Macaulay Culkin doesn’t really do photo shoots and interviews, but last December he made an exception for Esquire because, as he says, “it’s still fun to get back in the saddle once in a while and play around.”
“It was a good time, the pictures look great, it made my lady happy.”
On Tuesday the cover profile piece — the Home Alone star’s first in a decade and a half — was finally published, and it’s making us happy, too! And also totally riveted.
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Introducing the March 2020 issue of Esquire—and Mack Culkin, who sat down for his first cover profile in 15 years and answered all the questions you have about him. Read the full story by @rhdagostino at the link in our bio. Photo: @robbiefimmano Robe: @dolcegabbana Jewelry: Mack's own
This is the most open we think Mack has ever been, and it is just fascinating and raw and real in a way we didn’t expect from the former child star — who these days trolls the Internet with his Goop-meets-The Onion website Bunny Ears and pokes fun at himself in appearances on low-budget YouTube shows like Best of the Worst.
But this time he’s answering honestly, revealing insight into his life now and then — and correcting a lot of misconceptions along the way.
Early on in the profile, Mack rather offhandedly reveals something super exciting — he and girlfriend Brenda Song are trying to have a baby!
“We practice a lot.”
But in all seriousness the couple, who met in 2017 on the set of mutual friend Seth Green‘s film Changeland, are actively going for it:
“We’re figuring it out, making the timing work. Because nothing turns you on more than when your lady comes into the room and says, ‘Honey, I’m ovulating.’”
OK, maybe not in all seriousness.
Currently they are getting baby practice by being pet parents. They have two cats named Apples and Dude, a Shiba Inu puppy named Panda, a fish named Cinnamon, and a parrot named Macho.
He may be one of the most famous movie stars on the planet, but that life is behind him these days; he describes himself as a “homebody.” Brenda says about her man:
“People don’t realize how incredibly kind and loyal and sweet and smart he is. Truly what makes Mack so special is that he is so unapologetically Mack. He knows who he is, and he’s 100 percent okay with that. And that to me is an incredibly sexy quality. He’s worked really hard to be the person he is.”
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“People assume that I’m crazy, or a kook, or damaged,” the former child superstar tells us of the public’s misperceptions in our March cover story. “Weird. Cracked. And up until the last year or two, I haven’t really put myself out there at all. So I can understand that. It’s also like, Okay, everybody, stop acting so freaking shocked that I’m relatively well-adjusted. Look: I’m a pretty peerless person.” . Photos: @robbiefimmano Styling: @gusromero1 Full story available at the link in our bio.
Why He Walked Away From Hollywood
Mack lets the interviewer in right away sharing how uncomfortable he is with being fussed over for the photo shoot:
“This is not really my cup of tea. These are all lovely people, but the poking, the prodding — honestly, it’s part of why I don’t do this anymore. Any of it.”
Culkin famously walked away from stardom, so he understands why people would assume he left because he was “damaged.” But that’s just not the case:
“People assume that I’m crazy, or a kook, or damaged. Weird. And up until the last year or two, I haven’t really put myself out there at all. So I can understand that. It’s also like, Okay, everybody, stop acting so freaking shocked that I’m relatively well-adjusted.”
He explains it wasn’t the acting that drove him away, as used to love that part in the Home Alone days:
“I was a bit of an attention whore. ‘Hey, I’m a kid, look at me!’ But I was not tugging on my mother’s or father’s sleeve saying, ‘Mommy, Daddy, I want to be a thespian.’ I enjoyed it because I was good at it and I knew it. I was at least sharp enough to understand good attention.”
But over the next few years his life became all about that job and zero percent about being a kid:
“It started feeling like a chore. I started vocalizing that and not being heard: I was saying, ‘I wanna go to school — I haven’t done a full year of school since first grade.’”
John Hughes, who wrote Home Alone specifically with Mack in mind after directing him in Uncle Buck, visited the set of 1994’s Richie Rich and noticed how tired the kid star looked. He called and asked: Are you all right? It was something no one else was asking, not even Culkin himself.
And so he walked away and didn’t star in another movie for nine years — and has only done four feature films in the past 25.
What he still likes least is all the other work that comes with the acting:
“Doing junkets and things — that stuff always drove me crazy.”
He would act more if it weren’t for everything that came with it:
“It’s just — I enjoy acting. I enjoy being on set. I don’t enjoy a lot of the other things that come around it. What’s a good analogy. The Shawshank Redemption. The way he gets out of prison is to crawl through a tube of s**t, you know? It feels like to get to that kind of freedom, I’d have to crawl through a tube of s**t. And you know what? I’ve built a really nice prison for myself. It’s soft. It’s sweet. It smells nice. You know? It’s plush.”
“Divorcing” His Parents
Mack explains how his parents were splitting up (though not getting “divorced” technically as they were never legally married), and that put him and his six siblings at a crossroads:
“We didn’t want to go with my father. It’s always misconstrued, that I ‘emancipated’ myself from my parents. I legally took my parents’ names off of my trust fund and found an executor, someone who would look over my finances, just in case anyone wanted to stick their f**king pinkie in the pie.”
At the time it was reported Mack had earned as much as $20 million in his young career.
“But the next thing you know, the story was that I divorced my parents. I just thought I was doing it cleanly — taking my father’s name off, taking my mom’s name off, so my opinion is unbiased. And when I did that, the whole thing kinda ended a lot faster.”
