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CNN Larry King Live

U.S. Launches Massive Offensive in Iraq; Interview With Macaulay Culkin

Aired March 16, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, the United States launches the biggest air assault on Iraq since the war began almost three years ago. We've got the latest news, plus reaction and heated debate from Washington and beyond as well.
And then, Macaulay Culkin, from highest paid child movie star ever to a bitter break with his dad, to his friendship with Michael Jackson and his teen marriage and divorce. Macaulay Culkin tells all and takes your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.

The United States launched Operation Swarmer today. It's American and Iraqi forces on what the United States military calls the largest air assault operation since Operation Iraqi Freedom began nearly three years ago, a major offensive that will continue into the next few days.

We welcome an outstanding panel. At the Senate Gallery is Senator Lindsay Graham, Republican of South Carolina, member of the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees, served six and a half years of active duty as an Air Force lawyer and currently is a member of the Air Force Reserves.

Senator Dianne Feinstein is a Democrat of California, ranking minority member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, and is a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. She's at the Washington bureau.

In New York is Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor of "The Nation."

In Washington is Christopher Hitchens, columnist at "Vanity Fair." His books include "A Long, Short War, The Postponed Liberation of Iraq."

And finally in Washington, Michael Weisskopf, senior correspondent, "TIME" magazine, who lost his right hand to a grenade in December of 2003 while embedded with the U.S. military.

Senator Graham, what do you make of today's event?

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think we can say that the insurgency is not exactly in its last throws. We can also say that this effort by the American military and the Iraqi military will serve us well in terms of the parliament getting up and having a chance to constitute itself. But it's a sign that the military situation on the ground is still unstable and still dangerous and I applaud the aggressive effort and I think we need more troops not less.

KING: Senator Feinstein, the government is saying that this was an Iraqi idea that we went along with it. What do you make of that?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I just checked with your old friend, Senator Warner, the Chairman of Armed Services before I came over here, and it was a joint exercise. It was 1,450 men. They found five caches of explosives for IEDs and they've arrested 40 insurgents. That's the result so far. The operation is ongoing.

Now, what do I think of what's happening? My own belief is that Iraq is on the brink of a civil war and I think it's the most difficult time we've had and I think the Iraqis have to make the political compromises that are necessary to bring the Sunnis into a united Iraq or there isn't the possibility of there being a united Iraq.

KING: Katrina, don't you count it important if true that this was an Iraqi concept, an Iraqi idea?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": You know, Larry, the intensification of airstrikes has been going on for five months. Seymour Hersh has reported that in the "New Yorker." But I think this is a sign of desperation, a sign of desperation, a war that is un- winnable that is unlawful, unnecessary.

And also, you know, you're dealing with the slaughter possibly of innocent women and children and you possibly create more insurgents. The resentment against America is so deep.

I think it's very important to understand that we are now, the United States is in a brutal occupation, is in the middle of an Iraqi civil war with America having turned against the war and 87 percent of Iraqis wanting an end to the U.S. occupation, 72 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq want us to come home.

So, I think this is a sign of desperation and it is a very important moment to assess the need to begin to find a way out with honor and dignity for Iraqis and for Americans who are serving there.

KING: Chris Hitchens, if what Katrina says is true, what do we do?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, "VANITY FAIR" COLUMNIST: Well, could we dispense with that if for a second? May I quarrel with you for saying there's an attack on Iraq, both in your caption and what you said to open. It's not an attack on Iraq at all.

It's an attack on the enemies of Iraq who are trying to poison its life and destroy its democracy and it's absurd to talk about this being an occupation. Would anyone around this table look into the eyes of President Jalal Talabani and say he's occupying his own country? He's the only person who has ever actually been a genuine insurgent in his own country, led a real people's army, is now brilliantly I think and very, very self sacrificing given that he's originally Kurdish, not putting his own faction, his own tribe or his own confession forward but trying every day at the risk of his life to get the parliamentary factions of Iraq together and make a country and a republic and a federal democracy, which is the only alternative to partition or civil war or invasion by countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey, which we are currently fending off.

