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.
In a 2001 interview with New York magazine, Culkin discussed his childhood growing up with many siblings and little money. Prior to finding success in Hollywood, Culkin described those years as "all-right times for my family." He claims his relationship with his father, however, was never solid. "My father was always, you know, abusive, but it didn’t get really, really, really bad until later on."
Culkin's earliest childhood memories consist of helping Kit at the Catholic church where he was employed. For young Culkin, the experience made him link religion with his father:
I’d help him set up Mass and stuff like that. It gave me a very tainted view of religion because I saw the man-behind-the-curtain sort of thing. You see your father taking the body of Christ and the blood of Christ down from the tabernacle or whatever, and everybody’s believing it’s, you know, a big holy thing, and you’re like, "It’s just a bottle of wine and some crackers from a box in the back!"
Prior to Macaulay's mega-Hollywood success and millionaire status, the entire family of seven kids and two parents lived in a one-bedroom railroad-style apartment on Second Avenue in New York City. Macaulay's brother Kieran described the family's living conditions in a 2018 article in Vanity Fair: "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."
Kieran added, "Some of us would go to school. Some would not."
Billy Hopkins, a casting director who gave Macaulay his first acting gig, described just how poor the Culkin family really was: "They were so poor I had to use my own money to make sure that he got to and from rehearsal. 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."
In 2018, the former child star sat down with Marc Maron for an episode of his WTF podcast. The pair chatted for an extended period, and Culkin talked about everything, from retiring at the age of 37 to his friendship with Michael Jackson.
The Home Alone actor did not shy away from discussing the relationship he had with his manager-father, Kit. Macaulay said of his now-estranged dad: "He was abusive. Physically and mentally."
Because Kit was Macaulay's manager, he traveled with his son to auditions and film sets. Despite their working relationship, Macaulay says they were never close.
Macaulay told Maron on WTF, "I’m going around the country, locked in a room with a man who didn’t like me."