How Kieran Culkin’s real-life family dramas echo Succession – from rivalry between the actor brothers to drug arrests and the tragic loss of their sister
- Macaulay, 42, was just one of seven siblings born to Kit and Patricia Culkin
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They may share one of the most instantly recognisable names in showbiz – but fame hasn’t exactly been kind to any of the Culkin brothers.
Thanks to his starring role in the Home Alone franchise in the 1990s, Macaulay Culkin, 42, became one of the most famous child actors of his generation.
As a result, the star – who is one of seven siblings – paved the way for his brothers Shane, 47, Kieran, 40, Christian, 36, and Rory, 33 to also follow him into the profession.
Earlier this week, the youngest Culkin sibling left viewers stunned after he appeared completely nude in a raunchy scene for Amazon Prime’s new series Swarm.
Meanwhile, the highly anticipated final season of Succession – which gave Kieran Culkin his most critically acclaimed role – hits screens this weekend.
Here FEMAIL takes a look back over the Culkin family’s troubled rise and fall from fame – from Macaulay’s drug arrest to the devastating loss of their sister Dakota.
Kit and Patricia with six of their seven children pictured in the 1990s. Back row L-R: Patricia, Kit, Shane, Dakota. Front row L-R: Maculay, Kieran, Rory, Quinn.
At the age of 10, Macaulay Culkin sky-rocketed to fame when he was cast as Kevin McCallister in the first Home Alone film in 1990.
By the time he was 12 years old, the child star had reached millionaire status thanks to his performances in Richie Rich and The Good Son – making him the family’s breadwinner with the ability to reportedly bring in £6m with every performance.
Before bagging the life-changing role, Macaulay had been used to a much more modest lifestyle – as his former actor father Kit worked in a parish church while his mother Patricia held down a job in a call centre.
Speaking to New York magazine in 2001, Home Alone’s casting director Billy Hopkins claimed: ‘They were so poor I had to use my own money to make sure that he got to and from rehearsal.
‘Macaulay would crawl under the bleachers at the theater to look for change that had fallen out of people’s pockets. They were like the Beverly Hillbillies.’
What’s more, Macaulay’s younger brother Kieran told Vanity Fair 2018 that the family-of-nine’s New York apartment didn’t provide much in the way of privacy.
Macaulay Culkin pictured in Home Alone 2, which hit screens in 1993. The child star was 12 years old at the time
Rachel Miner and Macaulay Culkin at ‘The Mighty’ premiere in 1998. The couple married that year and separated in 2002
Describing how the space was effectively ‘just a hallway’, he added: ‘There were no separating doors, except for the bathroom, which didn’t have a lock.
‘They raised seven kids in that apartment—for years! They just kept bringing babies home to this little space.’
As such, Kit and Patricia used their son’s earnings to buy the family a huge brownstone in New York’s Upper East Side.
A 1993 New York Times article alleged that Kit – who took on the role of Maculay’s agent – had given his son a diva-like reputation in Hollywood thanks to his hands-on approach, which resulted in The Good Son hitting theatres a year late.
Four years after his big screen debut, Kat and Patricia’s 20-year relationship came to an end – prompting the feuding couple to battle over who would have custody of the child actor.
Setting out her argument, Patricia told a US court that Kit had a problem with ‘excessive drinking’ and accused him of ‘physical abuse and unfaithful behaviour’.
In denying her claims, Kit branded his ex-wife an ‘inept’ businesswoman as he laid out his case to continue managing Macaulay.
Macaulay Culkin was arrested in 2004 for possession of marijuana. Pictured: the child actor’s mugshot released by Oklahoma police force
Macaulay Culkin pictured in 2012 strolling through New York holding a can of Red Bull energy drink
When he was only 15 years old, Macaulay sued both his parents for £13m and was successful in ‘divorcing’ them as his legal guardians – meaning they no longer had access to his fortune.
Appearing on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast in 2018, Macaulay claimed his father had been ‘physically and mentally’ abusive.
Describing how Kit was ‘jealous’ of him, the actor added: ‘Everything he tried to do in life, I excelled at before I was 10 years old.’
In 2016, Kit told the Daily Mail: ‘I don’t consider [Macaulay] a son anymore.’