The United States is very nobly acting as the militia now for those who don't have a militia, for those who don't have any thuggery or IED at this disposal. It's the best thing we've ever done and shame on people who sneer at it.

KING: All right. Michael Weisskopf, if what Christopher says is true, why isn't the public buying it?

MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, "TIME" SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The American public has come a long way on this war. It was originally very supportive of it and I guess the continual splits within the society of Iraq itself and its own inability to get back on its feet make the American public kind of impatient.

This is an effort that must -- that seems designed to buy time while this legislature is beginning its crucial efforts to forge a government while the Shia and Sunni continue to simmer and seethe at each other over the bombing of that Samarra mosque. This is an effort sort of for a time out to put the insurgency back on the defensive and in the hope that calm will be restored.

KING: Is it going to work, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: Well that's really up to the Iraqis. I think Michael's right in this regard. Our military presence is to give a reasonable opportunity for this country to come together. We're asking no small thing of the Iraqi people to bridge a 1,400-year-old religious dispute to create a democracy out of a dictatorship, to put aside past ill feelings and grudges.

And, the reason I'm encouraged is because every time you assassinate a judge somebody else wants to be a judge. Every time you kill a policeman, someone else joins the police force. All I can ask of the Iraqi people is to die for their own freedom and, if we get it right in Iraq, if a democracy does emerge in Mid East form, it's a sea change.

And I know this the terrorists are dying for this to fail. The reason they're killing people indiscriminately they know their worst nightmare is a functioning democracy in the Mid East.

KING: Do you agree, Senator Feinstein?

FEINSTEIN: I agree with a lot of what Lindsay said, except you know if this war was military we would win it, no question. The war isn't military. It's political. And I've been disappointed that the Iraqis and I listened carefully to what Christopher had to say, couldn't get their government up and running faster.

I've been very disappointed that we didn't have a civil follow-on force that was adequate to build the infrastructure, get the ministries up and running, do what needed to be done to really secure the Iraqi streets.

And, when Muqtada al-Sadr went to Basra and blamed the Americans for the bombing of the Golden Mosque that for me was the straw that broke the camel's back. I now believe that we're in the third year that Iraq has to begin to really take over and that we've got to begin to redeploy our troops.

We have a war on terror. We need more people in Afghanistan. There are other places in the world where it's very problematic. And, Iraq at some point is going to have to be for Iraqis and we're going to have to be very careful we don't place a target on the backs of our men and women in the middle of a civil war.

KING: We'll be right back with more and more comments from our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Katrina, then do you see anything into the timing of this operation, days before the third anniversary, same day the new parliament meets for the first time, same day the White House releases an updated national security strategy report?

VANDEN HEUVEL: Again, I come back to I think this administration is desperate. I think we need to stand back for a moment, Larry, and understand the staggering cost in lives and money but also what has happened in the region as a result of going into Iraq, the invasion, the occupation.

We have created greater insecurity. We have undermined American security. We have killed thousands of Iraqis. We need to now find a sane, just security policy. We do not have the legitimacy or know-how to be in the middle of an Iraqi civil war.

Senator Feinstein is correct. American troops are in the middle of a war and they have no role there, so this is a moment to reassess where we are. And for those who believe that you bring stability or democracy to the Middle East through military invasion or through neocon fantasies and obsessions that is not what America should be.

We have tarnished our reputation, frayed our alliances, stretched our military to the utmost and I think President Bush now, lowest in the polls since any second term president perhaps since President Nixon at his lowest moment, is using this bombing campaign, this national security obscenity of preventive war, of unilateralism and endangering American security through this false multi-lateralism he's now talking about.

KING: Chris Hitchens, what happens, what is the role of a military in a civil war? What does the United States do if this turns out that way? HITCHENS: Well, the likelihood of a civil war in Iraq if there had not been an (INAUDIBLE) is I would say close to 100 percent. We already knew it was one of the justifications for regime change to begin with, though I see that other people have a shorter memory even than mine, was that the Saddam Hussein regime was imploding that it had ruled by divided rule.

