Macaulay Culkin rules the 1990 holiday-movie season — as his family began unraveling

An unknown 10-year-old boy went mano a mano with heavyweight champ Rocky Balboa on Nov. 16, 1990, and, to everyone’s surprise, knocked his block off. The kid was Macaulay Culkin, whose antics as a preteen Terminator defending his home against two thick-headed thieves propelled the comedy Home Alone to an opening-weekend gross of $17 million — $3 million more than the expected box office winner, Rocky V, earned.

To Home Alone‘s filmmakers, the receipts were sweet retribution. ”I thought the picture would never be made,” recalls Chris Columbus, director of Home Alone and its 1992 sequel, which also starred Culkin. ”Warner Bros. put it in turnaround when our budget went from $16 million to $18 million.” Later completed and released by Twentieth Century Fox, Home Alone earned $285 million in theaters — the only comedy among the 10 highest box office grossers of all time.

But as Home Alone made Culkin the highest-paid child star in history, his family nearly self-destructed. Parents Christopher ”Kit” Culkin and Patricia Brentrup fought bitterly for control of their children’s careers (four of Mac’s six siblings, including brother Kieran, are actors), and split up in March 1995 after 20 years together. This year, the Home Alone star and his siblings were nearly evicted because their parents, practically broke from litigation costs and cut off from their son’s money by court order, failed to pay rent. (A New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that Mac could pay for his family’s housing.)

In 1996, the young actor had reportedly said he wouldn’t accept any roles until his parents settled their custody dispute. That case was resolved in April 1997 when Kit Culkin relinquished control to Brentrup. Still, the star of Home Alone hasn’t been seen in a movie since 1994’s Richie Rich and Getting Even With Dad.

Now 17, Macaulay Culkin (estimated fortune: $17 million) need never work again, and many wonder if he ever will. His attorney, Ken Weinrib, says that Culkin is ”considering several scripts, and there’s a possibility he’ll be back on screen in a year or so.” In the meantime, Mac is going to high school (he’s a senior at Manhattan’s Professional Children’s School) and hanging out with friends.

On Dec. 19, a Macaulay Culkin-less Home Alone 3 is set to premiere, starring up-and-coming 8-year-old actor Alex D. Linz. Linz recently told an interviewer, ”I’d like to be a big movie star.” Maybe Linz should talk to his predecessor before making any final decisions.

Home Alone
  • Movie
  • 103 minutes