As a result of his ongoing difficulties with his parents, Macaulay – who was now richer than his wildest dreams – struggled with life in the limelight.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2000, Macaulay explained how his work impacted his adolescence and said his father treated him as though he were a ‘machine’.
He said: ‘I remember one time near the end of school year, I was walking down the road with my mother saying what I wanted to do this summer and suddenly I knew there was something she did not want to tell me.
‘She said: ‘Don’t make plans this summer. You might be working.’ Then you find out they had already signed the contract.’
‘It started feeling like a chore,’ he told Esquire in a profile published in February 2020. ‘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.’
In the late 1990s, Macaulay took a break from acting and married Supernatural actress Rachel Miner – who was 17 at the time – when he was just 18 years old.
Mila Kunis and Macaulay Culkin dated from 2001 until 2011. Pictured together in LA in June 2009
In 2018, Mila described her break-up from Macaulay as ‘horrible’ and described herself as being an ‘a*****’ in her 20s
Two years after their separation in 2002, Macaulay was charged with possession of marijuana.
In the years that followed, the child star appeared increasingly gaunt in public – sparking concern about his rumoured drug habit.
From 2002 to 2011, Macaulay – who has never publicly spoken about his love life – was in a relationship with That 70s Show actress Mila Kunis.
Appearing on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast in 2018, the now mother-of-two said her break-up with Macaulay was ‘horrible’.
Giving rare insight into their romance, Mila said: ‘I f**ked up. I was an a** in my 20s and I’ll be the first to admit it. And that’s something that took me a long time to come out and be like, ‘Yeah, you know what, I was a d**k,’ and accept it and I own it now.’
She didn’t say exactly what she did to her former beau, but revealed: ‘And it’s f**ked up what I did and it’s f**ked up how I did it. When I got to be single I said, ‘I just need to figure myself out’. I genuinely need to know why I did what I did, and, like regroup myself as a human being.’
Following their break-up, Macaulay hit back at reports that he was addicted to drugs.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2016, he said: ‘No, I was not pounding six grand of heroin every month or whatever.’
Macaulay Culkin pictured posing on the red carpet at the American Music Awards in 2018 in Los Angeles
Maculay Culkin and his Disney star fiance Brenda Song have reportedly been together for five years and welcomed their second child this month
The 42-year-old now appears happier than ever – having been in a relationship with Brenda Song – who shot to fame on The Suite Life of Zach and Cody – for the past five years.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Maculay and his fiance Brenda Song had secretly welcomed their second child.
Brenda gave birth to their first child, a son called Dakota, in April 2021 and issued a brief statement saying they were ‘overjoyed’.
The new mother later told The Cut: ‘My fiancée and I are very hands-on. We don’t have a nanny, but my mom has been here with us since my son was born. When I was working, my mom would bring my son to set so I could breastfeed and see him during the day.’
Growing up in his older brother’s shadow, Kieran Culkin has said it was always a given that he too would become an actor.
Kieran Culkin and his wife Jazz Charton attend the Season 4 premiere of HBO’s ‘Succession’ at Jazz at Lincoln Center on March 20, 2022
Macaulay Culkin and his little brother Kieran Culkin pictured attending The 49th Annual Golden Globes in 1991
In a previous interview with Vanity Fair, the 40-year-old said: ‘It was never something I pursued or ever properly chose to do.
‘Maybe when I was about five or six, I said, ‘I want to be an actor.’ I was never quite sure what I wanted to do, which I think is normal. I just struggled with that for a long time.’
While Macaulay’s rise to fame was stratospheric, his younger brother slowly plugged away with roles in Father of the Bridge and The Cider House Rules.
Growing up, Kieran says his parents Kit and Patricia prioritised the children’s showbiz careers above all else – meaning their four eldest children never graduated high school.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in 2021, Kieran mused: ‘I kept thinking, ‘I’m going to show up to class,’ and I just didn’t.’
Although Kieran says his father was never physically or emotionally abusive to him, he added: ‘He wasn’t a good person and, yeah, probably not a good parent.
‘I never looked at him as Dad. He didn’t really belong here, and when he was finally gone for good, it made the most sense.’