It had lived by stirring up sectarian and confessional differences and that these if they had not been addressed by us and our coalition allies, would instead have led to a war against all, a war (INAUDIBLE) war in Iraq in which Turkish and Saudi and Iranian forces would have intervened instead.

Katrina talks as if we'd left Iraq alone it would be stable or peaceful or roughly the same as it was before we started discussing it, not true. We have a responsibility to this country that goes back a long way and we have no right to walk away from it.

The question of a civil war is subordinate to the question of defending Iraq from the attempt by a previous (INAUDIBLE) fascist regime to come back by terrorist means and the attempt of the bin Ladenists who all the liberals used to say we're not there, all the al Qaeda forces who they said weren't interested in Iraq or couldn't at any rate ally with Ba'athists to make an alliance with them in plain sight and give us exactly the right enemy to fight.

We have the chance. It's a tremendous prize if we can get it to show to the whole Arab world that these forces can be militarily defeated and politically discredited and isolated.

I think it's quite disgraceful to hear anybody say that the deaths involved in this are our fault. Bob Herbert today of the "New York Times" describes hideous atrocities committed by sectarian fascists of the worst type and he says these are the casualties of Bush's war, as if the president was killing them, as if our own forces were doing these murders instead of trying to kill and capture the people who are committing them.

All moral sense has now been lost it seems to me by the fans of and by the people who come on your show and spout their speaker's notes and it's appalling to me that a Senator from the great state of California can come and say that her broad back was broken by the straw, I quote her, of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Two years ago Muqtada al-Sadr was trying to destroy the holy city of Najaf. He was beaten in this. His so-called (INAUDIBLE) army was crushed. Now he has seats in parliament and he's not saying Americans must withdraw. He's saying he'd like a time table for withdrawal.

It's not great progress when you deal with a guy like that but it is something. And, in the meantime, I think it's appalling that we and our Iraqi and Kurdish allies who are trying to fight off sectarianism are libeled from studios like this.

KING: Michael, who's closer from your perspective to being right here, Christopher or Katrina? WEISSKOPF: I'm not sure which history books either of them are reading. I've been to Iraq and...

HITCHENS: So have I.

KING: Let him finish Chris.

HITCHENS: I didn't interrupt. I just commented.

WEISSKOPF: ...a couple of times and I don't know...

HITCHENS: A couple of times (INAUDIBLE).

WEISSKOPF: ...what sense he has -- what sense he has that the country was imploding under Saddam. Probably the only guy who successfully was able to unite Shia and Sunni albeit under a banner of terror is the guy now in the dock of a courtroom...

HITCHENS: You're not serious.

WEISSKOPF: ...outside of the Baghdad International Airport just through terror and it might take terror in order to rule that country. And, what the United States did in an effort to bring democracy to that country was obviously loose the dogs of civil strife and that's what we're all living under.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

Let's include some calls, Boulder, Colorado, hello.


KING: I can't hear you.

CALLER: Oh, I'm sorry.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, I was just going to ask Dianne when the Democrats are going to get some gumption, when they're going to take a stand against this war that's very wrong. And I'd also like to ask when some of these Senators that are so much for the war are going to send their own sons over there to die and what...

KING: OK, it's been said, Dianne that the Democrats have been weak-kneed here. They make sort of moderate statements but they don't say get out.

FEINSTEIN: Well, that isn't true. I give the Democratic radio address this Saturday and I think I make some comments on that that reflects what a majority of Democrats are thinking. I think it's difficult because Democrats don't control the House. They don't control the Senate. They don't control the White House and there are differences of opinion within the party.

The Democratic Party is a big tent party and there are many different people with many different thoughts. I think increasingly though we are coming to the conclusion that you can't win this militarily.

It has to be won politically and it has to be won by our government taking a very strong position with the Iraqis and the Iraqis have to begin to stand up and we have to begin I believe to move our men and women out and redeploy them elsewhere.

KING: Senator Graham is that coming?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think we should give the Iraqis back their country.

KING: Hold on, Katrina.

VANDEN HEUVEL: I don't speak for the Democrats.

