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Macaulay Culkin Talks About Michael Jackson Friendship, Denies Abuse Allegations
If you saw HBO’s Leaving Neverland, the explosive documentary exploring allegations that Michael Jackson sexually abused children, you may have been surprised when Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin didn’t make an appearance. As a child, Culkin starred in the music video for Jackson’s “Black and White,” after which he and Jackson became lifelong friends. Throughout the years, as allegations of Jackson’s behavior have exploded into the mainstream, Culkin has continuously denied that he ever had any sexual contact with Jackson.
In Esquire’s March 2020 cover story, Culkin discusses at length his friendship with Jackson, going into detail about their relationship and what did and did not happen.
This story originally appears in the March 2020 issue of Esquire. Read the full cover story here.
“Look,” Culkin said. “I’m gonna begin with the line—it’s not a line, it’s the truth: He never did anything to me. I never saw him do anything. And especially at this flash point in time, I’d have no reason to hold anything back. The guy has passed on. If anything—I’m not gonna say it would be stylish or anything like that, but right now is a good time to speak up. And if I had something to speak up about, I would totally do it. But no, I never saw anything; he never did anything.”
Culkin spoke about the special bond he and Jackson shared by virtue of their unique childhoods—or lack thereof. Both raised by fathers pushing them toward fame at a young age, Culkin and Jackson were kindred spirits, despite their 22-year age difference. The last time they encountered one another was in a men’s room at the Santa Barbara County Superior Courthouse in 2005, where Culkin testified as a character witness in People v. Michael Jackson, wherein Jackson was charged with intoxicating and molesting a 13-year-old boy who had cancer. Jackson was later acquitted.
“We better not talk,” Jackson said, according to Culkin. “I don’t want to influence your testimony.”
The two embraced before returning to court. It was the last time Culkin would see Jackson before he passed away in 2009.
Though Jackson has been dead for over a decade, Leaving Neverland has introduced new aftershocks into Culkin’s life. He spoke about a memorable celebrity encounter that occurred not long after the documentary’s release.
“Here’s a good Michael Jackson story that doesn’t involve Michael Jackson at all,” Culkin said. “I ran into James Franco on a plane. I’d bumped into him two or three times over the years. I give him a little nod as we’re putting our bags overhead. Hey, how you doing? Good, how ya doing? And it was right after the Leaving Neverland documentary came out, and he goes, ‘So, that documentary!’ And that was all he said. I was like, ‘Uh-huh.’ Silence. So then he goes, ‘So what do you think?’ And I turned to him and I go, ‘Do you wanna talk about your dead friend?’ And he sheepishly went, ‘No, I don’t.’ So I said, ‘Cool, man, it was nice to see you.’ ”
Culkin is godfather to Jackson’s daughter Paris, to whom he remains close. He has shared with her his habit of stealing spoons from restaurants, bars, and cafes as a bit of “harmless” fun. The two give one another spoons as gifts, and they have matching spoon tattoos on their forearms.
When Paris entered public life, Culkin had just one piece of advice, given by virtue of the spoons: “Don’t forget to be silly, don’t forget to take something away from this whole experience, and don’t forget to stick something up your sleeve.”
Adrienne Westenfeld is a writer and editor at Esquire, where she covers books and culture.