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The Real Reason Macaulay Culkin Quit Acting at 15, Brother Kieran Says

The Succession star shares the truth behind his brother's retirement.

Macaulay Culkin is one of the most famous child stars of all time. In the early '90s, he starred in My Girl, Richie Rich, and, of course, two Home Alone movies. Then at 15, Macaulay retired from his onscreen career, spending nine years out of the spotlight before returning to acting. The decision came as Macaulay also legally emancipated himself from his parents, and it's something he has spoken about in the past. But in a recent interview, his brother, actor Kieran Culkin, offered new insight into Macaulay's life as a child star, including some of the reasons that Macaulay stepped away from acting in his teens and early 20s. Read on to see what Kieran shared about his older brother.

RELATED: A.J. From The Sopranos Quit & Has a Totally Different Job Now.

The Culkin family started acting early.

Macaulay and Kieran Culkin at the Fifth Annual American Comedy Awards in 1991
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kieran explained that he and his six siblings started acting in productions around New York City when they were kids. A stage manager neighbor got them into it when he heard a production needed children. "He was like, 'Well, I know these people. They have six or seven of them and I think the father was an actor. Maybe they would be interested,'" Kieran recalled. "That's how it started. Soon it got to a place of like, 'Sure, you want kids? What gender? What age? Yeah, we got a bunch. Here, take this one.'"

RELATED: This Former Child Actor Quit After "Devastating" Star Wars Experience.

When Macaulay did Home Alone, things really changed.

Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone"
20th Century Fox

Macaulay rose to superstardom with his role in Home Alone, in which Kieran also appeared as his cousin, Fuller. Following that film's remarkable success, Kieran saw his brother get accosted by strangers. "He would get harassed on the street," Kieran told THR. "One time, a woman pulled off his hat and looked at him and said, 'Yeah, it's him! You're not that cute.' And then handed the hat back and walked away."

Kieran was also bothered by fans, sometimes because he was mistaken for his brother. "When I was doing one of the Father of the Bride movies, this woman ran up to me and said, 'Are you Macluckly Macluckly?' And I went, 'No.' She goes, 'Can I get a picture?' I said, 'I'm not him.' And in my mind, I'm thinking, 'Nobody's that.'"

Their father was part of the reason Macaulay quit.

Kit, Macaulay, and Kiernan Culkin, and Patricia Brentrup in Paris in 1990
Francis Apesteguy/Getty Images

Macaulay has claimed over the years that his father, Kit Culkin, was physically and emotionally abusive toward him. Kit was also known throughout Hollywood as being demanding on his son's projects. Macaulay eventually sought emancipation from his parents. "Our 1994 divorce was one of the best things that's ever happened, as it led to me leaving the industry," Macaulay said on Marc Maron's podcast in 2018 (via the Mirror). "I wanted to take a break for a while and eventually I was like, 'I'm done guys, hope you all made your money because there is no more coming from me.'"

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Kieran commented on their dad in the new interview.

Kieran Culkin at the HBO Emmy Party in 2018
Featureflash Photo Agency /

Kieran said that Kit was not abusive toward him, but "he wasn't a good person and, yeah, probably not a good parent." Of his parents splitting up, the 39-year-old act said, "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." The THR article points out that Kit and Kieran haven't spoken since 2014, and at that time, Kit was living in Oregon and had suffered a major stroke.

Macaulay has also said that he needed a break from acting.

Macaulay Culkin at the 2018 American Music Awards
Kathy Hutchins /

"I was tired of it, to be honest," Macaulay said of acting in a 2018 interview with Ellen DeGeneres. "I did like 14 movies in six years or something like that. I was away from home a lot. I was away from school. I needed something else." After retiring, he went to high school. "It was the smartest thing I could have possibly done was to take eight years off," he added.

Macaulay returned to acting with the film Party Monster in 2003. Currently, he's appearing on the latest season of American Horror Story. As for Kieran, he stars on the HBO series Succession and was in the film No Sudden Move, released earlier this year.

RELATED: Tori From Saved by the Bell Quit Acting 25 Years Ago. See Her Now.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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