Breaking away from the shadow cast by his older brother's career as the 1990s child star du jour, actor Kieran Culkin went on to establish himself as a major talent on film and stage in his own right. Following in the footsteps of his older brother Macaulay, Culkin started his acting career as a child in films such as "Home Alone" (1990) and "Father of the Bride" (1991), before going on to receive critical acclaim as a young actor for his sardonic, Holden Caulfield-esqe role in "Igby Goes Down" (2002), a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination and acclaim for his strong performance. Though "Igby" was considered the role that truly broke him away from comparisons to his brother, Culkin had in fact been his own actor with roles in films like "The Mighty" (1998), "Music of the Heart" (1999) and "The Cider House Rules" (1999). The young actor also shined on the stage in off-Broadway productions such as "After Ashley" (2005) and "SubUrbia" (2007), while also demonstrating his supporting actor skills in movies like "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (2010). While he may have had his show business start as Macaulay's younger brother, Culkin's demonstrable success on stage and screen established him as a talented young performer in his own right.
Born Sept. 30, 1982 in New York City to former stage actor Christopher Culkin and Patricia Brentrup, Culkin was the fourth child of seven, reared in a small apartment in the city. Growing up, Culkin attended the Professional Children's School and St. Joseph's School, but received his most important training on-set. Exposed to ballet and theater from a very young age by his father, Culkin's first acting gig came at the tender age of two when he appeared in a production at the Symphony Space Theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Culkin also had his first taste of filmmaking when the child actor visited the set of older brother Macaulay's first film, "Rocket Gibraltar" (1988). As his brother's acting career began to take off, Culkin won a number of small roles in his brother's films. He made his feature film debut at age seven in the John Hughes' sleeper hit, "Home Alone" (1990), portraying one of Macaulay's cousins, Fuller. Culkin also appeared alongside Macaulay in "Only the Lonely" (1991) and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" (1992).
Eventually Culkin branched out and was cast in his own films. He won a memorable supporting role as Steve Martin's son, Marty, in the romantic comedy "Father of the Bride" (1991), and landed parts in "Nowhere to Run" (1993) and "It Runs in the Family" (1994). After he reprised Marty for its sequel, "Father of the Bride Part II" (1995), Culkin stepped into Macaulay's shoes once his reign as the biggest child star since Shirley Temple had petered out, leaving the door open for his younger brother to make his mark. The fact that he did not have the baggage of Macaulay's fame could not have been lost on the relatively unscathed younger brother. He moved quietly onward and upward with his career, though the first order of business to get past was the ugly custody dispute over Macaulay's millions that waged between their parents in 1995. Though their mother eventually received legal custody of her children in 1997, the highly public battle drove a wedge between the children and their father that lingered for years.
Though having acted roughly since birth, it was not until Culkin reached his teens that he realized his true passion for the craft. Working with director Peter Chelsom on the film "The Mighty" (1998), the young actor portrayed a boy with a crippling birth defect and received excellent notices, even if the film did not. After another younger-brother stint in the teen comedy "She's All That" (1999) and a turn portraying a teen musician in Wes Craven's departure from horror, "Music of the Heart" (1999), Culkin began to build an impressive résumé. He appeared in the Academy Award-winning Lasse Hallstrom film, "The Cider House Rules" (1999), opposite Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron. He next captured audiences with his portrayal of Catholic school-boy Tim Sullivan in "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" (2002), but it was his portrayal of angst-ridden Jason "Igby" Slocumb in "Igby Goes Down" (2002) that established Culkin as young leading man of skill and taste. His deadpan portrayal of the rebellious teen earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, while the film gained an instant cult following among college students for its offbeat message and delivery. Most importantly, Culkin had finally made a place for himself outside of his older brother's long shadow.
With the critical success of "Igby," Culkin was allowed the opportunity to pick and choose his roles. After taking more than a year off, he returned to theater in 2003, appearing in London's West End production of "This is Our Youth" opposite Colin Hanks. Culkin next took a role in the off-Broadway production of "After Ashley" with Anna Paquin in 2005. A year later, Culkin appeared in the Kenneth Lonergan film, "Margaret" alongside Paquin and Matt Damon, before returning to the stage to play Buff in Eric Bogosian's updated version of "SubUrbia" (2007) at the Second Stage Theatre in New York. He next co-starred alongside his younger brother Rory in the indie coming-of-age drama "Lymelife" (2009), which focused on two Long Island families faced with serious dysfunction and the threat of Lyme disease. Culkin returned to the stage once again to star opposite Matthew Broderick in Kenneth Lonergan's off-Broadway production of "The Starry Messenger" (2009), before heading back to the screen to play the older, gay roommate of the titular "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" (2010), starring Michael Cera.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made film-acting debut as cousin Fuller in Christmas classic "Home Alone"
Played the son of Steve Martin and Diane Keaton in the remake of "Father of the Bride"
Reprised his role in the sequel "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"
Again played Martin and Keaton's child in "Father of the Bride Part II"
Played a 13-year old stricken with Morquio Syndrome in the film, "The Mighty"
Had a supporting role in Lasse Hallstrom's "The Cider House Rules" as the orphan Buster
Joined the cast of the ensemble comedy, "She's All That"
Was cast on the short-lived NBC sitcom, "Go Fish"
Played a leading role in "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys"
Starred in the title role as a runaway teen in "Igby Goes Down"; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor
Was featured in the West End production of "This Is Our Youth"
Played Buff in Eric Bogosian's updated version of "SubUrbia" at the Second Stage Theatre in New York
Starred in the independent feature, "Lymelife"; also co-starred brother Rory Culkin
Joined Matthew Broderick for Kenneth Lonergan's "The Starry Messenger" at off-Broadway's Theater Row
Co-starred opposite Michael Cera in the comic book adaptation "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World"
Cast alongside Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, and Mark Ruffalo in Kenneth Lonergans' "Margaret"
Voiced Peter on "Long Live the Royals"
Had a brief-but-important role on the second season of "Fargo"
Co-starred in dachschund-themed dramedy "Wiener-Dog"
Co-starred with Megan Mullaly, Nick Offerman, and Martin Starr in bizarre comedy "Infinity Baby"