still a kid. I’m still a kid. We’re both going to be eight years old forever in some place because we never had a chance to be eight when we actually were.”

Pulled Into the Jackson Trial

After the 1993 child abuse case against Jackson, Macaulay said he regretted not speaking up on behalf of Jackson because that never happened to him. During the 2005 Jackson trial, he got a second chance to defend his friend and tell the truth about what happened.

A photo of Macaulay leaving the courthouse.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On the stand, Macaulay confirmed that he and his siblings used to sleep in the same bed as Jackson, fully clothed with the door unlocked and their parents on site. He denied any allegations from the Neverland staff that Jackson touched him or his siblings inappropriately.

Tragedy Struck the Family Again

In 2000, Kit Culkin’s daughter and the Culkin siblings’ half-sister, Jennifer Adamson, died of a drug overdose, according to The Hollywood Reporter. It was a tragedy for the Culkin family. However, that wasn’t the only death in their family. In 2008, their family was hit hard again.

Macaulay Culkin in the streets of New York.
Photo by Lawrence Schwartzwald/Sygma/Getty Images

On December 9, 2008, Macaulay’s sister Dakota was crossing the street in California when she was fatally hit by a car. The tragedy rocked the family, and Kieran Culkin took his sister’s death especially hard. He had to give up a significant role because he needed time to grieve.

Kieran Took the Death Hard

After Dakota’s death, Kieran Culkin gave up his role in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. He was later asked to reprise it but had to warn the director that he had gained weight after drinking a lot to cope with his sister’s death and dyed his hair green.

A photo of Kieran.
Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage/Getty Images

Kieran said, “She was the funniest person in the family for sure and had a dark sense of humor.” The death was the worst thing that ever happened to him, and he said each Culkin sibling handled it differently. Kieran cried a lot because of all their memories.

Kit Was an Absent Father

Kit was a horrible dad to his children. Once he got his hands on Macaulay’s money, he wanted to show that he had power over his children. Following the trial in which Macaulay removed his parents from his trust, Kit disappeared from their lives.

A portrait of Kit.
Photo by Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images

Kit essentially walked out of Macaulay’s life for good, and he had no desire to see his father. However, when Kit went broke and lived in Arizona with his partner, he would lock himself in a room and rewatch his kids’ films. The other Culkin siblings don’t care about their father either because of how he treated them.

The Director of Home Alone Was Involved in the Family Conflict

When Macaulay landed the role in Home Alone, his life changed forever. The movie was the biggest hit of 1990 and remained a classic. Director Chris Columbus took the unknown child actor and turned him into a household name. But Columbus had a closer relationship with the young actor.

A portrait of Macaulay holding an award.
Photo by Darlene Hammond/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When Columbus witnessed Macaulay’s horrible situation with his parents, he felt like he had to do something. He voiced his feelings about Kit’s treatment of Macaulay, but he couldn’t help him because Macaulay was just a child.

Macaulay Didn’t Want to Film a Kiss Scene

While he is most famous for his role as Kevin McCallister, Macaulay had another memorable film role in My Girl. The classic film showed a different side of the actor because of its heartbreaking plot, but Macaulay had a few issues.

Macaulay and Anna Chlumsky in a scene from the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/Copyright: Columbia Pictures

Macaulay was just 11 years old, and he didn’t want to kiss his co-star, Anna Chlumsky. It wasn’t anything personal, but he was young and felt awkward about the scene. Like most boys, his feelings about kissing girls would change as he got older.

Kieran Wasn’t Jealous of Macaulay

While most people might assume that Macaulay’s siblings were jealous of his fame, that is not the case. Kieran has a great career like his brother and also started as a child actor. While he wasn’t in the spotlight in the same way, he didn’t want that much attention.

A portrait of Kieran and Macaulay.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Relativity Media

In his adult years, Kieran found a great deal of success and is happy with his career. He saw the pressure everyone put on his brother and didn’t want to be an actor until much later in his life. The jealous people were the fans because they didn’t know what Macaulay went through.

Macaulay Was the Second Youngest Host on SNL

When Macaulay became one of the most famous kids in Hollywood, he was always in the spotlight. When his first big movie broke box office records, everyone wanted a piece of the young actor, including Saturday Night Live. At 11, Macaulay took the stage to host the show.

Macaulay Culkin is hosting Saturday Night Live.
Source: Flickr

According to producers, Macaulay did his monologue and all his skits without cue cards. While his performance was incredible and better than some seasoned actors who have hosted, he wasn’t the youngest host. Drew Barrymore took the SNL stage at seven years old.

Not a Lot of Money

When Macaulay starred in Home Alone, no one knew how big the movie would turn out to be. Therefore, when he signed his contract for the leading role, he was promised $100,000. However, the film went on to gross more than $475 million.

Chris Columbus and Macaulay on the set of the film.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: 20th Century Fox

While that might seem like a lot of money for a ten-year-old, he drastically increased his pay for future roles. He kind of got ripped off because he doesn’t even get paid royalties for the reruns. Macaulay would have made a lot more if he got paid every time the movie played.

