Home alone for real

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Macaulay Culkin is a normal, well-adjusted 23-year-old guy. Really.

"Contrary to popular belief, I've never been to rehab," Culkin says. "What else haven't I done? I've never been to jail, never been arrested. All the child-star cliches. I've actually tried very hard to avoid them all."

A remarkable feat for one of the richest, most famous child stars in Hollywood history, who endured a nasty custody battle between his parents, quit acting at 14, got married at 17, divorced at 19 -- and struck up a friendship with Michael Jackson along the way.

Culkin is easing back into the public eye with a supporting role as a cynical, paraplegic student at a Christian high school in "Saved," a caustic but warmhearted comedy about faith and intolerance.

Culkin actually went to high school during his much-dissected hiatus from acting. Along with his "Saved!" co-star, Jena Malone, he attended the Professional Children's School in New York.

Despite its educational shortcomings, high school was a valuable, almost cathartic experience for Culkin, allowing him to keep a low profile after five years of stratospheric fame sparked by hit movies like "Home Alone."

"I just felt like a human being," he says. "How else are you going to act like a human being if you've never had a chance to be one?"

During this time, one of the more bizarre episodes in Culkin's life occurred: his marriage to actress Rachel Miner, before either of them had turned 18.

Culkin makes no apologies. "I don't think we were trying to pretend to be anything other than we were. We were just in love. I mean, big deal," he says.

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