March 10, 2006 — -- Macaulay Culkin isn't your typical child star. Sure, he made millions as the adorably mischievous boy in the "Home Alone" films. But at age 14, he walked away from Hollywood -- and the fast-paced partying life that has landed so many child stars in rehab before they're out of adolescence.
There is, however, something Culkin shares with many other child stars: He's struggling to find appropriate adult roles for himself.
"It's a very fragile business that I'm in. … I'm incredibly picky, and I've always said that I'm more picky than my position allows me to be."
He has returned to acting, appearing most recently as Roland, Mandy Moore's brother in the 2004 film "Saved!" But Culkin, still boy-faced at 25, says strangers continue to ask him to strike his trademark pose from "Home Alone," slapping his cheeks wide-eyed and slack-jawed.
It's not something he relates to anymore, he said to Barbara Walters in an interview airing tonight on "20/20."
"It's as if I'm stuck in the past, or something like that. And it's not something I really feel comfortable doing."
Culkin's not particularly concerned about the lack of roles. "I'm only moderately jaded at this point," he said to Walters.
He's saved his early earnings and says he's financially secure. So, he's not particularly worried about his career. "I am secure. Hopefully, you know, it'll all still be there. And my kids will go to college, and that whole kind of thing. I'm very fortunate, because I like my life. I like the way it is. I lead a very, very simple life."
With his free time, Culkin has taken on a highly personal and unconventional project, publishing a new book called "Junior." With quizzes, cartoons, poems and musings, it's an unusual and playful pastiche.
Culkin told Walters he wasn't expecting "Junior" to be praised as high literature. In fact, he prefaces his book with this statement: "I want to make one thing clear before we begin. I'm not a writer."
So why would he publish a book?
"I've always written, and it's never really been for anyone's benefit. … I just kind of put this collection together. I showed it to some people, and they said, 'That's great. Maybe you should make more of it.' And so I did. And it just kind of kept going, and it snowballed into this book," he said.
"I just hope that it finds a small audience somewhere that will appreciate it and take it for what it is. I'm not expecting people to think it's the next great American novel, because I don't think it is. It's just a cool, groovy little book, and I hope people like it. That's all."
Culkin insists the book is not an autobiography, but the main character, Junior, happens to be a child star. He describes events in Junior's life that certainly bear a resemblance to his own, but he doesn't touch on the aspect of his life that has fueled tabloid headlines over the years -- specifically, his relationship with Michael Jackson.
He says that he and Jackson speak only a few times a year, and that he hasn't spoken with him in several months. He says he sees the negative effects of child stardom in Jackson's life.
"I think he's really disassociated himself from society. … If you could put him out in the world right today, I'm not sure if he could really function properly," he said.
"I think he's really sheltered himself. I could have gone that route. I could have just shut myself off, and bought some piece of land upstate, and just kind of lived in my own world. But I didn't. I made a real clear choice when I was 14 years old to live, to have life experience," he said.
Culkin says people "don't really understand" his relationship with Jackson. "People think that we're super-close. We have a connection, but at the same time, we talk like once a year, twice a year," he said.
Culkin testified at the pop star's child molestation trial several months ago. He said that he and Jackson never had an inappropriate relationship. He also says he believes it's unlikely that Jackson had any inappropriate relationships with boys who stayed at his home.
"I mean you never know anything with, without 100 percent certainty, but at the same time my opinion is if he didn't do anything to me, I don't think he would have done anything to anyone else," Culkin said.
Culkin also spoke about another much-analyzed relationship in his life: his relationship with his father, Kit Culkin. The two haven't spoken for 11 years, and Culkin still has bitter memories of his father.
"He would do these horrible, terrible things sometimes. And then I would bring it up to him later. … And he would say, 'It never happened.' That was the thing that hurt me the most, was that he really felt like he was a really good person who never did bad things. And that's just simply not true," he said.
There is a relationship in Culkin's life that's making him happy. He's dating Mila Kunis, one of the stars of television's "That 70s Show." Culkin, already once married and divorced, said there's no talk of marriage yet. "We have a really good thing going right now. … Why change it in any way?"
Culkin said he didn't focus too much on his difficult childhood, but he acknowledged it had left its marks on him.
"I'm still not very comfortable in a group of people, or at least a group of strangers, but at the same time, I don't feel like I'm a broken person or that I'm shattered, because of my childhood. … I've lived in my own world for so long, and I still enjoy doing it."