The Culkin Parents Were Never Officially Married

Despite having a long relationship and seven children, Kit and Patricia were never actually married. They met in 1974 while she was directing traffic, and Kit pulled up to talk to her. There was an immediate attraction, and they left town to live on the road for a while.

Patricia and Rory Culkin attend an event.
Photo by Evan Agostini/ImageDirect/Getty Images

When they settled in Manhattan, the two started having children, about one every two years. However, they never officially wed because they never found a need to make official vows. They lived as if they were a married couple for 21 years.

Kieran Was Confused by This Role

In the classic ‘90s rom com She’s All That, a nerdy high school girl gets a makeover, and then the hot boy falls in love with her. The ‘90s chick flick wouldn’t have been complete without an annoying younger sibling, played by Kieran Culkin.

Kieran attends an event.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Apparently, Kieran often gets one question about his role: Why does his character wear a hearing aid? To which he usually responds, “I don’t f***ing know.” There was no character development that explains young Simon’s hearing troubles. It remains a mystery to Kieran and everyone else.

First Child Actor to Earn $1 Million for a Single Role

After the astonishing success of Home Alone, Macaulay was offered a role in the 1991 film My Girl. His character is essentially allergic to everything. The film was widely popular, especially because it starred a kid who had just gained the world’s attention.

Macaulay attends an event.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

After seeing how much money he could have earned from Home Alone, Macaulay knew he could ask for more money for this role. He received $1 million for this role, making him the first child actor ever to make a million or more for a single starring role.

Only One Culkin Sibling Didn’t Act

Macaulay might have put his family’s name on the map, but he wasn’t the only actor in the family. Kieran has had quite a successful career so far with roles in She’s All That and Succession. Their other brother, Rory, is also an actor known for his parts in Scream 4 and Lords of Chaos.

A dated picture of the Culkin family.
Source: Imgarcade

The Culkins had seven children: Christian, Dakota, Macaulay, Kieran, Rory, Shane, and Quinn. Out of all the children, Dakota was the only one who never tried her hand at acting before her tragic death.

Macaulay Is the Godfather of Michael Jackson’s Children

While their relationship was less than normal, Macaulay and Jackson were very close over the years. They connected over shared experiences despite the massive age difference. However, what people don’t know is that Culkin is the godfather of Jackson’s children.

A dated picture of Macaulay and Michael Jackson.
Source: Pinterest

Macaulay has a very close relationship with them since he became the legal godparent for the Jackson kids, especially Paris. They have matching tattoos and hang out with each other often. Now that he is older, he is more of a mentor to the children.

Rory Culkin Had a Different Experience

As the baby of the family, Rory Culkin had a much different experience growing up than the rest of his siblings. He was removed from the ongoing conflicts between his parents and older siblings because he was so young, and his parents wanted to shield him from the arguing.

A current portrait of Rory Culkin.
Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Rory often found that his friends at school knew more about his family drama than he did because his parents and siblings did everything to keep him away from conflict. Maybe this was a good thing because ignorance is bliss.

Kit Became a Reclusive Mountain Man

Since Kit stopped talking to his children, he became a recluse. None of his family members want anything to do with him after the pain he caused them. Today, he has no contact with his children and lives in Oregon with his new partner, Krystal Krylowski.

A shot of Oregon.
Photo by Maranie Staab/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Kit has barely been seen in public over the past few years. In 2014, he suffered a stroke, and the press snapped some photos of him looking like a cast member of Duck Dynasty. He has a much different life now that he can no longer access his childrens’ hard-earned money.

Fans Claim Macaulay Is Not Cute

Although it has been years since he was at the peak of his fame, Macaulay still gets attention when he goes out in public. His ex-girlfriend Mila Kunis said fans still go crazy for him even after all these years. Since he was a child, screaming fans have asked him for pictures and autographs.

Macaulay Culkin and Brenda Song attend an event.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

However, his fans aren’t always nice to him. A mob of fans once rushed to him on the street, and one of them pointed out that he is not as cute as people believe. That’s a pretty harsh thing to say to someone just because they are famous.

All Work and No Play

Throughout his career, Macaulay has done 14 films. When he was a child, Macaulay felt like he was a machine because his dad would go over what Macaulay was doing each day; he would go to set, come home, and do the same thing the next day.

Macaulay attends an event.
Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Macaulay remembers how excited he would get for summer vacations only to be told that he shouldn’t make plans because he might be working. Kieran had the same experience. He said he didn’t realize he had the power to decided what he did with his life until he was an adult.

The Other Culkin Siblings

While they may not be as famous as the other siblings, Quinn, Christian, and Shane have been keeping busy. Quinn did some voice acting in 1991’s Wish Kid but remained largely private in adulthood. She changed her name to Jonas, so she must have gotten married.

Christian Culkin / Macaulay Culkin / Kieran Culkin.
Source: Getty Images

Christian appeared in My Summer Story in 1994 but has since left the spotlight since the trauma he experienced in childhood. He now lives in New York and is a writer for magazines like Lid. Shane is the oldest; he never got into acting after his father lost interest in his career.

