Macaulay Culkin Has Revealed Just What His Relationship With Michael Jackson Was Really Like

Michael Jackson may have died in 2009, but some aspects of his life are still up for debate. Many serious allegations of child abuse were made against the pop icon when he was alive, for instance, with these claims continuing to taint the star’s legacy to this day. And perhaps one of the most famous names embroiled in the controversy is former child actor Macaulay Culkin.

Culkin became friends with the much older Jackson when he was still just a boy. Back then, the Home Alone actor appeared in a music video with the singer and even went on vacation to Bermuda with Jackson alongside his own family. And the young star also slept in the same bed as his fellow celebrity – something that raised eyebrows even at the time.

Then in 2019 a new documentary about Jackson debuted that alleged the singer was a sexual abuser of children. And the claims made in Leaving Neverland led to a huge backlash against the late singer, with some radio stations boycotting his music as a result. In the midst of the furor, however, Culkin decided to speak out.

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It seems, too, that Jackson and Culkin had a lot of things in common; both had been child stars who had seemingly had issues with their parents, for instance. Jackson’s father, Joe, once admitted that he had whipped the young singer in order to maintain discipline, while Culkin has alleged that his dad had also been abusive in the past.

And Culkin and Jackson first met in 1986, when the four-year-old actor was performing in a New York production of The Nutcracker. The pop star even went behind the scenes to meet the little boy. “[Jackson] loved dance. He was a dance man,” the actor told WTF with Marc Maron in 2018. “He came backstage with Donald Trump because they were friendly back then.”

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At that point in Culkin’s life, he had already appeared in a few movies. “I remember [Jackson] looked at me like, ‘I know you from somewhere. Oh, Uncle Buck, yeah. You’re funny,’” the star explained to Maron during the podcast. “Then after Home Alone came out, he reached out to me and my family.”

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And Home Alone not only turned Culkin into a household name, but it also made him extremely rich. In fact, the star was making millions of dollars before he had even reached his teens. Culkin’s father, Kit, actually controlled the money, however, along with the young actor for whom he was responsible. As a result, then, in 1993 Premiere magazine named Kit as Hollywood’s 48th most influential player.

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These days, Culkin no longer sees his father. “[Kit] was a bad man. He was abusive. Physically and mentally,” he alleged when talking to Maron. The actor also claimed that prior to his appearance as a host of Saturday Night Live, his father had threatened him with violence if the then-11-year-old didn’t do well.

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Then Jackson walked once more into Culkin’s difficult life. According to Culkin himself, the singer simply called him up one day and asked to be his friend. And it worked, too. For the next few years, the young star would stay at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch and go on vacations with him – although other adults were sometimes present during these occasions.

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And then came the first accusations of child abuse. In 1993 a dentist named Evan Chandler alleged that a friendship between his 13-year-old son and Jackson had turned into a sexually abusive one. The Chandler family subsequently filed a lawsuit against the pop legend, and the media frantically reported on every twist and turn in the case.

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Culkin also came up as a possible victim of Jackson’s. A maid who worked at Neverland, for instance, claimed to police that she had seen Jackson “kissing” the young star and that the older man “had his hand on [Culkin’s] leg – kind of by his rear end.” Other people sold stories about the pair to the media, too. Nonetheless, the actor absolutely denied that anything abusive had happened in his relationship with Jackson.

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And while the Chandler investigation was ultimately closed due to lack of evidence, the fallout was massive. Jackson’s public image came close to being ruined in the process, with his deal with Pepsi being canceled as a result. The ramifications of the case may not have ended with the star’s death, either, as five months after the pop icon passed away, Evan Chandler took his own life.

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Meanwhile, Culkin started to come out of his strange life as a child star. “After I did Richie Rich in ’93 or ’94, my father and mother called it quits, which is one of the best things to ever happen to me. I was able to walk away from the business. I was able to say, ‘I hope you made all your money, because there’s no more coming from me,’” the actor told Maron in 2018.

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Culkin also remained friends with Jackson, and this relationship saw the singer subject to an interrogation on camera by lawyers in March 1996. “Jesus said to love the children and be like children. Be youthful, be innocent, [and] be pure and honorable. He always surrounded himself with children, and that’s how I was raised: to be like that and imitate that,” the pop star said on the tape, which was later acquired and released by the now-defunct News of the World.

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Then in 1998 Jackson’s daughter, Paris, was born, and Culkin ultimately became her godfather. And the actor appeared to continue to maintain a relationship with Jackson even after that. In September 2001, for instance, Culkin was spotted at Jackson’s 30th anniversary concert in Madison Square Garden.

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Yet questions about Jackson’s conduct continued to circulate. In early 2003 documentary Living with Michael Jackson aired, and in the film the pop star claimed that he had “slept in a bed with many children” – including Culkin and his brother Kieran. “Kieran Culkin would sleep on this side, Macaulay Culkin was on this side, [and] his sisters [were] in there. We all would just jam in the bed, you know. We would wake up at dawn and go in the hot air balloon,” Jackson explained.

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And Jackson’s reputation would once again take a hit at the end of 2003, when the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office charged the star with multiple counts of molesting minors. The media would focus intensely on the case for the next couple of years, with Culkin ultimately giving his own take on the matter.

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Yes, in 2004 Culkin was asked by Larry King if he would participate in Jackson’s criminal trial. The actor answered, however, “Probably not… It’s crazy and I don’t really want to be a part of it. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do something like that, [but] it just hasn’t been brought up to me. And I don’t think [Jackson would] want me to, either.”