KING: Hold on, Katrina. I asked Senator -- hold it, hold it. Hold it Katrina.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But I wanted to show this magazine. Oh, I'm sorry.

KING: Then I'll come to you. Senator Graham, what do you make of what Senator Feinstein said?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, democracy will have arrived in Iraq when you have a show like this where people can say what's on their mind and not worry about hurting anybody's feelings.

The bottom line as I see it, the exit strategy is to leave with honor and make sure that we're a more secure nation when we leave. History is going to judge us, Larry, not by when we left but what we left behind and boy we really have a short memory as Americans.

It took us eleven years to write our own Constitution and no one was shooting at them in Philadelphia. And, in my state, about 80 years later we had a civil war. So, I understand what a civil war is like. It started in South Carolina.

My bottom line belief about all this is give the Iraqi people a decent chance to bridge a 1,400-year-old religious dispute, stand up to the terrorists, stand by the Iraqi people who are dying for their own freedom.

And, if you want to come home and leave these people to the wolves of terrorism, you'll never know peace. Your grandchildren will never know peace. And, it would be the worst mistake we could send the terrorists is leave this before it's done right.

KING: Katrina, you wanted to say? VANDEN HEUVEL: I wanted to say that the longer we stay the more difficult it will be to leave with honor. It is an untenable situation. It grows increasingly untenable as sectarian strife is exacerbated by the occupation. And I think if we believe the Iraqi people are a sovereign people and respect them, we would heed the fact that again a vast majority wish an end to this occupation.

I would simply say I do not speak for the Democratic Party. "The Nation" magazine at the end of last year said that there can no longer be any doubt that this was now an occupation is a political catastrophe. We will not support any candidate who does not seek a speedy exit to this was.

And, Christopher knows history. All occupation, though I defer to him on the British Empire, but Russia in Afghanistan, the French in Algeria, occupations are un-winnable by their very nature and the sooner we bring our men and women home and provide for reconstruction aid, not war profiteering which is going on the better.

KING: OK, I got time problems.

HITCHENS: Are we occupying Afghanistan? Are we occupying Afghanistan? Are we occupying Afghanistan?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I was talking about the Russians, the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

HITCHENS: Are we occupying? Are we occupying, Katrina? Are we occupying (INAUDIBLE)?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I believe that NATO is now involved in Afghanistan.


VANDEN HEUVEL: But Osama bin Laden, Christopher, who we might have tracked down if we had not been diverted by Iraq...

HITCHENS: I'm sorry, I only asked you a -- I only asked you a factual question. I only asked you a factual question.

VANDEN HEUVEL: ...might have been found if we had not been...

KING: One at a time.


KING: One at a time, one at a time Katrina.

HITCHENS: Yes, well it's my turn, so fine. I didn't get an answer.

KING: Right, go ahead, Chris.

HITCHENS: Yes, Afghanistan is now a NATO responsibility and though you may not have noticed it the United States is in Iraq under United Nations mandate to help an elected government create a constitution and protect itself from deadly enemies. Have I said anything factually wrong? This is not occupation. It's like saying President Jalal Talabani is occupying his own country. It was occupied before by Saddam Hussein and his French and Russian allies who treated the entire country...

VANDEN HEUVEL: Oh, please.

HITCHENS: the fiefdom of one sect, one minority...

KING: All right.

HITCHENS: ...of one Sunni sect around Tikrit.

KING: All right, Michael.

HITCHENS: It was run by a sectarian Mafia minority of a minority and now you say, now you say there's a sectarian problem.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Now we have sectarian strife of the most...

KING: Michael.

VANDEN HEUVEL: ...brutal and callous kind Christopher.

HITCHENS: Oh, fine, you've come a bit late to the realization that's the problem.

KING: Michael Weisskopf, when did it go wrong in public opinion, Michael?

WEISSKOPF: You're talking about the Bush administration?

KING: Yes, the whole, yes what's happened?

WEISSKOPF: Well I don't know that the administration went wrong in public opinion. I think military reversals and the growth of the insurgency really took over here. If anything, the Americans went wrong at the beginning of this by not properly projecting the impact of this insurgency and not planning for reconstruction in advance.

