Kieran Culkin Tiptoes Into The Spotlight

By Thom Fowler
Posted 09/12/02 16:25:14

In the upcoming IGBY GOES DOWN, Kieran Culkin plays the title role of Igby. The Holden Caulfield-like character is a good one for Kieran who was critically lambasted for his role in THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS. Igby is emotionally shut down and burnt hollow from a life of incessant alienation and psychological turmoil. The criticism that Kieran is flat and emotionless serves his role in IGBY well, proving the adage that you don’t have to have a wide range as an actor, just be really good at the one thing people like about you.

The audience is just now developing a relationship to Kieran as he ventures onto the big screen but Kieran doesn’t seem to know what he wants to give that audience. His two roles have more of an adult appeal, looking back on youth through the perspective gained much later, rather than as a mirror of the fantasies of his peers.

Culkin relied heavily on director Burr Steer’s to get into the character. “Burr worked very closely with me on this role. We had a lot of talks and things where he let me in on some things and I let him in on some things.” Those things were not revealed to me, though. But when you are literally growing up in Showbiz, you are going to get your lessons about life from where your life is lived. So I’m not sure if their talks were part of the process of preparing Kieran for the role or general mentoring. When your life is a show, its hard to draw the line between preparing for your role on screen and preparing for your role off-screen, played out in the media. Kieran is trying hard to not make his life the show.

He lives a low key life in Manhattan, hanging out at his friends loft and playing video games passes the time. “I still live with my mom,” he says.

One of the interviewers kept pushing him to talk about his brother, Macaulay, which he didn’t want to do and then the reporter said, “You know, this film isn’t going to make 100 million at the box office.” in an almost accusatory tone. This reporter went on to highlight the importance of big names for big box office draw and the spotlight is how you get to be that big name draw.

Kieran demonstrated his ambivalence by re-enacting that scene from AUSTIN POWERS where Dr.Evil runs in the opposite direction of the spotlight. His family has been dragged kicking and screaming through the media so I can see how his choice to become an actor may be more of a creative decision, rather than an easy path to fame and riches. When perpetually asked about his brother he just said, “I don’t go there.”

“I care enough if it leads to other good roles,” he said.

“I’ve had some disappointing moments,” he said about his acting career. He had to audition four times for the role of Igby. The push with IGBY seems to get Kieran out there in front. As the title lead, his image takes prominence on the poster and the conversation inevitably came back to him no matter who we were talking to at the press junket.

Once he’s there, its hard to say what he’ll do. Amanda Peet says that offscreen he likes to play pranks and joke around but in interviews, he is reserved but available. Squatting,rather than sitting on his chair, fiddling with water bottle caps and making strange noises like a B-movie alien to stop the flow of words that I was hoping would come from his mouth.

One things certain. He’s not a dumbass, nor is he an arrogant punk and he really could go of into some New York life away from film and the spotlight and be just Kieran. We all have to make those critical decisions about what to do with ourself and at 19 you don’t have to have any answers. If he is headed for bigger things, its hard to say what those things would be just now.

I don’t want to draw a parallel between Igby and Kieran because I wouldn’t be recognizing him as an actor, creating illusions to entertain and inspire but damn if that isn’t just right there waiting to be exploited for a good story. Not so much in actual fact, but in attitude. “I think he didn’t like that everything was mapped out for him and he wanted to get away from that. I’m very close to my family and Igby wanted to get three thousand miles away.”

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