Macaulay Culkin has just spent eight long hours on the set of his latest movie, My Girl. It’s nearly 7 p.m., he hasn’t had his dinner yet, and he’s doing another interview.
He dutifully sits down with me at a picnic table in a huge, empty Orlando, Fla., auditorium that serves as a cafeteria for the cast and crew, who are still filming on the adjacent soundstage. He sips at his third or fourth Mountain Dew of the day, picks at a scab on his left knee, and toys with a five-foot-long empty cardboard tube. He is distracted, fidgety, but politely resigned to answering questions about how his life has changed since the phenomenal success of his breakthrough film, Home Alone.
”Sometimes it gets annoying,” he says, picking at the scab. ”’Sit here.’ ‘No, sit here, it’s more comfortable.’ ‘Are you the kid from Home Alone?’ No, I’m an alien from Mars.”
Suddenly he gets that look in his big blue eyes — that irresistible, devilish-but-darling look that helped make Home Alone the third-largest-grossing film ever, and has made this blond boy of 11 years a major star. The interview is over.
”Batter up!” he yells, swinging the tube like a bat. He grabs a roll of red gaffer’s tape and, winding it around his hands with intense concentration, proceeds to make himself a baseball. ”This is first base,” he shouts, racing across his indoor playing field to designate a plastic garbage can. ”That blue thing on the floor over there is third. Hey, Dad!” he calls out to his father, Kit. ”You’re on Meredith’s team.”
Then Mack, as he’s known by family and friends, flashes me the look again, this time adding a troublemaking grin. ”Dad’s a slow runner,” he says.
In the past year, Macaulay Culkin has been canonized as America’s Everykid. The good news is, that’s basically what he is. Culkin, who reportedly earned a salary in the low six figures for Home Alone (which grossed about $500 million worldwide) and will make more than $4 million for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, would rather listen to his favorite Poison tapes or play with his Wrestlemania dolls than sign autographs. He’d rather ride his bicycle than don a tuxedo for the Academy Awards. He does love acting — he’s been doing it since he was 4 years old — but the star treatment he can do without.
Yet Culkin, who has been to the White House, appeared on the Emmys, the Oscars, and The Arsenio Hall Show, and, most recently, shown up in Michael Jackson’s ”Black or White” video, is finding it increasingly difficult to avoid the consequences of his success. And for Columbia, which released My Girl on Nov. 27, the public’s adoration of Culkin has presented a peculiar dilemma.
Even though the movie also stars Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and 10-year-old newcomer Anna Chlumsky, the studio knew the public would see it mainly as Culkin’s follow-up to Home Alone. But the trouble began when word leaked out that something shocking happens to him in this movie: not his much-publicized first kiss, but his vivid death late in the film (he plays an extremely allergic boy killed by a swarm of bees). The story was quickly picked up by newspapers and magazines, which asked, Would parents want their children to watch their Home Alone hero die a brutal death?
Columbia shifted into spin control, setting up screenings for child psychologists, parents, and children. The movie’s press kit includes quotes from some of those psychologists: ”Feel the power. Feel the healing.” ”Perfect fare for parents and their children.”
”The (scene) is tastefully, sensitively done,” says Frank Price, the former Columbia chief who green-lighted the project. ”If everybody keeps writing solely about the death, that will have its own impact.”