And there was a brief period of about a month or two when I was there right after Saddam's fall when a vacuum was created and great caches of weapons were seized by insurgents and while we weren't properly manned and while our army wasn't large enough to protect those caches. And, if anything, we ignored military thinking early on by not providing a big enough force there.

KING: You want to say something Lindsay?

GRAHAM: He's dead on. We made plenty of mistakes. Our biggest mistake was not having enough troops to secure the country, underestimating how hard it would be, misunderstanding the fact that the strife that is now present was there at a deeper level.

We've made plenty of mistakes but the biggest mistake, Larry, and I'll just say it again is to leave before the people have a decent chance to come together and form a democracy if that's at all possible. I believe it is.

And, the only reason I believe that to this day after having gone there four times is that when you run for office in South Carolina, people say bad things about you.

When you run for office in Baghdad or Iraq people try to kill you. And these people, the Iraqi people, are literally dying for their own freedom in droves and what more can you ask, Larry?

KING: Thank you all very much and we shall follow closely the continuing Operation Swarmer. And we thank our panel for coming.

Macaulay Culkin is next. Don't go away.


* KING: Welcome back. Macaulay Culkin broke box-office records, became Hollywood's highest paid child actor after his "Home Alone" mega hit. Tonight the 26-year-old is here to talk about the childhood he had to live inside the fish bowl of show business, his move from the big screen to the bookstore. His new book is called "Junior" and just ambling your way through it, I have it right here in front of me, it's a hysterical read. What is this about?

MACAULAY CULKIN, ACTOR: Well it's just a collection of things that I've been doing over the years. I've always enjoyed writing. And I put together a small collection of things. And I sent it over to a lit agent, and I expected her to say like that's great. Now go write a memoir or go write a novel. And she said no this is great. Keep doing this. So...

KING: It's like a series of thoughts on various things...

CULKIN: Yes. It's...

KING: And sometimes you block things out.

CULKIN: Yes, there's a lot of...


CULKIN: ... self-censorship, yes.

KING: You cross things out of the page.


KING: What does that mean...

CULKIN: Well, there's certain times where for certain reasons people around me who are trying to protect me wanted me to take things out of the book and it was kind of a way of keeping it there and at the same time removing it. And I just thought it was something that was fun. It's just something that I've always kind of done. At one point there was actually an entire draft of it where I put all of my notes in the columns so you could actually read the whole process.

KING: And you wrote about people you don't like, things you don't like.

CULKIN: It's -- yes there's a lot of lists and silly things like that. So yes, there's a list of people I like the least or things that are important or people who are dead, or you know things to do before I die, and all that kind of stuff. It's really, really fun. I think it's a really fun read. It's the kind of book that you can pick up in the middle and read it backwards or forwards...

KING: That's right.

CULKIN: ... or anything like that. Yes.

KING: Are you doing any signings?

CULKIN: Yes. I did a signing in New York earlier this week. I'm doing one tomorrow in Torrance and another one at The Grove on Saturday...

KING: Oh, that's a nice place.

CULKIN: ... here in L.A., yes, so. That will be interesting. It was a really interesting turnout in New York. It was a really kind of great group of people you had...

KING: Are you now on author?

CULKIN: I don't even know. I don't even know how to define myself. I'm a person who writes. It's something I enjoy, and hopefully people enjoy it as well.

KING: Let's discuss some things. Since you were last here, you were arrested on marijuana possession. You pled guilty, got counseling. How are you doing?

CULKIN: Oh I'm doing fine. I mean I really didn't get counseling exactly. There's a beautiful shot of me, yes. No, what it was, was I think the D.A. in Oklahoma wanted to make sure that this isn't something that is -- that I had a problem with. I think he had a lot of preconceived notions of who I was and just the whole child star, Hollywood kind of thing.

And, of course, we're all drug addicts apparently. So to prove that I wasn't, I had to talk with a counselor, I had to pee in a cup. I had to do all those kinds of things to show them that listen, this isn't me. This is just -- this is more out of character than anything else and that you know...

KING: You mean you're an occasional user?