Kieran and Macaulay pictured at the “After Ashley” Off-Broadway Premiere – After Party at Link in New York City as teenagers
Kieran Culkin and Clare Danes pictured in the 2003 movie Igby Goes Down
As he was only eight years old when Macualay was cast in Home Alone, Kieran detailed some of his first uncomfortable brushes with fame as a child in a Vanity Fair interview in 2018.
As well as being followed down a New York street by a taxi, Kieran remembered how one fan came up to his brother and told him: ‘You’re not that cute.’
He said: ‘[Fame is]not a nice thing. I think well-adjusted, smart people that experience it first- or secondhand would not pursue it.’
In 2002, Kieran’s career starting taking off when he was cast as the lead in cult comedy Igby Goes Down starring opposite Claire Danes, Jeff Goldblum and Susan Sarandon.
After auditioning three times for the leading role, Kieran explained how director Burr Steers told him he wasn’t sure if he was right for the part.
In response, the actor told him: ‘You look like s**t.’ The cheeky retort bagged Kieran the role that would change the course of his career – bagging him a Golden Globe nomination.
He added: ‘I wasn’t trying to be an a******. I just didn’t have much of a filter then. He said he had such an urge to hit me upside my head.’
Since 2018, Kieran has been starring as Roman Roy in the critically acclaimed series Succession – which returns for its final season on Sunday.
Kieran pictured delivering his acceptance speech at the 2022 Critics Choice Awards after winning Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Kieran Culkin has been playing Roman Roy in the hit HBO series Succession since 2018
After bagging the role, Kieran explained how he got inspiration for some of Roman’s mannerisms from his sister Dakota – who died at the age of 30 while crossing a road i LA.
He gushed: ‘She was the funniest person in the family for sure and had a really dark sense of humor.’
Describing how her sudden death was the ‘worst thing that’s ever happened’, Kieran added: ‘I accepted at the time that this is going to be forever, and it’s never going to be fine. It’s always going to be devastating.
‘I still weep about it out of nowhere. Something funny she did will pop in the head and make me laugh, and then I’m weeping. Sometimes it’s knowing that she’s not going to meet my kids and they don’t get to have her, and it’s hard to describe what she was like.’
Kieran’s sister Dakota was killed at the age of 30 when she stepped in front of a moving vehicle in 2008
In 2012, Kieran met his former fashion model wife Jazz Charton at a bar in New York.
Although she was there with a man, Kieran told iNews how he waited for him to go to the bathroom before introducing himself.
He recalled: ‘I said, ‘I’m Kieran. You have an English accent. What’s your name?’
‘She said, ‘Jazz.’ And I said, ‘J-A-Z-Z, like the music?’ And she said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Well that’s f***ing stupid.’
‘I asked if [the guy in the bathroom] was her boyfriend, and when she said no, I asked if I could be her boyfriend. We’ve been together ever since.’
The couple married in June 2013 and share two children together.
Rory Culkin pictured at the premiere of ‘Under The Banner of Heaven’ TV Series in April 2022
Rory pictured with Mel Gibson in the 2002 film Signs – about a widowed former minister living with his children and brother on a Pennsylvania farm
Rory Culkin and Kieran Culkin arriving to the New York Premiere of ‘You Can Count on Me in November 2000
He may have made his big screen debut in the 2000 rom-com You Can Count On Me – but Rory Culkin, 33, is now hot on the heels of his older brothers’ careers.
The Hollywood star got his start playing younger versions of Macaulay and Kieran in Igby Goes Down and The Good Son.
Earlier this week, the Hollywood star – who also starred in Scream 4 – made a surprise appearance in the horror-thriller Swarm which follows a pop-star stan, played by Dominique Fishback, as she goes on a murderous rampage following the death of a loved one.
In the very first episode Fishback’s character is seen making her way to a nightclub and dancing provocatively with Culkin’s unnamed character, before the pair are seen kissing by a staircase.
Things then cut to the morning after, when Fishback’s character wakes up to find herself in the stranger’s apartment while he is putting together some breakfast for her. Culkin is then seen naked in the kitchen before he walk back to the bed with a bowl of fruit in hands.
