He's 'Home Alone' twice, but a kid just once

November 23, 1992|By Larry Hackett | Larry Hackett,New York Daily News

He can have his $5 million and his choice of movie roles, but Macaulay Culkin cannot have two Cokes and two Sprites at once.

"I think that's going to be a little too much sugar, don't you?" his publicist says in one of those question-like answers. "I'll get you a Sprite."

He relents noiselessly, repairing to the couch where he begins to play with an interviewer's tape recorder. The story goes that Mack once broke a reporter's recorder inadvertently, tossing it into the air during the conversation.

"Me?" he says.

Yeah you, kid.

He puts the recorder down.

First the good news: Despite the riches; the fame; the hanging around with Michael Jackson; the reportedly tyrannical stage dad; the anxiety of repeating what became the third top-grossing film in history, Macaulay Culkin appears to be a normal 12-year-old.

Now the bad news: Despite the money; the fame; the hanging around with Michael Jackson; the reportedly tyrannical stage dad; the anxiety of repeating what became the third top-grossing film in history, Macaulay Culkin appears to be a normal 12-year-old.

"He's a real kid," says Chris Columbus, who directed Mack for the second time with "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," which opened Friday. "He's concerned about being with his family and playing with his brothers and sisters. He kind of likes to lead a pretty normal life."

Which is great for his family and friends and the kids at school and his teachers. Terrific. Not bad either for Twentieth Century Fox, which is hoping "Home Alone 2" will mimic the success of 1990's "Home Alone" -- which earned $285 million at the U.S. box office alone (foreign receipts push that figure over $500 million).

But for those panning for a nugget of introspection, trying to take a true measure of the boy (such as is apparent after 45 minutes in a New York hotel room), Mack makes Robert De Niro seem expansive.

Q: Was this one as much fun?

A: "Ahh, yeah."

Q: Did you sit down with John (Hughes, writer and producer) and talk about what you were going to do beforehand?

A: "No."

Q: So he and Chris came to you and said, "This is what we're going to do."?

A: "Yeah. And I was, like, cool."

Q: So you liked doing a lot of the same things?

A: "Yep."

At this point, Mack makes a noise that sounds like Rodan; interviewer, running out of questions, presses on.

Q: So what was the most fun?

A: "Uuuuuuummmmm . . . I really didn't have the funnest or the bestest or whatever thing to do. I really didn't have anything."

Q: No? There must have been some things that were kind of favorite?

A: "Nope . . . "

feels no pressure about his responsibility as the nation's Superboy, doesn't mind if kids ask for autographs, likes to meet new people on shoots, but met "no one particular, no" on this one. And he wears two different sneakers, one black and one white, because it's fun.

Q: Do adults ask silly questions?

A: "Kind of."

Operating under the principle Give the People What They Want, Mr. Hughes and Mr. Columbus have crammed "Home Alone 2" end-to-end with references to its predecessor: the frantic wake-up; Fuller's bedwetting; the gangster movie video ("Angels With Even Filthier Souls" this time); the life-size puppets -- all guarantee a safe and familiar journey.

"I think it's a different enough movie," says Mr. Columbus when asked if the new movie apes the first one a little too much. "I think kids expect to see the same kinds of things. They expect Kevin to be alone and get into conflict."

As for adults, "they want to repeat the experience."

The film began shooting in New York last December, only after some high stakes poker between Fox and Kit Culkin, Mack's dad. According to stories at the time, Kit Culkin demanded that Mack be cast as an evil boy in the psychological thriller, "The Good Son," or else there might be a problem with the "Home Alone" sequel.

With the actors and director in place, "The Good Son" was scrapped last year -- at a reported cost of $3 million -- and is now set to start shooting -- with Mack -- next month.

When the subject of money and roles comes up, Mack unzips the bolster he's been playing with and starts fingering the stuffing inside. "My parents take care of that for me." He doesn't get an allowance, but "whenever I need money, I just ask my mother and -- bang."

With his face now buried in the bolster, Mack is asked what he and his buddies talk about. "Mostly video games, if you really want to know."

L Streetfighter II is cool; Mack prefers the Nintendo version.

He still goes to school here in New York, but won't say where (he used to go to St. Joseph's in Yorkville). Though he and Michael Jackson chat three or four times a week on the phone, he no longer sees his old girlfriend, a youngster named Laura Bundy.

What happened? he's asked. "What does happen?" he answers benignly. He's 12?

As for Michael Jackson, they hung together about a month ago on the gloved one's ranch -- playing video games, watching movies, riding Jet skis. "We tried to do bumper cars, but they're still building those."

Mack is yawning now and making machine-gun noises as a photographer clicks pictures. Forty-five minutes of a reporter's questions, the fourth round he's handled, and it's not even noon. For a boy with his power, it's the price he's gotta pay.

So bring the kid his Sprite -- and let him have his Coke. You're a kid only once.

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