The Story of Kieran Culkin’s Acting Comeback!

Kieran Culkin’s career has been one with many twists and turns, to say the least. From a small part in the holiday classic ‘Home Alone’ to a breakthrough as Roman Roy in ‘Succession’, the 41-year-old has taken on a number of iconic roles over the years. 

A lesser-known story in the annals of Culkin’s career is that he took a six-year hiatus from major acting roles soon after starring in 2002’s Igby Goes Down, which holds an 80% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Culkin instead focused on smaller projects, mainly in theater, as he was hesitant to do acting full-time. Here’s how Culkin enjoyed a career resurgence en route to becoming an Emmy Award-winning actor in Succession!

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Culkin’s first film role after Igby Goes Down was that of Jimmy Bartlett in Lymelife, from 2008. Culkin stars alongside his brother Rory in a movie that just so happened to be written by fellow siblings Derick and Steven Martini. The film, which famed movie critic Roger Ebert gave three-and-a-half stars out of four, didn’t exactly light up the box office, but it brought Culkin back into the limelight in an acclaimed role.

Culkin followed up Lymelife with a role as Emma Stone’s imaginary friend in Paper Man, before putting together a hilariously blunt performance as the scene-stealing Wallace Wells in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The film has seemingly grown in popularity over the years, garnering somewhat of a cult classic status and producing a spinoff with the 2023 anime series, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (which Culkin and the entire main cast also took part in).


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Culkin continued his revival with Margaret (2011) and Movie 43 (2013), both of which had ensemble casts with the likes of Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Hugh Jackman, and even fellow 2023 Emmy winning star, Jeremy Allen White.

A guest-starring role on Season 2 on the long-standing FX crime drama Fargo saw Culkin transition to the small screen for the next step in his career. Though a mustachioed Culkin only appeared on the show for a “cup of coffee,” so to speak, his run as Rye Gerhardt allowed him to hone his skills in a more serious, high-stakes role.

Additional on-screen parts for Wiener-Dog and Infinity Baby set Culkin up for his biggest break yet – that of Roman Roy in HBO’s Succession. Succession allowed Culkin to achieve superstar status and is his career-defining role to this point. As such, Culkin won a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” and a Golden Globe for “Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama,” among several other recent accolades and nominations.

Culkin was actually a Golden Globe nominee 20 years ago for Igby Goes Down, but never won the award and, as he got older, even questioned whether or not he’d be in that position ever again.

“When that moment passed, I sorta remember thinking, ‘I’m never gonna be back in this room again,’ and which was fine, whatever,” Culkin said. “Thanks to Succession, I’ve been in here a couple of times.”

But it seems as though Culkin might step back for a while and take some time evaluating his next move following his career-changing role. As of right now, Culkin plans on being a stay-at-home dad, doing “nothing at all, except just diapers and bath time and stuff for like a week.”

In the meantime, you can be on the lookout for Culkin in the Jesse Eisenberg-helmed effort, A Real Pain. The movie follows Culkin and Eisenberg as cousins exploring their heritage in Poland and had its worldwide premier at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Initial reviews have been positive, with a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” and an 84 “Metascore” on Metacritic.

About the Author

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Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes is a Junior at Iona University, majoring in media and strategic communications, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. In his free time, Robert loves to spend hours practicing the bass guitar and hunting for his favorite artists at vinyl record shops.