Macaulay Took a Hiatus From Acting

Since taking a hiatus from acting as a child, Macaulay has made numerous TV and movie appearances but struggled to achieve the same level of fame. He made a comeback with a part in the play Madame Melville, but nothing compares to Home Alone.

A photo of Macaulay Culkin on stage.
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage for Turner Networks/Getty Images

His role in Saved brought him positive reviews, but some of his other recent films were a disappointment. Macaulay also has a band called The Pizza Underground, which he started in 2013. They parody songs by the Velvet Underground with pizza-themed names.

First Marriage

In June 1998, Culkin married his first wife, Rachel Miner. She was a Broadway actress, and the two wed in a small ceremony with friends and family present. At the time, Macaulay and his wife were both under 18, so they needed parental consent.

Culkin and Rachel Miner attend an event.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

The former couple announced their plans to get married a few months before their wedding. At the time, they said they were “thrilled to have found each other as soul mates at such a tender age.” Their marriage didn’t last long, and they split in 2000.

Patricia Got Remarried

While it might come as a surprise, Patricia is now happily married. For a while, she has enjoyed a blissful married life with Mart D. Cox. They keep their relationship private and away from the spotlight, but we know they live in Montana.

A dated picture of Patricia.
Photo by Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images

The pair never had any children together, but Patricia became the stepmother of Kara Cox. She is much happier without her toxic ex and likes living a private life away from everyone. Unlike her husband, she does talk to her children and has a better relationship with them.

Macaulay Dated Mila Kunis

Shortly after finalizing his divorce from Rachel Miner, Macaulay started dating actress Mila Kunis. The two were in an on-and-off relationship for eight years. By 2006, Macaulay lived in New York while Kunis was based in Los Angeles, which made their relationship challenging.

A picture of Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin.
Photo by James Devaney/WireImage/Getty Images

Because they lived on different coasts and had busy schedules, the couple ended their relationship in 2011. While they might have broken up, the two ended things on good terms and remained friends. She even congratulated him when he had his first child.

New Love

In 2017, Culkin started dating his Changeland co-star Brenda Song. They first sparked relationship rumors after they were spotted attending a Halloween event. She also shared a photo of friends celebrating her birthday, and Culkin was in the post. At first, they tried to keep it private.

A photo of Brenda Song and Culkin during an event.
Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images

However, like most things in Hollywood, nothing stays a secret. The pair officially went public when they took a trip to Germany together in August 2018. The loved-up couple has since been quite open about their relationship and share pictures of each other on social media.

Baby on Board

Although they try to keep some aspects of their relationship away from the public eye, Song and Macaulay recently welcomed their first child in April 2021. Their son, Dakota Song Culkin was named after his late sister, who was hit by a car in 2008.

Brenda Song walks the street.
Photo by Chris Wolf/Star Max/GC Images/Getty Images

The new parents only said they were overjoyed but haven’t shared much more about being parents. Song hasn’t posted any pictures of her son on social media to keep his life out of the spotlight because of what they went through as child actors.

Kit and Patricia Ran a Theater in Manhattan

Before their family became famous, Kit and Patricia ran a small theater in Manhattan called the Light Opera of Manhattan. Whenever the production needed a child, they would say, “What age and what gender? We have seven children right here.”

A dated picture of Macaulay and Kieran.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: 20th Century Fox

Kieran recalls feeling like an on-stage prop because they were pushed into the business, but none of them had technical training. His parents would try to get the children into any show they could in hopes that they would be discovered, but it only hurt them.

The Kids Nicknamed Kit “Stinky”

It is clear that Kit was an awful father to his children and tore their family apart. His obsession with fame was the root of the problem, but he also treated Patricia like trash. He once openly threatened her, but the damage didn’t end there.

A picture of Kieran and Rory.
Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images

When the judges heard the way he treated Patricia, she received full custody of the children. Then the kids started referring to their father as “Stinky” because he treated everyone like trash, and he wasn’t a good person. They were much happier with their mom.

Macaulay’s Training Included Ballet

When Macaulay was making the movie The Nutcracker, he enthralled audiences with his performance. The 1993 film required him to get special ballet training so he could pull off all the choreography required for the role. He made it look effortless on camera.

A portrait of Macaulay Culkin.
Photo by HBO/Cinemax/Getty Images

Macaulay trained at the American School of Ballet, and he was quite a good dancer. The directors were impressed with his talent, and he was a natural. He is a man of many talents, and we wonder if he still remembers some of his training all these years later.

Macaulay Wrote a Book About His Childhood

While there has been some controversy surrounding the publishing of Macaulay’s book Junior, it tells the tale of his childhood. The accomplished actor, musician, and dancer is well-known for many things, but most people don’t know he wrote a book.

Macaulay speaks during the signing of his book.
Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

The book touched on his early fame and family life, but he later regretted writing it. Junior was an experimental piece of work, and Macaulay considers himself a fraud for writing it. Since the book came out in 2006, he has tried to distance himself from it.