From 1990 to 1994, Macaulay Culkin was the biggest child star in Hollywood. Home Alone turned a profit the first weekend of its release, and remains the highest grossing live-action comedy of all time. But Mack wasn’t the only talent in his family. Patriarch Christopher “Kit” Culkin had failed to make it as a professional actor and was determined to make up for it with one or more of his 7 children: Shane (born 1976), Dakota (born 1979), Macaulay (born 1980), Kieran (born 1982), Quinn (born 1984), Christian (born 1987), and Rory (born 1989). Kit started with Shane, but brought 4-year-old Macaulay along to auditions. Mack’s precociousness eclipsed his brother and by age 14, he was the highest paid child actor of all time.
Soon, Kit was booking jobs for his younger children as well. But money doesn’t buy a happy home life. Mack should have been laying the foundation for a lifelong acting career. Instead, he was watching his parents struggle. Kit’s partner, Patricia Brentrup, said the money was a curse. “We were happier living hand-to-mouth, and that's what's so hard. We don't get to enjoy what the whole family worked for together.”
We’ll tell you all about what went wrong in 19 Secrets Behind The Culkin Family.
19 MACAULAY SAVED HIS FAMILY
The Culkins came from humble beginnings. Macaulay Culkin told Marc Maron that his parents “stacked us on top of each other. It was a 4-room apartment for 9 people.” Billy Hopkins, who gave Macaulay his first break in the play, Afterschool Special recalls, "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."
After Macaulay’s $250K paycheck from Home Alone, Kit quit his job as a church sacristan to manage his son’s career full time. Thanks to Macaulay, the Culkins upgraded to a brownstone in New York’s Upper East Side. Before long, the pint-sized prodigy commanded $8 million a picture.
18 DAD LIVED VICARIOUSLY THROUGH HIS KIDS
In his youth, Kit Culkin had tried to launch his own acting career. Insiders interpreted Kit’s demanding nature as an opportunity to finally make a name for himself. One executive told The New York Times, "[P]ersonally, I think he's living his life out through his son… He wants his son to get the kind of respect he didn't get as an actor."
During his interview with Macaulay Culkin, Mark Maron surmised that Kit, “was like, ‘I failed I’ll make the kids do it.’” Macaulay responded, “I mean essentially yeah, there was an element of that.”
Kit was reportedly bitter that he wasn’t able to achieve the same level of success as his more talented children. Said Macaulay, “Everything that he tried to do in his life, I excelled at... before I was 10 years old.”
17 DAD CONTROLLED THEIR CAREERS
While both Kit Culkin and Pat Brentrup took a cut as managers, Kit was the one in charge. He was notorious for being demanding. When Macaulay Culkin hosted Saturday Night Live at age 11, Kit wouldn’t let his son be part of the creative process and refused to let him use cue cards. This meant that no other cast member could have them either.
Kit also reportedly threatened to pull Macaulay out of the Home Alone sequel unless they gave him the lead in The Good Son. The delay cost the studio over $4 million and put 60 people out of work at Christmas time.
Macaulay’s lawyer, Ken Weinrib said, "I made every deal he ever had, and a lot of the difficulties were not about money; that's the reason it would get so difficult and toxic. Because it wasn't about money. It was about power."
16 A DIFFICULT HOME
Though Kit Culkin was a nightmare on set, he was reportedly even worse at home. Macaulay said he was happy to bear the brunt of the abuse if it meant a break for his family. When father and son traveled for work, mother and siblings, got “3 months off from him..”
When his parents first split, Macaulay recalls Kit forced him and Kieran to sleep on the couch during their visits. He posited, “I think it was just a way of him wanting to break my spirit.”
During the custody battle, Patricia Brentrup testified that Kit was abusive during two of her pregnancies, and once threatened her aggressively.
15 MOM AND DAD'S CUSTODY BATTLE
In 1995, Patricia Brentrup started the lengthy process of splitting from Kit Culkin. Because Pat and Kit had a financial stake in their children’s career, it was more than just a family matter. They were also fighting over the family livelihood. As managers, Pat and Kit split a 15% commission.
Home Alone director Chris Columbus observed, "The custody battle seems to be two parents fighting over a young guy's earnings. If I were a kid, I'd want my parents to be fighting for custody of me because they love me--not for my money. It's a little bit depressing."
Kit’s motivations might have bene suspect, but Pat exhibited concern for her children’s well-being when she petitioned for temporary custody. Brentrup cited abandonment, "excessive drinking, physical abuse and unfaithful behavior."
14 MACAULAY DIVORCED HIS PARENTS
Two years into Patricia Brentrup and Kit Culkin’s custody battle, 17-year-old Macaulay Culkin decided to take matters into his own hands. Though he didn’t technically emancipate himself from their guardianship, Macaulay did remove their names from his money.