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In the end, though, Culkin did take the stand at the 2005 trial, where he spoke out in defense of Jackson. And when asked if he had been molested by the singer, the actor answered, “Absolutely not.” Culkin claimed instead that he had only participated in innocent pursuits such as video gaming sessions and water balloon battles with Jackson.

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And while Culkin also explained that he had occasionally bedded down for the night alongside Jackson, he emphasized there had been nothing sexual about it. “I’ve fallen asleep in the same bed with [Jackson]. I’d just flop down,” he said. Culkin’s parents were apparently fine with it, too. “They never really saw it as an issue,” he added.

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Prosecuting attorney Ron Zonen then asked Culkin whether he had ever suspected that Jackson had touched him while he slept. “As far as I know, he’s never molested me,” the former child star answered. “I find that unlikely. I think I’d realize if something like that would be happening.”

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And Culkin also testified that his brothers Shane and Kieran sometimes joined him and Jackson when they met up, after which the group would embark on adventures. “I’d be staying at a hotel, and [Jackson would] come and pick me and my brothers up, and we’d sneak into a movie theater, like, in the middle of the night,” the actor said.

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In fact, Culkin implied that he, his siblings and the singer had all acted like young friends at Neverland. And while Zonen then questioned Culkin as to why a child would treat an adult as a peer, he replied, “I wasn’t friends with a lot of 35-year-old men who understood me.”

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Ultimately, Jackson was declared not guilty of all the charges brought against him. “We expected better evidence – something that was a little more convincing. It just wasn’t there,” a juror announced at a press conference after the verdict. But regardless, the pop star’s reputation was once again smeared, although he still maintained many fans.

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And Jackson’s admirers mourned the star in droves after his passing on June 25, 2009. The news of the pop icon’s death naturally made huge waves, with websites crashing from the attention, while television channels played marathons of Jackson’s music videos for hours.

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Then a memorial service held for Jackson was live-streamed, allowing millions of fans to watch online. Multiple celebrities and people of note turned up for the event, too, including civil rights activist Al Sharpton. At one point, Sharpton took the stage and told the singer’s children, “Wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with, but he dealt with it anyway.”

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Jackson’s more private burial service subsequently took place at California’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park on September 3, 2009. Culkin and his then-girlfriend Mila Kunis were among the mourners, and the two were photographed together at the cemetery. But even after Jackson’s death, allegations of wrongdoing continued to dog the star’s legacy.

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In 2019, for example, documentary Leaving Neverland presented further allegations that the star had taken part in child abuse. In particular, two men named James Safechuck and Wade Robson accused the singer of having molested them when they had both been boys.

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Robson had initially spoken up for the pop star during the 2005 trial. At the time, he had told a story similar to Culkin’s – that he had slept in Jackson’s bed on occasion but had never been sexually abused. Safechuck, too, had testified in defense of the star back in 1993.

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And people connected to the 2005 trial also featured in the documentary. Indeed, Robson’s mother said to the filmmakers that, at that time, she considered her son “and Macaulay Culkin the only two people in the world who can save [Jackson].” It’s worth noting, however, that Culkin himself was not interviewed at all for the film.

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Yet there was a reason for this omission. In 2019 Leaving Neverland’s director, Dan Reed, told Vanity Fair that he didn’t think Culkin would want to be involved in his film. “Macaulay has gone on the record many, many times – including recently – to say that his relationship with Jackson was innocent,” Reed explained to the publication.

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And perhaps Reed was alluding to what Culkin told Maron in 2018. As a guest on Maron’s podcast, the former child star spoke warmly of Jackson, saying, “He was, like, my best friend growing up for a stretch of my life. It was a legitimate friendship.”

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Culkin claimed that he had never felt “uncomfortable” around Jackson, either. “That was the way that [Jackson] was, down to his bone marrow. It never felt weird,” the actor added. “It was just the way that it was. I looked at him for who he was. At that point, I was pretty famous and I met plenty of famous people, [so] his fame did not [mean] a thing.”

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Yet the Leaving Neverland documentary definitely had an effect on many of those who saw it – leaving a number of people to question exactly what sort of person Jackson was. Filmmaker Louis Theroux, who has tackled child abuse cases in his work, wrote on Twitter, “If you can’t see that Michael Jackson was a pedophile after watching @danreed1000’s film, you are being wilfully blind.”

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But other celebrities did come to Jackson’s defense. Some who had known the pop star when they were young, such as Corey Feldman and Aaron Carter, announced that they, too, had never felt unsafe around him. Members of the singer’s family also denied the claims made during the documentary.

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And just before Leaving Neverland’s release, Culkin made it clear just what he believed to be true about Jackson. Speaking on the Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum podcast in January 2019, the actor reiterated that the relationship he shared with the King of Pop was a “normal friendship” as far as he saw it.

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Culkin said of his bond with Jackson, “It’s almost easy to try [and] say it was, like, weird or whatever. But it wasn’t because it made sense. At the end of the day, we were friends.” What’s more, Culkin claimed that people questioned the friendship “only because of the fact that [Jackson] was the most famous person in the world.”

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The actor revealed, too, that Jackson had been there for him during a time in his life when he needed someone to rely on. “I was a peerless person. Nobody else in my Catholic school even had [a tiny] idea of what I was going through. And [Jackson] was the kind of person who’d been through the exact same frickin’ thing and wanted to make sure I wasn’t alone,” he said.

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From Culkin’s perspective, then, it seems that the pop star was an adult man who innocently befriended children to help them out. And while other people are much more suspicious about Jackson’s motives for getting to know young boys, it appears the actor is adamant that there was nothing untoward about his relationship with the singer.

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