After Home Alone became the highest-grossing comedy of the '90s, its young star was heralded as one of the most popular and financially successful child actors of all time. Macaulay Culkin's celebrity status and natural acting chops catapulted his financial portfolio into the $50 million range. However, behind the scenes, his father was trying to manage every aspect of his life.
Kit Culkin acted as his son’s manager, and reportedly physically and verbally abused the Home Alone star. He became known as a bully around Hollywood, even attempting to take creative control of his son’s films away from studio executives and producers.
At the age of 14, Macaulay decided to give up acting. Allegedly, his turbulent relationship with his father was a prime factor.
- Photo: Home Alone / 20th Century Fox
Kit Also Allegedly Targeted The Rest Of The Family
Macaulay was the third of seven siblings born to Kit Culkin and Patricia Brentrup (the pair never married). Macaulay had four brothers and two sisters: Shane, Dakota, Kieran, Quinn, Christian, and Rory. They were all in the entertainment business in some capacity at one time or another.
The My Girl star revealed on Maron's podcast that he was not the only member of the family who suffered both mentally and physically at the hands of his dad. Culkin alleges that his siblings and mother were also victims of Kit's attacks. Culkin said of his father, "He was just a bad dude. A bad abusive man. He was a piece of work."
- Photo: Home Alone / 20th Century Fox
Culkin Surmises Kit Was Jealous Of Him Because Of His Early Success In Life
Just like his son Macaulay, Kit Culkin was also a child actor. However, unlike Macaulay, Kit was never able to make it as a thespian. On WTF, Macaulay explained to Maron the extent of his father's acting career: "He did some stuff when he was a kid... He pretty much never made it beyond chorus."
According to his son, Kit suffered a terrible accident while performing an Off-Broadway version of King Lear:
He is so into his part, he closes his eyes. And so he's doing a soliloquy, and he's getting closer and closer to the edge of the stage. He doesn't notice because he's so into the part because he's blind. And then he spills into the first row and hurts himself. This is opening night.
The embarrassing accident was enough to turn Kit away from acting forever. In Macaulay's opinion, his own success at such a young age made his father jealous. "Everything that he tried to do in his life, like, I excelled at before I was 10 years old," he said.
- Photo: Saturday Night Live / NBC
Kit Threatened To Hit The 11-Year-Old Culkin If He Used Cue Cards On ‘SNL’
Macaulay hosted Saturday Night Live on November 23, 1991, during Season 17 of the sketch show. He was 11 years old, the second youngest celeb to ever host SNL (after Drew Barrymore in 1982). At the time, Culkin was at the height of his Home Alone fame.
Macaulay's father put a lot of pressure on the boy. According to the actor, his father warned him, "Do good or I'll hit you." He also told his son he could not use cue cards.
Historically, every SNL cast member and host has used cue cards for the live show. It's how producer Lorne Michaels likes things done, in case the writers have to make any last-minute changes to the script. Not being able to use them had a direct effect on all of the cast members. As Macaulay recalls:
My father was such a crazy person about it. I had to do the whole episode without cue cards. Yeah, so also that meant every other person in the cast couldn't have cue cards either, in any scene that I was in. No cue cards whatsoever. Because he didn't like it when people glanced off [and looked at] cue cards...
Kit Tried To Use His Power As Culkin’s Manager To Gain Creative Control Over His Son’s Films
After Home Alone became the highest-grossing comedy of all time, Culkin-mania spread everywhere. Culkin went on to become the first child actor to earn a million-dollar paycheck for his role in the coming-of-age story My Girl. When Home Alone 2: Lost in New York brought in over $350 million, it proved the young actor was not a one-hit box-office wonder.
Culkin's talent and charm created box office gold, but it also meant his father/manager - who called all of the shots - garnered more power in Tinseltown. Despite his impetuous reputation, Kit Culkin ranked 48th on Premiere magazine's 1993 list of the most powerful people in Hollywood.
What did Kit do with this power? He angered studio executives and producers. His personal agenda was to usurp creative control of Macaulay's movies and get his other children noticed. But power is an ethereal commodity in Hollywood.
When Culkin's 1994 comedy Richie Rich only earned $38 million against a $40 million production budget, Kit lost his swagger. Macaulay would not appear in another feature film until 2003's Party Monster.