He explained, "Basically, I had millions and millions of dollars in the bank and my mother couldn't pay the rent because she was spending all of her money on lawyers… We were about to get evicted from our apartment. The only way I could get access to that money was to take my father's name off it, but I didn't want to make it messy, so I figured I'd take both their names off.”
Macaulay also seized the opportunity to step away from Hollywood for a while. He told Marc Maron: “I was like ‘I’m done guys, hope you all made your money because there is no more coming from me.’”
13 KIERAN DIDN'T WANT HIS BROTHER'S LIFE
Kieran Culkin believes there’s a big difference between professional acting and movie stardom. By watching his brother, Macaulay, Kieran learned that he wanted an acting career without the trappings of fame.
In 2014, The Igby Goes Down actor told The Daily Beast, “I think if anybody saw real fame first or secondhand, they would not want to pursue it at all. It is not attractive... I don't do this for fame, I do this to be good.”
It’s a good thing Kieran managed to find that balance because he claims that he doesn’t really have any marketable skills to fall back on. “I don’t know how to type!... I can’t f***in’ write. I’m not big enough to work construction. I wouldn’t be good at any other profession. I’ve thought about it a lot. I often think about getting out of this job, but I’m terrified that there’s nothing else.”
12 THE NEXT GENERATION OF CULKINS
When Macaulay Culkin was a guest on the WTF podcast, host Marc Maron asked if any of Pat Brentrup’s offspring had given her grandchildren.
Macaulay laughed and said, “No, no. My mother had 7 children and… I have no nieces or nephews.” Brentrup came from a family of 13 children so her brood was small in comparison to her roots. Mack told Maron, “My mother didn’t have a family. She had a litter.”
Though the Culkins are close, their childhoods make them hesitant to repeat history.
When Pat asked Macaulay why none of her children had children, her son said he told her, “‘Don’t you think you kind of messed us up a little bit?’ We’re very hesitant to… pull the trigger.”
11 SHANE AND KIERAN'S INFAMY
During his 2018 interview with Marc Maron, Macaulay Culkin told a couple of anecdotes about how his brother terrorized the theater world.
The oldest Culkin, Shane, made an indelible impression on legendary writer/actor Spalding Gray when they shared the stage for a 1989 production of Our Town. Mack said that in “Monster in A Box”, Gray, “talks about the kid who vomited on stage. That’s my brother Shane.” Gray described the incident poetically, writing, “Like a hydrant it comes, hitting some of the dead on their shoulders!”
Mack also mentioned a little prank Kieran played on his fellow actors during an unnamed play. “Kieran did a show… where the other characters are smoking... and he put real [substances] in it one day. So, he actually made the whole theater smell”
10 MACAULAY MARRIED AT 17
Macaulay Culkin’s lifestyle forced him to grow up early. It’s no wonder that, at 17, he felt ready to marry the woman he loved. Mack met Supernatural actress Rachel Miner while attending the Professional Children’s School in NYC. Because they were both minors, they needed notarized parental consent to receive a marriage license.
To throw off the paparazzi, the whimsical couple sent their guests on a scavenger hunt to discover the ceremony’s location. Said one guest, "The party was like a fancy version of a family picnic… children were running everywhere."
After their separation 2 years later, Mack recalled their courtship in an interview, “We dated four times before we got married. She'd broken up with me three times before, and so the last time we were going out I said, 'Marry me now before you dump me again.'"
9 RORY WAS SHELTERED
While Kieran Culkin used his older brother’s career as a cautionary tale, the littlest Culkin didn’t learn about all the drama surrounding his family until he was a teenager. "It's so weird to think about it," Rory Culkin told The Guardian in 2005. "Looking back on it now… It was strange, coming into school, and my classmates knowing more about my brother or my dad than I did because they'd read the newspaper."
Though Rory never experienced Kit Culkin’s wrath first hand, his siblings have shared with him the horror stories. "From the things I hear, I wouldn't even want to be in the same state as that guy.”
The Signs actor was 6 years old when the family booted Kit from the picture.
8 MILA KUNIS COULDN'T HANDLE MACAULAY'S FAME
After his brief marriage to Rachel Miner, Macaulay Culkin entered a serious relationship with actress Mila Kunis that lasted for 9 years. Many assumed that Mack’s failed first marriage left him wary to tie the knot with Mila. But Kunis told Howard Stern that there were other factors.
"He was huge. You couldn't walk down the street with him… He always had this weird attraction, like fans just screamed when they saw him! They didn't know how to react. It wasn't like a normal response to a celebrity. Fans responded in a very abnormal way to him."
Kunis also had cold feet. "Since before [Macaulay and I] started dating… I told my dad, 'Just so you know, I don't believe in marriage.'... I was like, 'This is not for me!'"
Though Macaulay has yet to walk down the aisle a second time, Kunis married actor Ashton Kutcher in 2015.
7 MACAULAY'S ARREST
For a time, rumors persisted of Macaulay Culkin’s struggle with substance abuse.
