With notable exceptions, the legendary Bronx Tale quote about the saddest thing in life being wasted talent has often been the dominant narrative in the world of child acting in the last several decades. From the late Lena Zavaroni to Macaulay Culkin, the tale is often one of a life spent in quest of that elusive tinge of promise shown in one’s childhood, which more often than not proves fruitless.
Luckily, not all such stories end in disaster. Culkin, long considered the epitome of a former child actor who has lost his way, has recently been showing encouraging signs of rebirth to the delight of the armies of admirers who still nostalgically remember that talented kid from Home Alone.
Culkin burst onto the scene when he was cast in Uncle Buck, a comedy that came out in 1989. Alongside the legend of comedy John Candy, Culkin proved his knack for being funny and adorable in his first major motion picture.
Just one year later, Home Alone saw Macaulay taking the lead for the first time. A movie that no one was betting one, it proved to be an unprecedented hit and made Culkin a global phenomenon.
By the mid-’90s, Culkin had emerged as one of the biggest child actors ever and was working extensively. My Girl, The Pagemaster, Only The Lonely and Home Alone 2 are just a few of the titles he was involved with, only four years after his big breakthrough.
After the Home Alone sequel set in his hometown New York City, things seemed to slowly start going downhill.
He played the lead in another family comedy in 1994, Richie Rich, the then-14-year-old we were so used to seeing seemingly vanished. Although the movie brought in $125 million on VHS purchases, it was panned by critics and generally viewed as an unsuccessful attempt to recreate Home Alone’s success.
The star went missing for a good part of a decade, while wild rumors about his personal and family problems swirled with fans worried about his well being. He reappeared in guest roles on shows like Will And Grace and in several minor films at the beginning of the noughties.
Something seemed to have gone awry, though, as Macaulay seemed to appear less and less healthy. It was rumored he had problems with substance abuse, health issues, and even psychological problems.
In 2015, the New Yorker revisited his most famous role in an episode of comedian Jack Dishel’s web series, “:DRYVERS”
Culkin used a 35-year-old Kevin McCallister to poke fun at the Home Alone phenomenon, as well as himself, while making it perfectly clear that what was an enjoyable experience for the viewers, was anything but for himself.
In the video, Kevin describes his former self as “the cutest fucking eight-year-old in the universe, by far”, while it’s obvious something went horribly wrong in the intervening 27 years.
“I still have nightmares about this bald weirdo dude chasing me around talking like Yosemite Sam,” McCallister confesses in the video – a reference to the Harry Lime character, played by Joe Pesci.
It seems like Macaulay is finally able to leave his demons behind him, as reports are surfacing that he has been working hard to turn his life around for a while now. The actor is now eating well, working out and restraining from addictions.
Could a successful return to acting be on the cards? It would be a redeeming turnaround for someone who was once regarded as the most successful child actor since Shirley Temple.
But it’s not like the iconic child actor hasn’t been busy throughout the years… in fact, it’s been quite the opposite.
In 2013 Macaulay started a comedy-themed rock band called The Pizza Underground.
In December that year, a viral video of Culkin eating a cheese pizza was uploaded to YouTube – a parody of Andy Warhol eating a Burger King Whopper in 66 Scenes From America.
A lot of the band’s material is a tribute to Warhol-associated cult band Velvet Underground, as well as a tribute to the music its frontman Lou Reed recorded during his solo career.
Culkin plays kazoo, drums and sings when he is not handing out pizza slices to the audience!
Not everyone finds it funny, though. Pizza Underground has also been booed off stage as some fans believe they are making a mockery of Velvet Underground’s music.
The band has announced in 2016 that they plan to make only one more album before disbanding.
Despite all of the hardship including a failed marriage, estrangement from his father and problems with the law, it seems like Macaulay is finally walking the road to recovery.
Long may it continue!