Breakfast in bed: The surprising moment takes place as his character offers his lover some strawberries
Stripping off: Culkin’s character is seen walking around nude in a short scene before a unexpected shot reveals his penis pressed up against a glass bowl
As he kneels on the bed and offers her some strawberries, a shot of the clear bowl appears on screen – with his character’s penis pressed up against the glass. It is unclear whether the actor was genuinely nude, or used a prosthetic penis for the scene.
Speaking to Dazed in 2011, he explained how his father would frame the opportunity to play Kieran and Macaulay’s youngers versions as him doing his brothers a ‘favour’.
He added: ‘And of course I always said yes. I just think it’s funny to call it a favour when you’re six – as if I had something more important to do.’
Elsewhere in the interview. Rory discussed how his signature long hair often puts off casting directors – but he still refused to bow to pressure to cut it.
He added; ‘I mean obviously I would cut my hair for an amazing part. But their argument is that I won’t get the amazing part until I cut it.
‘They always say, ‘Name a leading role with long hair,’ and I just tell them that maybe I’m not necessarily looking for a leading role.
Macaulay Culkin with his brother Rory at the Evening Standard Drama Awards in London in November 2000
Rory Culkin and his wife Sarah Scrivener attend the World Premiere of The Weinstein Company’s Scream 4 in 2011
Rory also insisted that there is ‘no competition’ between him and his brothers and referenced how he and Kieran even went for the same part on one occasion.
In 2014, Rory bagged the lead role in the psychological thriller Gabriel – which follows a young man searching for his childhood sweetheart after being released from a mental health facility.
Speaking to Interview magazine ahead of the film’s release, the then 24-year-old discussed how he saw parts of himself in the character.
He explained: ‘It’s unavoidable that a piece of yourself is going to be involved in any character you play, but with Gabriel especially, I talked to young people who struggled with mental illness [and] a lot of what they are saying was eerily familiar to me.
‘I felt that way all the time! Most of us feel that way, we just have the filter to not say the inappropriate things, and these people just don’t have the filter. So it was just about removing the filter and also remembering how I felt when I was seven.’
In 2011, Kieran met his cinematographer wife Sarah Scrivener on the set of Scream 4. That same year, she underwent treatment for thyroid cancer.
Posting on Instagram in March 2020, Sarah explained how Covid lockdowns reminded her of having to quarantine following her radiation therapy,
The couple – who are both wrestling superfans – tied the knot in April 2018 and had WWE star Paul Heyman officiate their ceremony.
In footage of their wedding, which was shared on TMZ, Sarah can be heard saying during her vows: ‘Rory, I couldn’t be happier to marry you on this rainy day in New Orleans on the eve of WrestleMania.’
Christian Culkin and brother Kieran Culkin attend the The Starry Messenger cast party in New York in 2009
Christian Culkin was the sixth of Kit and Patricia’s seven children – and just like his older brothers, he dipped his toe into acting at an early age.
In 1994, he had a small role in My Summer Story – which starred his older brother Kieran.
Nine years later, Christian then went on to appear It Runs in the Family – another one of Kieran’s movies.
Despite not appearing in any other films, it appears as though his love of the acting has stayed with Christian.
In 2018, he gained a Master of Fine Arts from the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema in Brooklyn, New York.
For the past 10 years, he’s also been working at The Waverly Press – which publishes limited-edition books and prints on pop culture.
In his free time, Christian has shared photos of himself rock-climbing, horse-riding and swimming with dolphins on social media.
Shane Culkin – now 47 – pictured at the premiere of Home Alone in 1990. The eldest Culkin brother does not appear to have acted professionally since 1989
Born in 1976, 47-year-old Shane is Kit and Patricia’s eldest child.
Before Macaulay hit the big time with Home Alone, his older brother Shane was also trying his hand at acting.
In 1989, he was starring as Wally Webb in a broadway production of Our Town, which then got picked up by the TV series Great Performances.
However, his brother’s job in the hit franchise eclipsed Shane’s acting career – and he does not appear to have starred in anything since.
Kit reportedly hoped his eldest son would become a professional actor and would take him to auditions around the city as a child.
However, the father-of-seven decided to focus all his energies on Macaulay when casting directors allegedly began taking a shine to him over Shane.
Although his brothers Macaulay, Kieran and Rory are known the world over, Shane has managed to stay out of the spotlight and it is not known what he now does for a living.
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