He insists he never had a problem, telling Larry King, “Everything that I do for some reason becomes this big crazy thing, you know, even though any normal person does it. Like, yes I’m a kid, I had a beer, I smoked... Big deal.”
Nonetheless, Oklahoma City police picked him up in 2004 for possession. Mack was riding around with a friend when they were pulled over for speeding. The officer decided to search the car and found pills and illegal substances. Police stated that Mack admitted he did not have a prescription for the pills. They released him on a $4000 bond.
6 DAKOTA'S TRAGIC ACCIDENT
Dakota Culkin was never interested in the spotlight, preferring to work behind the scenes. In 2008, the 29-year-old’s production design career ended abruptly when she walked in front of a moving vehicle outside a bar in West L.A. The distraught driver tried to help but Dakota succumbed to her wounds at the hospital.
Though the LAPD “determined that the driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” the coroner reported that Dakota’s blood-alcohol level was 0.31% - 3 times the legal limit. He surmised, "It might have influenced her decision to walk into traffic.”
Dakota’s friend and co-worker recalled her as “hilarious, witty, and down to earth.” A spokesperson for the family would only say that it was a “terrible tragic accident."
5 MOM WAS BLAMED FOR A FIRE
Though she’d finally settled with Kit Culkin, the legal trouble didn’t end for Patricia Brentrup. In 1999, she was hit with an $80 million lawsuit, blaming her for a fire in the family’s upper West Side apartment.
The Fire Department determined that the blaze began with sparks from a space heater. Pat left the door to their apartment ajar when she fled with her family. As a result, the hallways and stairwell of the 51-floor building filled with smoke and 4 people lost their lives.
The plaintiff’s attorney asserts that if Pat had closed the door all the way, the fire would have been contained. Emily Gerson Saines, who managed the 3 acting Culkins said, "All Pat did was turn on a radiator."
4 MACAULAY IS AGORAPHOBIC
In 2004, Macaulay Culkin told Larry King that he was, “a self-diagnosed agoraphobic. It wasn't like I went to a therapist and he said it. It's just I realized... I started going outside, and it felt like the buildings were going to eat me.”
Mack said the condition snuck up on him. “I didn't even realize I wasn't leaving the house a lot… I just kind of, you know, there was always photographers in the bushes and things like that, and there was a lot of things out there that were trying to consume me.”
To combat the inclination to remain indoors, he adopted a dog that would "get me out of the house three times a day, at least to just walk around the block.”
3 MACAULAY AND PARIS JACKSON
Since childhood, Macaulay Culkin has had to deal with a slew of rumors about his relationship to Michael Jackson. Former child star Mark Lester (Oliver!) told The Daily Mail that Mack was one of several celebrity donors the King of Pop used to bring his children into the world.
Curiously, the child Mack is rumored to have fathered is Blanket, the one who looks the most like Michael. Though Macaulay insists that he had nothing to do with Blanket’s conception, Jackson appointed him their Godfather.
Macaulay is close with all 3 Jackson offspring, but he shares a special bond with Paris. He regularly appears on her Instagram, and they have matching tattoos. When Marc Maron brought up Paris, Macaulay said, “I’m going to warn you now I am very protective of her so just look out.”
2 KIT HAS BECOME A RECLUSE
Macaulay Culkin might be hesitant to leave his apartment but these days, Kit Culkin has all but removed himself from society. After Patricia Brentrup won their lengthy custody battle, the dethroned patriarch moved to rural Oregon with his new partner, Jeanette Krylowski. There, they lived in relative obscurity until 2014. It was then that 69-year-old Kit made the news, when he suffered a severe stroke.
Two years later, Kit spoke to The Daily Mail from his home in Grant’s Pass, where he was finally regaining the ability to speak and write. Press caught wind of his recovery when paparazzi photographed him venturing outside, sporting a long white beard. Kit’s partner is also unwell and a caretaker visits them several times a week to bring them groceries and help them out around the house.
1 MACAULAY AND KIT ARE ESTRANGED
Macaulay told Marc Maron he and his father were never close. "It was sour from early on, even before the fame stuff." Their relationship only worsened as their proximity persisted. “Now… I’m going around the country locked in a room with a guy who doesn’t like me.”
Macaulay and Kit haven’t spoken since they ended their financial relationship. Though Macaulay believed Kit sent him a telegram on opening night of Madame Melville, Kit’s partner later admitted she was behind it. Even after Kit’s near-fatal stroke, Mack didn’t reach out. In 2014, Kit told The Daily Mail, “I don't consider him a son anymore.”
Macaulay says he isn’t bitter but he’s in no hurry to reconcile because he believes Kit will never change. “I have forgiveness in my heart… At the same time, I don't think he's there. I don't think he's willing to say the things he should say… I don’t think he deserves it.”
Do you know of any of other Culkin family secrets? Let us know in the comments!