CULKIN: I have been. I have been. I mean it's not something I necessarily feel comfortable discussing really because it just opens myself up for so many bad things, so many more questions. And it's just not a place I like people prying into. But at the same time, I'm not -- it's not -- I'm not a drug user, no.

KING: Are you fortunate that you were a star young?

CULKIN: I think I've had a very fortunate life, yes. Because of...

KING: Because there are many who were stars young who if they had to do it over wouldn't be.

CULKIN: You know, it's weird for me. I've often been asked like oh what would I be right now if all that stuff didn't happen to me? And I have no idea. Who knows what kind of path I would have taken? Maybe I would have been a writer. Or maybe I would have found acting at another point in my life.

Who knows? It's an impossible game to play. I enjoy my life. I think I have a very good life. And I think I'm very satisfied with the direction of my career and just my lifestyle and everything like that. So I wouldn't change a single thing. I wouldn't necessarily have my kids get into the business that early.


CULKIN: No. Because there's nothing you can't do when you're 9 that you can't do when you're 18 years old.

KING: What's the relationship with your dad?

CULKIN: There really isn't one to speak of.

KING: Why not?

CULKIN: It's kind of the way things worked out.

KING: You write about him?

CULKIN: Yes, he's -- you know there's parts in the book. Yes, it's -- you know, we've just had a very different kind of relationship. It's weird. When people talk to me about their fathers, I -- it's harder for me to relate. I had a very different relationship with him than other people do with their fathers.

It's unfortunate the way things worked out. But at the same time, the way it is, is the way I feel it has to be, and that's regrettable, I guess. But at the same time, I don't think he's willing to fess up to the things that he's done, and I'm not sure -- it's hard for me to say. But it's just -- it's a bad circumstance really. But it's the way it is, and I'm satisfied with the way it is.

KING: You don't see him?

CULKIN: No, I don't.

KING: You miss something in that, though, don't you? CULKIN: What's that?

KING: You miss something.

CULKIN: Do I miss something?

KING: Sure.

CULKIN: Not really. See, he was not a good person. And it's sad. See, I don't like -- I don't like having to say that. You know, you ask me this question, and I have to answer it. But at the same time, I don't like having to say, yes, you know I don't get along with my father. It's unfortunate, and it sucks, really. But it's the way it has to be.

He just -- he would do things. And the thing is people sometimes confuse the fact that because I was famous or this -- all this kind of stuff happened to me at a very early age, that that brought out the abuse. It's like no it was always like that. And it was always something from a very early age. I always knew that he was not a good person. And I knew how I didn't want to be with my wife and my children.

KING: How did you handle all that fame so soon? I mean there was nothing bigger than "Home Alone" and "Home Alone 2"...

CULKIN: I guess so. Yes, it was -- it happened really, really fast. I mean before I was kind of just the local kid around the corner who used to do movies. And then all of a sudden it was just bang, it was all over the place. And it was all these people who used to be my friends are all now trying to, you know, peer in through the window or something like that.

And it was just -- it was amazing how fast it was. But at the same time, I was so young that I almost didn't even know any better. I didn't know that -- I knew that every other kid didn't do movies and all that kind of stuff, but at the same time, it was just my reality.

KING: How old were you?

CULKIN: I did my first -- I started when I was 4 doing my first projects. But the "Home Alone" things, I was 9 years old when I filmed those.

KING: "Uncle Buck" how old were you?

CULKIN: I was 8. Yes, no, I was pumping them out really. Yes, "Home Alone" was actually like my fifth or sixth film at that point.

KING: "Uncle Buck" is one of the funniest movies ever made.

CULKIN: Thank you. That was -- it's one of my favorites.

KING: Macaulay Culkin is our guest. His book is "Junior". We'll be right back.


CULKIN: Where do you live?


CULKIN: Do you have a house?


CULKIN: Own or rent?


CULKIN: What do you do for a living?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of things.

CULKIN: Where's your office?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have one.

CULKIN: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't need one.

CULKIN: Where's your wife?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't have one.

CULKIN: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a long story.

