Kieran Culkin Reflected On The Dark Side Of Child Acting And Feeling Terrible About His Brother Macaulay Culkin's Early Fame

Kieran Culkin Reflected On The Dark Side Of Child Acting And Feeling Terrible About His Brother Macaulay Culkin's Early Fame
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Kieran Culkin Reflected On The Dark Side Of Child Acting And Feeling Terrible About His Brother Macaulay Culkin's Early Fame

"Even at that time, as a kid, I remember thinking, That sucks for him."

SVKcZytTe_large.jpg?crop=365%2525253A365%2525253B14%2525252C0&downsize=120:*&output-format=jpg&output-quality=autoby Mychal Thompson

BuzzFeed Staff


The satirical black comedy Succession is a masterpiece, and the scene stealer is Kieran Culkin as the wise-cracking Roman Roy.


Macall Polay / HBO

Roman, a potential heir to a powerful media conglomerate, struggles to navigate personal ambitions and his complicated family in the middle of a cutthroat business. Every scene seems almost too real — and that's because it's pretty darn close for Kieran.


Claudette Barius/ HBO

Kieran comes from a family full of actors who have seen their fair share of success and tragedy in Hollywood, but he's put in the work that sets him aside from any typical conversation around nepo babies.


Theo Wargo / Getty Images

In a digital cover story for Esquire, the Succession star reflected on the dark aspects of childhood stardom and feeling terrible about his brother Maculaly Culkin’s very early rise to success.


New York Daily News Archive / NY Daily News via Getty Images

The 40-year-old actor is one of eight children of Christopher “Kit” Culkin, a stage actor and former talent manager. And most of Kieran’s siblings have some background in acting — however, only three maintained careers.


Vinnie Zuffante / Getty Images

His paternal aunt is Bonnie Bedelia, a familiar face for fans of the Die Hard franchise or the 2010 TV series Parenthood.


20thcentfox / ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

His younger brother, Rory Culkin, 33, worked alongside Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix as the eerie kid in Signs (2002) and the unforgettable movie nerd in the fourth installment of the Scream franchise in 2011.

Buena Vista / courtesy Everett Collection, Dimension Films / ©Dimension Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

Rory most recently was featured in Amazon Prime's new thriller Swarm (2023).


Amazon Prime

As for his older brother, Macaulay, 42, whom Kieran refers to by his nickname “Mack,” was at one point the most familiar face of the family as one the biggest child stars of the '90s.


Emma Mcintyre / Getty Images for Gucci

Many of Maculaly’s films shaped the childhood of '80s and '90s kids like myself. These movies included notable hits like My Girl (1991), The Good Son (1993), The Nutcracker (1993), The Pagemaster (1994), and Richie Rich (1994).


Columbia Pictures / ©Columbia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection


20thcentfox / ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection


Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection


Warner Bros / ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

The biggest of them all, Home Alone and its sequel, earned Macaulay a Golden Globe nomination at the age of 11. These two films made him one of the most famous child actors ever and established his career.


20thcentfox / ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection


20thcentfox / ©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

In fact, Home Alone is where Kieran also got his start as a child actor alongside his older brother. He was the main character Kevin McCallister’s younger cousin Fuller.


20th Century Fox

In the profile, Kieran was very candid about how he felt about his brother’s incredible fame at age 10. “Poor fucking guy,” he told Esquire.


Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“He was little and having to try to accept that level of fame as reality.” Macaulay had reached an incredible height of celebrity at a very young age, so much so that one of his best friends was the biggest pop star at the time, Michael Jackson — something that seemed pretty casual to me at the time.


Kevin Kane / WireImage

Macaulay had appeared in the 1991 “Black and White” music video, testified on behalf of Michael during his 2005 trial, became the godfather of his children, and attended his funeral in 2009.

Kieran saw that level of stardom at such a young age as a negative. “Even at that time, as a kid, I remember thinking, That sucks for him,” he said.


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And it sucked for the entire household. The spotlight harmed his family, especially when their parents’ hostile divorce was highly publicized. Kieran, who was only a young teenager at the time, had written a note to the court requesting privacy from media covering the tumultuous custody battle.


Kmazur / WireImage

According to Esquire, he wrote, “Your Honor. I ask you, please, to spare my family any further embarrassment by letting the press in the courtroom. It has already been hard on us, and I see no point to it.” The request was denied, and the media went in on the Culkin family — an unsettling memory for anyone following the news in the '90s.

But despite it all and his healthy distrust for certain media outlets, Kieran maintained a reasonably steady acting career that’s led him to the two-time Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning show Succession. Truth be told, I think Kieran's Roman Roy is one of the most compelling characters in the series.

L. Busacca / WireImage, Buena Vista Pictures / ©Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection, / ©Miramax/courtesy Everett / Everett Collection

Over the years, Kieran has starred in several films, most notably Father of the Bride (1991), The Mighty (1998), She’s All That (1999), Igby Goes Down (2002), and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). Igby Goes Down established his transition from child actor into the major leagues with the rest of Hollywood.


United Artists / ©United Artists/Courtesy Everett Collection

As Succession ends with Season 4, Kieran has a new project on the horizon, Jesse Eisenberg’s second directorial effort, A Real Pain (2023). While grateful for the work, Kieran is focused on his family. Concerning acting today, he said, “There’s no reason for me to do it, except I feel like, creatively, I want to,” he said. “And that sucks because now I feel like I’ve got to do it.”

Claudette Barius/HBO

After all, he’s learned from the mistakes of his family’s past and had a front-row seat to the downsides of children in the spotlight. “I feel like what I’m supposed to do is be a stay-at-home dad,” he added. “That’s where I feel like I’m the most me. And anything that takes me away from that is wrong.”


Cindy Ord / Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Read the full cover story here.

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