Macaulay Culkin has been in the spotlight ever since he was a young boy. For some time he was the archetypal ex-child star: a once-adorable kid turned into a slightly troubled adult. But one of the things the world found most interesting about him was his friendship with Michael Jackson, whose own early life followed a similar trajectory. The pair had a close, but unusual, relationship. Now Culkin, who doesn’t speak much about his personal life, has opened up about it.
Culkin had been a child actor since the age of four, but he shot to international fame when he was just ten years old. The 1990 Christmas movie Home Alone and its 1992 sequel made him both famous and extremely rich. But fame is a difficult thing for a young child to deal with. And it seemed that his father Kit Culkin had more of a say in things than he did.
In 1991, a point where the original Home Alone was the third highest-grossing film in movie history, The New York Times interviewed 20th Century Fox chairman Joe Roth. “Macaulay’s father was an actor and wants to make sure his son gets the opportunity to play as wide a range of roles as possible,” he said. “He wants to be very careful with Macaulay’s career. He doesn’t want Macaulay just to be the boy from Home Alone.”
But it seemed he would be “the boy from Home Alone” for a very long time, if not forever. None of his later films – among them The Good Son, The Pagemaster and Richie Rich – were anywhere near as financially successful. Yet his brief tenure as one of Hollywood’s biggest names had led him into the orbit of Michael Jackson.
The pair had met when Culkin was nine and appearing in the show The Nutcracker. Jackson had gone backstage to meet him, and the pair developed a friendship which grew over the years. Jackson would take Culkin to toy stores after closing time and let him buy what he wanted. He even took him on holiday to Bermuda – without Culkin’s mom and dad being present.
This relationship came to international attention in 2005 – and not for good reasons. Michael Jackson came under investigation for child molestation. It was the second time such an accusation had been made against him; the first had been in 1993 and ended with no charges being filed. But the 2005 trial became a huge media circus.
Culkin, who was 24 at that point and had recently been arrested for drug possession, was named as one of Jackson’s alleged victims. People who had once worked for Jackson at his Neverland ranch claimed that they had seen the singer touch the younger Culkin in an inappropriate way. It was also revealed that Culkin had, by his own admission, occasionally shared a bed with Jackson. Furthermore, Culkin’s parents supposedly knew about this and apparently didn’t mind.
“They never really saw [the bed sharing] as an issue,” Culkin said when he took the stand on May 11, 2005. “I knew they knew that I was in that room, and they knew I fell asleep there.” He vehemently denied that Jackson had ever made sexual advances on him, though, calling the claims “absolutely ridiculous.” “I’ve never seen him do anything improper with anybody,” he said.
Culkin explained under questioning that he had always been friends with Jackson and still was. He was also friends with Jackson’s kids – Paris, Prince, and Prince Michael Jackson II aka “Blanket.” In fact, Jackson had picked Culkin to be Paris’ godfather when he was still a teenager. “I always liked seeing the kids,” Culkin told the court.
“Nobody approached me and even asked whether or not the allegations were true,” Culkin said when asked how he had learned about the claims against Jackson. “They didn’t even double-check it, basically.” It was very, very clear what stance he took on the issue. And in the end, on June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted of all charges.
However, Jackson only lived for a few years following his acquittal. On June 25, 2009, he passed away of a drug overdose, and the public outpouring of grief was enormous. Clearly, despite the allegations he had once faced, he was still a beloved public figure to many. The King of Pop was buried at Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park on September 3, 2009, and Culkin attended the service.
Subsequently, talk of the Culkin/Jackson relationship slowly faded from the media. Culkin remained a celebrity, but a more minor one, which seemed to be exactly how he liked it. But in January 2018 he decided to offer an insight into his life and the time he’d spent with Jackson. He appeared on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast and discussed it all.
“After Home Alone came out, [Jackson] reached out to me and my family,” Culkin explained on the podcast. “There’s no child actor self-help group. He said, ‘Do you want to hang out? Do you want to come to my house?’ He was like my best friend growing up for a stretch of my life. It was a legitimate friendship.”
“He was like, what, 20 years older?” Maron asked. “Yeah, that sounds about right,” said Culkin. “You can get into the psychology of it, ‘Oh, he never had his childhood.’ All I can speak to is the way he was, and despite whatever the reasoning was, he liked being around kids.” “It wasn’t odd to you?” Maron questioned.
“Honestly, it never struck me as odd,” said Culkin. “I never felt uncomfortable or anything like that. […] That was the way that he was, down to his bone marrow.” “So it didn’t come off as creepy, you bought it cos it was authentic?” Maron asked. Culkin quickly corrected the host. “I didn’t buy it, it just was,” he said. “He wasn’t selling.”
Culkin insisted that Jackson had never done anything “untoward” that he knew of. “That was not my experience at all. My mind didn’t go there. That was one of the reasons why he liked hanging around a guy like me… It never felt weird. It was just the way that it was. I looked at him for who he was.” Then the conversation turned to Jackson’s children.
Culkin made it clear he wasn’t going to discuss his relationship with his 19-year-old goddaughter Paris. “I am close with Paris,” he said, but that was almost all he would divulge. “I’m going to warn you now I am very protective of her so just look out,” he told Maron. But he did add that she was “beloved by me” and also “tall and beautiful and smart.”
The other interesting thing revealed in the interview was that Culkin no longer had a relationship with his father Kit. In fact Culkin had some pretty damning things to say about him. “He was just a bad dude,” Culkin said on the podcast. “A bad, abusive man. He was just a piece of work.” His father used to threaten him with physical violence as a child, Culkin alleged.
In fact, Culkin and his siblings have commented on their father before. Speaking to the Irish Times in 2003, Macaulay’s brother Kieran described Kit as “never really a dad, he was just this guy who was hanging around.” Kit, for his part, told the Daily Mail in 2016 that he didn’t consider Macaulay to even be his son anymore.
Despite his wealth – Culkin’s reported net worth is $15 million – it’s clear that the former child actor never really had an easy life. Yet it seems his association with Michael Jackson improved his childhood, rather than made it worse. Now, at last, he seems to be in a good place. “I’m a 30-something retired person walking around with a baguette under my arm,” he told Maron. “I’m living a good life.”