CULKIN: Do you have kids?


CULKIN: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an even longer story.

CULKIN: Are you my dad's brother?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your record for consecutive questions asked?

CULKIN: Thirty-eight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm your dad's brother all right.

CULKIN: You have much more hair in your nose than my dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How nice of you to notice.

CULKIN: I'm a kid. That's my job.




CULKIN: Poor Mr. Highway. He's thinking about the end. He's had enough of this terrible life.


CULKIN: Say good-bye.




CULKIN: I was evil.

KING: You were a mousy little kid, weren't you?

CULKIN: I know. Boy.

KING: Michael Jackson.


KING: Have you spoken to him?

CULKIN: Not for a while. I talked to him maybe six months ago, something like that.

KING: You testified for him, right?

CULKIN: I did. I didn't really want to.

KING: I know. I think you told me.

CULKIN: That was last year, yes. I kind of wasn't planning on getting involved in the whole thing. But it was the prosecution really who started bringing up my name and just saying, you know, this person did that to me you know, or all those kind of things, bringing in their witnesses. And so I'm not going to just sit on the side and let them say those kinds of things about me. So I had to testify really. They forced me into it.

KING: Did he get a bum rap?

CULKIN: I think so. You know, my thing was he should have known better than to let those people in his life in the first place. Those were dangerous people. Those were people who were out to get something from him. And you do your best to keep those people away from you, but at the same time, I guess he let them slip through the cracks.

KING: Do you ever think that what happened to him could have happened to you?

CULKIN: How do you mean?

KING: A lot of fame young.

CULKIN: You know, I've thought that. I thought like I could have just bought some piece of land somewhere and built a bunch of walls and kind of lived my own kind of life and make my own reality because sometimes the reality that's outside is not always that appealing. But I made a decision when I was I don't know, 14 years old, when I decided to stop doing movies and stop doing all of this, that I was just going to live life. And I was going to not let the outside world stop me from existing in the way that I felt I was capable of.

KING: Why do you like him so much?

CULKIN: Well, he's a friend of mine. You know, and we've had a friendship for a long time now. I mean people, I think, misunderstand our friendship. He's the kind of person I talk to once a year on the phone. He's not -- if you're looking for some kind of grand insight into his psyche or anything like that, I'm not that kind -- I'm not that guy.

He's a friend of mine. We've had some really interesting conversations. He has -- he's a very smart guy, but I think he's incredibly misunderstood, and a lot of that is his own fault.

KING: Aren't you godfather to one of his children?

CULKIN: Yes, I am. He has beautiful, beautiful kids and they're the sweetest things in the world. And you know, I just -- I haven't seen them in a long time. But, you know, I hope they're doing well.

KING: Do you want to be a father?

CULKIN: Definitely. Absolutely.

KING: You were married once, right?

CULKIN: I was.

KING: Too young?

CULKIN: I wouldn't say too young. It just was the way things work out with any relationship. Sometimes things don't work out the way that you plan them to. But it was the right thing for me to do. I don't regret doing it at all.

KING: How old are you?

CULKIN: Right now, 25.

KING: You realize, just the way you look you're going to be perpetually 18.

CULKIN: It's a curse and a blessing I say, so...

KING: It (INAUDIBLE) be a curse with regard to certain roles you don't get.

CULKIN: Yes, but even just -- you know, I get carded for everything. I get carded for soda you know when I go to the supermarket. I mean they card me for everything. You know, I can't even get through a hand of black jack without getting carded like five times.

KING: Were you a natural actor?

CULKIN: I think so.

KING: You didn't have any drama training when you were 8?

CULKIN: No, no, it was just -- I might have been a kid that had too much energy, and my parents were trying to get me off their hands, that crazy...

KING: Are they the ones that took you around?

CULKIN: Yes. I mean it wasn't something I went up to them and said, yes, I want to be an actor. It was -- kind of just happened naturally. I've always said that acting found me. I didn't really find it. This is when I decided that -- you know I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I kind of decided to try to dip my toe back in the water a little bit and see whether or not there was something out there for me.

KING: Our guest is Macaulay Culkin. His book is "Junior"...

