Do you know Rory Culkin? You certainly know his brother. You probably know his other brother. You might recognize him from his roles in M.Night Shyamalan's Signs and Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count On Me, alongside the likes of Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo and Matthew Broderick. If you don't, that's OK—he was, to be fair, a young kid at the time.
But the Youngest Culkin is not to be relegated to the Child Star dust bin. He plays the titular character in the new movie Gabriel, an emotionally disturbed young man misunderstood by everyone in his life. We picked the hottest day of the year thus far to drag him up to Gothamist's roof, where he very patiently fielded our questions.
So I watched Gabriel yesterday and it's very dark. What did you think of it?
I liked it. Maybe I'm off base but it kind of reminded me of Falling Down. It's just this very beleaguered man on a mission. I think the conclusion kind of reminded me of it. It's just goes to credits and you're like...aw. I like that comparison. I'll take that.
He's obviously very troubled but sort of a jerk, too. Did you have trouble relating to him? No, I never looked at Gabriel as a jerk. I only realized that since going to festivals people are telling me that, but he was always untouchable to me. He could do no wrong the whole time and everyone else was constantly wrong. So it's funny because taking it to the festivals it seems like the American audiences are more siding with this family, as opposed to him, and then we took it to Amsterdam and everybody there was so sympathetic towards him and hated the family. I don't know, it's interesting.
But you side with Gabriel? Totally yeah.
In general do you pick your roles based on relatability to your characters? I mean that's nice, you know, but no, not really. It was nice to start to relate to him but on the surface, it's kind of like 'Oh this is going to get dark,' you know? Like my friends saw a difference in me when I came back from shooting that and said I was way more sensitive. I was different. It took a while to wear off.
Really? Is that typical for you? No, but I've never had to go so deep into my head for someone, for something, until Gabriel. So, no. No, that's not typical.
Is that a rewarding experience or was it a bit disturbing? Yeah, but I can feel him following me around a little bit. He's become my autopilot in auditions and stuff, and if I'm sort of lost it's like Gabriel takes over. It's not always appropriate, but he's a part of me now.
Do you assume that people will like you less in life because they are going to see this movie, and just associate you with him? There are some roles where I'm supposed to be playing even worse people so I'm just...I'm becoming comfortable with it.
What's that say about you? Yeah I don't know. I mean, it's cool but because I consider myself a pretty polite, nice person in real life. So its nice to be a little bit of a douche.
You don't have to do it in life you can just channel it through your character? Yeah. And if it bleeds through on set or something the crew is understanding that I'm working myself up to being more douchey.
I saw you were in Signs. Can you spell Shyamalan without looking it up? No. I'm not going to try. [Laughs] No, no, no.
Have you ever been starstruck? Yeah once, with Conan O'Brien. I started sweating and I guess shaking. I met him when I worked with you know, big actors and stuff, but for some reason Conan O'Brien...seeing the size of his head and everything, that profile, his hair...I couldn't keep it together.
You come from an acting family. What do some of your non-acting siblings do for their jobs? My sister's a chef. My brother's a journalist. There are lots of them...one's a doorman. They're all over the place.
What would you be doing if you weren't acting? That's a good question. I don't know. I hate those people who are like "I could have been a lawyer but I decided not to!" I have no idea.
Do people confuse you with your siblings? And if so, what is the most grating or hilarious confusion that's been made? This delivery guy the other day thought I was my brother Mac[aulay] and was like 'So this is where you've been.' Then he was like 'Cool, cool, I'll keep your secret.' Then he walked away.
Yeah, I think it's mostly my brother Mac I get compared to. Now he's grown his hair out. He's always given me shit about my hair these past 10 years, and now he's grown his hair out, and it's even longer than mine. I make it a point to not give him shit about it.
That's big of you. Yeah.
If you had an inter-sibling brawl, who would win and why? You mean everybody in a battle royale?
Yeah. I would. They're all specialists, and specialties are for insects.
Interesting. Do they know your thoughts on their weaknesses? No, no, I keep that quiet in case we do have to rumble.
You have a black metal thriller coming up? What's that about? It's Lords of Chaos—it's about the band Mayhem in Norway in the '90s. I don't know, there's a lot of death, and they're just kind of trying to out-metal each other so they were killing each other and supposedly eating each other. I don't know, tons of fun.
Are you into black metal? I wasn't, but now I'm listening to it more and more for this and sort of trying to be more open minded about it. I'm easing into it starting with Metallica, Motorhead, AC/DC,you know, working my way.
We sort of talked about this, but you've done a lot of dark stuff. Do you have anything sunny coming down the pipes any time soon? I might be doing a thing in two weeks. It's called Monumental, and that's a little more sunny. I don't want to jinx it, but it will be nice to not have to do something where I have to torture myself, you know?
What's the premise of that? Oh God, I don't even want to, I don't even... I don't want to explain it because I feel I'll butcher it.
So you grew up in Manhattan—where exactly? I moved every couple of years but mostly the Upper West Side.
And have you lived here your whole life? Yeah, I've never moved.
What keeps you here? I just like it, and I don't really know how to drive so I'd be screwed [in LA] and now I guess they're running out of water so I'm not even going to bother.
New York has obviously changed quite a bit. Is there anything in particular you missed growing up here that's shut down or changed? Lazer Park was fun, but it's gone. New York is way more crowded than it's ever been. You can't really walk down the block without seeing someone. It used to not be like that when I was little.
Seeing someone in general? Yeah, when I was younger I remember going to Central Park and not being able to see anyone sometimes. That just doesn't happen anymore.
Yeah I can't imagine. What are your favorite places to hang out currently? I mean, I'm just starting to explore Brooklyn, so I'm just kind of finding that stuff. I never really came out to Brooklyn when I was growing up. It was always too far and now I'm trying to get people to come out here.
Your brother Macaulay has Pizza Underground. Do you have an equivalent side project? I don't, but I feel like I should.
Do you have any other strange talents? Anything the world should know? Um, no.
Can you knit? I can't knit.
Can you juggle? I can't even juggle.
[Here we are joined by our freelancer Scott Heins, who has a question] Say you're at home on the Upper West Side, and you'd been burglarized. If you set up a series of elaborate traps to catch the burglars, do you think you would win more renown than your brother for Home Alone? What?
Like if you had actually acted out the plot of Home Alone in real life, do you think you would be more famous than he is today? That's maybe the silliest question I have ever been asked. I don't have an answer. I'm sorry. Good job.