Macaulay Culkin is not someone I gossip about, but every once in a while, he sticks his head above the waterline and it’s worth observing, like Punxsutawney Phil checking for his shadow. The last time we heard from Mack was almost exactly a year ago. He and Devon Sawa were hashing out their fake 90s bae-beef. And then: nothing. Now, he is on the cover of Esquire. This is the most visibly he’s been in recent memory, even as he has made gradually more public appearances (mostly to boost awareness for his humor site, Bunny Ears, and his podcast). But this is the cover of a major magazine! This is what Movie Stars do! 

That’s kind of the point of this profile—Macaulay Culkin, despite being out of the mainstream view for well over a decade at this point, still has all his Movie Star magnetism and draw. Of course he f-cking does. That dude has It. Mack has It in spades. He is sitting on an untapped well of It. He could probably power a city block with It. The It he possessed as a child matured with him, which it doesn’t always for child actors. The most charismatic, engaging child star can grow into a regular ol’ adult with no special draw. It’s why so many of them struggle to transition from child to adult roles. The traits we find so fascinating in a child are taken for granted in a grown-ass human. Mack didn’t lose It, though. If he wanted, he could have a major, A-list career to rival anyone in his cohort (Jake Gyllenhaal should send him flowers every year for “retiring” by 30). 

The secondary purpose of this profile is to reassure everyone that Macaulay Culkin Is Okay. There is a lot of emphasis on his relationship with Brenda Song— they’ve settled down, they want kids, he calls her his “lady”, which is almost too saccharine to bear, they have a lot of animals. It’s nice. It’s good. He seems good. This is not the part making headlines, but it’s worth noting. He seems content. 

There are two things making headlines, one of which is the news that he bombed an audition for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. He says, “It was a disaster. I wouldn’t have hired me. I’m terrible at auditioning anyway, and this was my first audition in like eight years.” No mention of the role he auditioned for but I’m guessing either Tex Watson (played by Austin Butler) or one of the guys in the fake episode of Lancer that featured Rick Dalton. I’m leaning toward Tex Watson because the Manson Family was made up almost entirely of former child stars like Dakota Fanning, or the children of stars, like Margaret Qualley. Mack would fit right into the aesthetic. (The fake Lancer cast is mostly TV stars, like Timothy Olyphant and Luke Perry; even Julia Butters was plucked from sitcom-dom.)

It’s not exactly shocking Mack would be bad at auditioning by this point, and I wonder if he’d even bother for a filmmaker of lesser stature than Quentin Tarantino. The work he’s done over the last decade has mostly been working with friends—last year he appeared in Changeland, a movie directed by his buddy Seth Green (turns out, he met Brenda Song on this movie), and he also guest starred on Dollface, the Hulu show co-starring Song. He’s not much exerting himself outside his circle of friends.

The other items making headlines are his comments regarding Michael Jackson: “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. […] 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.”

That’s the part getting headlines, but the part that jumped out to me is his follow-up anecdote about James Franco trying to gossip with him about Leaving Neverland on a plane and Mack shutting him the f-ck down. I mean, OF COURSE Franco tried it, but also, of course Mack shut him down. This is my favorite image, Macaulay Culkin stone-cold facing James Franco on an airplane. These are my big takeaways from Macaulay Culkin’s surprise Esquire profile: he still has It, everything seems good, and one time he told James Franco to shut the f-ck up. Mack might not ever return to full Movie Stardom, but he’s still living the dream.