As a boy, the Home Alone star was one of a number of children who befriended Jackson, with many going on to allege they were abused by the singer (Culkin has always maintained that he was never abused by Jackson).
Two accounts of allegations – which Jackson and his estate have always denied – were detailed in the two-part 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland, which led many to re-examine the musician’s revered position within pop culture.
In a new interview with Esquire, Culkin has revealed he had an uncomfortable encounter with James Franco when he brought up the documentary on a flight.
“I ran into James Franco on a plane,” Culkin said. “I’d bumped into him two or three times over the years.
“I give him a little nod as we’re putting our bags overhead. Hey, how you doing? Good, how ya doing? And it was right after the Leaving Neverland documentary came out, and he goes, ‘So, that documentary!’ And that was all he said. I was like, ‘Uh-huh.’ Silence.”
Culkin continued: “So then he goes, ‘So what do you think?’ And I turned to him and I go, ’Do you wanna talk about your dead friend?’ And he sheepishly went, ‘No, I don’t.’ So I said, ‘Cool, man, it was nice to see you.’ ”
Asked about his relationship with Michael Jackson, he noted: “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. And especially at this flash point in time, I’d have no reason to hold anything back. The guy has passed on.
“If 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.”
Jackson’s estate previously described Leaving Neverland as “yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson”.
The late artist was acquitted of all charges in 2005 following a high-profile trial.
He died in 2009, at the age of 50, while preparing for a series of 50 concerts that were scheduled to take place at London’s O2 Arena.
The cause of death was found to be an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.
Read Macaulay Culkin’s Esquire interview in full here.