PARTY MONSTER written and directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, based on James St. James's book Disco Bloodbath, produced by Bailey, Barbato, Jon Marcus, Bradford Simpson and Christine Vachon, with Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, Chloë Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne, Dylan McDermott and Mia Kirshner. A Seville Pictures release. 98 minutes. Opens Friday (October 24). For review, venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 83. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Berlin - Macaulay Culkin strolls into a Berlin hotel room at the end of a long festival day looking nothing at all like a star-fucked Hollywood casualty. He wears a Strokes T-shirt and a jean jacket. He smacks a pack of Marlboros and a lighter down on the table. He looks like he belongs in Berlin, except he's still shockingly pretty.
"This is our last one of the day," he crows. "We're getting our 15th wind!"
Now 23, Culkin sounds just like his younger brother Kieran does in Igby Goes Down - like a boy who's used to being too smart for the room, and showing it. Here he is doing press for his crazed club kid movie, Party Monster, ready to trade quips with cynical journalists, and doing it solo.
But wait. Isn't this the same Macaulay Culkin who dropped off the face of the earth nine years ago? Didn't he dump his own father in a child-star flameout when he was 14? Didn't he sleep in Michael Jackson's bed?
"People have preconceived notions of me just because I am who I am," he admits, getting the question out of the way. "There's a showbiz convention nearing a cliché that child stars are doo-oomed!" Sometimes he punches his words with extra camp drama.
"They either end up wracked with nostalgia or reliving the glory days or topless and snorting lines, whatever. I was always laughing at that.
"I remember one time when I was 16 and got a call from my lawyer. He goes, 'I just got a call from CNN that you died of a drug overdose. '"
It's a funny story, but two facts stand out. At 16 he had a lawyer. And CNN cared whether he was dead or alive.
Culkin didn't grow up like other boys. The Home Alone movies and the cash-in that followed made him the most famous child on the planet and the richest child star in the history of movies. He first went onstage at age four. By nine he'd stolen Uncle Buck from John Candy and made himself the only choice for the lead in Home Alone. He spent seven years of his childhood pulling in audiences with a combination of bristling confidence, razor-sharp comic timing and angelic cuteness.
Then he quit.
"I said, 'I don't want to do this any more,'" he recalls. "You can call it retirement. I kinda liked calling it retirement. I liked the idea of a 14-year-old retiring."
He freed himself from his manager-father, Kit Culkin. "It was, like, 'I hope you all made your money, because there's no more coming from me. '"
The young actor had banked an estimated $17 million.
"I was in a position financially where I could sit around and do nothing," he says. "I could sit around sucking my thumb and watching TV and I knew my kids would go to college. I was that comfortable. But at the same time, I didn't want that."
First he started high school. "I'd never really done a full year of school in my life," he realized.
Then, at 18, he married actor Rachel Miner. They split two years later.
Then he made Party Monster. It was his comeback. Predictably, he hates that word. But he can't help describing it as "a story of what happens when somebody gets everything he wants."
Club promoter and convicted murderer Michael Alig led a coterie of nightlife fabulistas who recharged New York nightlife in the late 80s and early 90s. Then, high on drugs he scarcely remembers, he killed and mutilated Angel Melendez.
"Alig was someone who came from middle America, from Indiana, the middle of nowhere, and showed up in New York City to make something out of himself," Culkin says. "And he did. He became the biggest club promoter, the biggest club personality since Andy Warhol. He ran these clubs. He had his own trading cards! Club kid trading cards! It's so crazy. He had his own magazine. He had his own record label for a while. Everything he wanted and more, and he blew it, 'cause he got in the way of himself."
To insist on parallels would be rude. But Culkin anticipates it. He says Alig's philosophy of celebrity is very different from his.
"With Alig, it was that whole idea of 'famous 'cause I say so' - you know, celebrity without a cause.
"And with me it was just something that kind of happened. I spent six years running away from it. At the same time, I understand where he was coming from. If I didn't, I don't think I would have done a part like this." email@example.com