Reflecting on what he went through as a child actor, he is refreshingly down to earth:
“Look, I mean, it sucks. But: It coulda been worse, you know? I wasn’t working in a coal mine. I wasn’t a child soldier. My father was not sexually abusing me. Certain f**ked-up things happened, but f**ked-up things happen to kids all the time and they don’t come out the other end. I’ve got something to show for it, man. I mean, look at me: I got money, I got fame, I got a beautiful girlfriend and a beautiful house and beautiful animals. It took me a long time to get to that place, and I had to have that conversation with myself and go, like, Honestly, Mack? It’s not so bad. I want for nothing and need for even less. I’m good, man.”
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“It’s always misconstrued, that I ‘emancipated’ myself from my parents,” Culkin explains in our March cover story, available at the link in our bio. “I legally took my parents’ names off of my trust fund and found an executor, someone who would look over my finances, just in case anyone wanted to stick their fucking pinkie in the pie. But the next thing you know, the story was that I divorced my parents. I just thought I was doing it cleanly—taking my father’s name off, taking my mom’s name off, so my opinion is unbiased. And when I did that, the whole thing kinda ended a lot faster.” Photos: @robbiefimmano Styling: @gusromero1 Robe: @dolcegabbana Jewelry: Mack's own
Mourning His Sister
A discussion of his religious satire Saved! reveals the last time Mack has been to church was for his sister’s funeral. He remembers:
“She passed away eleven years ago tomorrow. Tonight was the last time I talked to her, and she passed away overnight, kinda thing… She had a roommate at the time. She said, ‘We just watched Party Monster, and we wanted to compliment you.’ She said, ‘I want you to stay focused and enthused.’ I was like, ‘Thanks. You too. Go to sleep.’ And then she went out to go get some Gatorade and cigarettes, and she got hit by a car… I mean, look, I had that last conversation with her, and she told me to stay focused and enthused.”
He still has a special way of remembering her on the anniversary of her passing:
“Her favorite drink was Budweiser. So I’m gonna drink some Budweisers tomorrow. And listen, I’m not gonna get into it. But it’s my day, when I mourn my sister. So yeah.”
On His Drug Use
One of the wisest things Mack imparts is an important lesson he had to learn was the difference between having fun and being happy.
“Believe me, I would know. I’ve had a lot of fun without being happy. And I’ve been happy without necessarily having fun. But also: You can have it all. Just don’t confuse the two. Because it’s easy to! A lot of times, when you’re having fun you’re rolling on MDMA or something.”
Speaking of MDMA… What does he have to say now about his past drug use?
“Um? Listen, I played with some fire, I guess is the best way to put it. At the same time, I’ve never been to rehab or anything like that. I’ve never had to clean out that way. There were certain times when I had to catch myself, once or twice. You’re having too good a time, Mack. I mean, I’ve had friends who ask me, ‘How do I get clean?’ And I go, I’m the last person you should ask, because I’m gonna give you the worst advice, which is: Just stop. Just stop! And that’s not the way it works. But I never went so far down that road where I needed outside help. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t had drugs in my life at some point or another. I had some illuminating experiences — but also it’s f**kin’ stupid, too, you know? So besides the occasional muscle relaxer, no, I don’t do drugs recreationally.”
Not that he doesn’t still have his vices. He admits:
“I still kinda drink like a fish. I drink and I smoke. But I don’t touch the things. I do love them. They’re like old friends. But sometimes you outgrow your friends.”
That brings us to his most controversial friend…
Michael Jackson Controversy
Mack says he thinks he became friends with Michael Jackson because like him, the King of Pop never had a childhood — both had fathers who had forced fame upon them. Michael was in such a state of arrested development, he “felt the same age.”
Culkin tells the interviewer about the last time he saw MJ, which was at the courthouse in 2005 during the child molestation trial. The then-24-year-old was testifying in his friend’s defense, and they happened to run into one another in the bathroom. He remembers Michael joked:
“We better not talk. I don’t want to influence your testimony.”
And they both laughed. Mack then says very seriously:
“Look. I’m gonna begin with the line — it’s not a line, it’s the truth: He never did anything to me. I never saw him do anything. And especially at this flash point in time, I’d have no reason to hold anything back. The guy has passed on. If anything — I’m not gonna say it would be stylish or anything like that, but right now is a good time to speak up. And if I had something to speak up about, I would totally do it. But no, I never saw anything; he never did anything.”
He does have one more MJ story:
“Here’s a good Michael Jackson story that doesn’t involve Michael Jackson at all: I ran into James Franco on a plane. I’d bumped into him two or three times over the years. I give him a little nod as we’re putting our bags overhead. Hey, how you doing? Good, how ya doing? And it was right after the Leaving Neverland documentary came out, and he goes, ‘So, that documentary!’ And that was all he said. I was like, ‘Uh-huh.’ Silence. So then he goes, ‘So what do you think?’ And I turned to him and I go, ‘Do you wanna talk about your dead friend?’ And he sheepishly went, ‘No, I don’t.’ So I said, ‘Cool, man, it was nice to see you.’”
The Secret Of The Spoons
Mack and MJ were so close, he is actually the godfather to Paris Jackson.
The two have stayed close over the years, and in fact he has passed on something of a bad (??) habit to his goddaughter: stealing spoons from restaurants, airplanes, anywhere they go. The 39-year-old explains:
“It’s harmless. It’s a harmless thing. It’s not like you’re ruining something, like stealing a chess piece, where the board would be incomplete.”
It has become their thing, and they now exchange spoons they got from all over the world. They have matching spoon tattoos, Mack’s only ink — one of many, many pieces of art decorating Paris.
He says it helps them remember a piece of advice he gave her:
“Don’t forget to be silly, don’t forget to take something away from this whole experience, and don’t forget to stick something up your sleeve.”
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