Kieran Culkin Reflected On The Dark Side Of Child Acting And Feeling Terrible About His Brother Macaulay Culkin's Early Fame

    "Even at that time, as a kid, I remember thinking, That sucks for him."

    The satirical black comedy Succession is a masterpiece, and the scene stealer is Kieran Culkin as the wise-cracking Roman Roy.

    Kieran sitting in a chair while wearing a suit with no tie

    Roman, a potential heir to a powerful media conglomerate, struggles to navigate personal ambitions and his complicated family in the middle of a cutthroat business. Every scene seems almost too real — and that's because it's pretty darn close for Kieran.

    Kieran standing next to Sarah Snooks and Jeremy Strong inside a home in a scene from the film

    Kieran comes from a family full of actors who have seen their fair share of success and tragedy in Hollywood, but he's put in the work that sets him aside from any typical conversation around nepo babies.

    In a digital cover story for Esquire, the Succession star reflected on childhood stardom's dark aspects and felt terrible about his brother Macaulay Culkin’s very early rise to success.

    From left to right: Macaulay and Kieran

    The 40-year-old actor is one of eight children of Christopher “Kit” Culkin, a stage actor and former talent manager. And most of Kieran’s siblings have some background in acting — however, only three maintained careers.

    A younf Macaulay walking the red carpet with his dad Kit behind him

    His paternal aunt is Bonnie Bedelia, a familiar face for fans of the Die Hard franchise or the 2010 TV series Parenthood.

    His younger brother, Rory Culkin, 33, worked alongside Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix as the eerie kid in Signs (2002) and the unforgettable movie nerd in the fourth installment of the Scream franchise in 2011.

    Rory most recently was featured in Amazon Prime's new thriller Swarm (2023).

    As for his older brother, Macaulay, 42, whom Kieran refers to by his nickname “Mack,” was at one point the most familiar face of the family as one the biggest child stars of the '90s.

    Macaulay walking during a fashion runway show

    Many of Macaulay’s films shaped the childhood of '80s and '90s kids like myself. These movies included notable hits like My Girl (1991), The Good Son (1993), The Nutcracker (1993), The Pagemaster (1994), and Richie Rich (1994).

    Macaulay sitting at a table in Richie Rich

    The biggest of them all, Home Alone and its sequel, earned Macaulay a Golden Globe nomination at the age of 11. These two films made him one of the most famous child actors ever and established his career.

    In fact, Home Alone is where Kieran also got his start as a child actor alongside his older brother. He was the main character Kevin McCallister’s younger cousin Fuller.

    In the profile, Kieran was very candid about how he felt about his brother’s incredible fame at age 10. “Poor fucking guy,” he told Esquire.

    “He was little and having to try to accept that level of fame as reality.” Macaulay had reached an incredible height of celebrity at a very young age, so much so that one of his best friends was the biggest pop star at the time, Michael Jackson — something that seemed pretty casual to me at the time.

    Macaulay standing next to Michael Jackson

    Kieran saw that level of stardom at such a young age as a negative. “Even at that time, as a kid, I remember thinking, That sucks for him,” he said.

    The brothers at a an event sitting at a dinner table

    And it sucked for the entire household. The spotlight harmed his family, especially when their parents’ hostile divorce was highly publicized. Kieran, who was only a young teenager at the time, had written a note to the court requesting privacy from media covering the tumultuous custody battle.

    But despite it all and his healthy distrust for certain media outlets, Kieran maintained a reasonably steady acting career that’s led him to the two-time Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning show Succession. Truth be told, I think Kieran's Roman Roy is one of the most compelling characters in the series.

    As Succession ends with Season 4, Kieran has a new project on the horizon, Jesse Eisenberg’s second directorial effort, A Real Pain (2023). While grateful for the work, Kieran is focused on his family. Concerning acting today, he said, “There’s no reason for me to do it, except I feel like, creatively, I want to,” he said. “And that sucks because now I feel like I’ve got to do it.”

    After all, he’s learned from the mistakes of his family’s past and had a front-row seat to the downsides of children in the spotlight. “I feel like what I’m supposed to do is be a stay-at-home dad,” he added. “That’s where I feel like I’m the most me. And anything that takes me away from that is wrong.”

    Read the full cover story here.