On this day in 1980, Macaulay Culkin, the star of the Home Alone movies and the most successful child actor of his generation, is born in New York City.
Culkin, the third of seven children born to Patricia Brentrup and former actor Christopher “Kit” Culkin, began appearing in theater productions by the age of four. He made his feature film debut in 1988’s Rocket Gibraltar (1988), starring Burt Lancaster. In 1989, Culkin appeared in the comedy Uncle Buck (1989), which was written and directed by John Hughes and featured John Candy in the title role.
Culkin would skyrocket to fame as Kevin McCallister in the 1990 blockbuster Home Alone, about a little boy who must protect his suburban Chicago house from bumbling thieves after his family accidentally leaves him alone when they go on vacation. The film, directed by Chris Columbus and written by Hughes, who reportedly recommended Culkin for the lead, spawned a 1992 sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which also starred Culkin. (A third film, Home Alone 3, was released in 1997, along with a 2002 TV movie, Home Alone 4, but Culkin wasn’t involved with either project.)
Following Home Alone, Culkin starred in My Girl (1991) and The Good Son (1993), in which he departed from his cute image to play an evil character. By 1994, he was the highest-paid child actor in show business. Culkin’s career and those of his brothers Kieran (Father of the Bride, The Cider House Rules) and Rory (You Can Count on Me) were managed by their father Kit, who earned a reputation in the media as a “stage parent from hell.” Following the disappointing box-office results of Macaulay’s films Getting Even with Dad (1994), The Pagemaster (1994) and Richie Rich (1994), he took a break from acting. Around this time, his parents (who never married) became involved in a highly publicized custody battle over their children. The case was finally resolved in 1997, when Kit Culkin ceded control to Brentrup.
In 1998, when they were both 17 years old, Culkin married the actress Rachel Miner. The couple divorced in 2000. In 2003, Culkin returned to the big screen in Party Monster, based on the true story of the drug-addicted New York City party promoter Michael Alig, who was convicted of the 1996 murder of fellow clubgoer Angel Melendez. Though the film found only moderate success, it helped revive Culkin’s career. He has since appeared in several other films–including the teen comedy Saved! (2004)–none of which have approached the commercial success of Home Alone.