Many cite Macaulay Culkin – whose breakthrough movie ‘Home Alone’ has just turned 25 – as that archetypal child star who ended up losing it
But it that really the case?
A closer look at the young actor’s rapid rise to stardom shows an equally rapid descent into a swathe of bad movies and his decision to retire from acting at 14.
Many presume that, as is so ofter the case, his downfall was accompanied by boozing and drugs, but other than an arrest in 2004 –which turned up some marijuana and anxiety medication – and a much-disputed claim by the National Enquirer that he was addicted to heroin, there’s not much to point to the kind of appetite for self-destruction that has haunted so many young stars before him and since.
Look at his movies from 1993 onwards, and there were some increasingly poor career choices made, time and time again. These, coupled with a horrible fall-out with his parents, were to blame for his career stalling.
It’s well-documented that Culkin’s relationship with his father,Christopher 'Kit’ Culkin, also a stage actor from a very young age, was not always a happy one.
Kit acted as his son’s manager, and from the age of four, the young Macaulay was appearing on stage and in adverts.
A role in 'The Equalizer’ aged eight, was followed by his first big break as the unfathomably cute Miles opposite the legendary John Candy in 'Uncle Buck’ when he was just nine.
He had a slew of hits including 'Home Alone’ and 'My Girl’, for which he became the first child star to score a million dollar fee. Accounting for inflation, 'Home Alone’ made over $1 billion (£657 million) worldwide.
But instead of pursuing the dream into adulthood, he retired from acting at 14. His final three movies in 1994, 'Getting Even With Dad’, 'The Pagemaster’ and 'Ritchie Rich’ each earned him a nomination at the Razzies.
Prior to that there was the thriller 'The Good Son’, oddly, penned by revered author Ian McEwan but panned by critics, and an odd appearance in the 1993 musical version of 'The Nutcracker’.
That’s five bad movies on the bounce, uncharacteristically bad choices considering those made during his rise to fame, which found him working with the legendary John Hughes on three occasions.
Culkin’s parents filed for divorce in 1995, upon which an unseemly scramble for the millions Macaulay had made ensued. Culkin’s mother Patricia had also accused Kit of 'excessive drinking and physica abuse’ in a 'reign of terror’ over her, allegations he denied.
Meanwhile, Macauley made legal claims that his huge earnings had been mismanaged, and while custody of the Culkin children went to his mother, the child star blocked his parents from controlling his huge fortune.
He walked away from the courts estranged from his father, but with a $17 million settlement and no plans to return to the industry that had made him rich, but at the cost of his childhood.
It’s a quote he made about his longtime friend Michael Jackson which is perhaps most telling.
“Michael and I had an understanding about my father,” he said.
“He knew what that was all about. He’d lived it. It’s not like I can just bump into people on the street and say, Oh! You too! It doesn’t happen that often.
“Michael’s still a kid. I’m still a kid. We’re both going to be about 8 years old forever in some place because we never had a chance to be 8 when we actually were. That’s kind of the beautiful and the cursed part of our lives.”
Had he wanted, he could likely have turned things around, and made a comeback in the intervening years, as many child stars have done.
His long-term relationship with Mila Kunis often bought him back into gossip columns, but it seemed he still remained pretty resolute about staging any significant comeback.
When he did return tentatively to acting, his projects have been pretty out there. After a nine-year gap following 'Richie Rich’ in 1994, his last film as a 'child star’, he starred in 'Party Monster’,a grimy depiction of the 'club kid’ murderer Michael Alig in the heady world of 90s New York clubland (see below).
Then there was the oddball, so-called 'dadaist’ 'The Wrong Ferrari’, filmed on an iPhone and directed by Adam Green of the 'anti-folk’ band The Moldy Peaches, in which he played himself.
Around this time, Culkin also became chummy with Libertines bad boy Pete Doherty, reportedly living with him for a time in Paris in 2013.
He also formed a band called The Pizza Underground, performing covers of tracks by the Velvet Underground ('Take A Bit Of The Wild Slice’ anyone?), and touring the US, though the band was booed off stage during a gig at Nottingham’s Rock City, the crowd not taking kindly to perceived mockery of the great New York band.
As the band was showered with pints, he replied gamely: “Why are you throwing those? …I’d rather drink them!”
Following his relationship with Kunis, which ended in 2011, he’s now seeing 23-year-old actress and singer Jordan Lane Price, herself something of a child star, having performing on stage and screen - and once in a manufactured pop band - from a young age.
So while Culkin undoubtedly followed the path trudged by many a child star, burnt out in his teenage years, maybe there’s more to his sometimes strange trajectory than meets the eye.
And whatever the actor decides to do in the future, he’ll always be the star of one of greatest Christmas films of all time…
Image credits: Rex Features/Yahoo File/YouTube