CULKIN: "Junior".

KING: ... and I can tell you this, it's a wild read. And you ain't read nothing like it. "Junior" is yourself, right?


KING: Yes, of course. It's self-modulating. We'll take calls for Macaulay Culkin. But first, let's check in with my man Anderson Cooper, who will host "AC 360" at the top of the hour. Anderson, what's up?

ANDERSON COOPER, "AC 360": Yes, hey Larry, a lot to cover tonight. The latest on Operation Swarmer being called the largest air assault since the beginning of the war in Iraq, 1,500 troops hit the ground searching for insurgents and weapons, but all the activity coming on the heels of another poll showing Americans' dwindling confidence in the situation in Iraq.

We'll look at all the angles and a legal battle some are calling Roe v. Wade for men. What rights do men have when it comes to fathering kids they said they didn't want? Should they have to pay child support if the mother promised she was using birth control and wasn't? This one's heading to court, has a lot of people talking. We'll talk about it tomorrow -- tonight Larry at the top of the hour.

KING: Thanks, Anderson. Interesting story. "Anderson Cooper 360" at the top of the hour, back with your calls for Macaulay Culkin right after this.






CULKIN: Hold on. I've got a coupon for that. It was in the paper this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nineteen, eighty-three.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you here all by yourself?

CULKIN: Ma'am, I'm 8 years old. Do you think I would be here alone? I don't think so.


KING: You're good.

CULKIN: Oh, thank you.

KING: Piqua, Ohio for Macaulay Culkin, the author of "Junior", hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CULKIN: Hello.

CALLER: Nice to speak with you tonight.

CULKIN: Nice to speak with you too.

CALLER: OK. I was just wondering are you back in the dating field since you're not married anymore?

CULKIN: Oh, yes. No, I've been dating somebody for the last four years. Actually...

KING: Four years?

CULKIN: Four years now me and Mila have been together.

KING: Is that her there?

CULKIN: That is her, beautiful as always.

KING: What is her name?

CULKIN: Mila. Mila Kunis.

KING: Are you going to get married...

CULKIN: Every other week I think it's in some tabloid that we're going to be getting married, but...

KING: So tell us, the non-tabloid outlet.

CULKIN: No, we're not getting married any time soon. Been there, done that. No, but it's just not in the -- I think why mess up a good thing? We've had such a good thing for so long.

KING: Sacramento, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Love your show. Macaulay, it's wonderful to talk to you and see you. And I'm wondering are you filming anything? Are we going to have the opportunity to see you on the big screen again because you're great?

CULKIN: Oh thank you so much. I have nothing really like going on exactly at the moment. It's a really, really fragile kind of business. I'm the kind of person -- I'm very specific about the things that I pick to do, but at the same time you know, something like "Party Monster" or "Saved!", it took about four or five years just to find financing for those kind of projects. And I seem to attract the kinds of projects that take a long time to find the financing for everything to fall into place.

It's fragile, this business. When I was about to go do "Saved!" we were -- the whole cast you know packed up their bags and we're about to shoot it in Florida. And about two days before production, they said, financing fell through, like oh, well. And you never know. Look, you know and thankfully, we brought it all together, we brought the cast back together, and we made a really great film. And so it's a fragile business.

KING: But they don't call you for "Spider-Man".

CULKIN: No, not necessarily. I don't think I really look the part either but...

KING: (INAUDIBLE) you ought to be one of the characters?

CULKIN: Well no, I mean I meet with lot -- you know for a lot of projects. But at the same time, I'm very, very picky just because either -- sometimes they'll call me in for something, and they'll like me but I won't really like them. And I'm -- I've said before that I'm more picky than my position allows me to be because I can be patient, and I want to do very specific kinds of films.

KING: Is that because you saved your money?

Exactly. Well exactly and I can be patient.

KING: Kansas City, Missouri. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Hello, Macaulay.

CULKIN: Hello.

CALLER: Great to talk to you.

CULKIN: Oh, thank you.

CALLER: Well I was just wondering -- I just wanted to let you know your movie "Home Alone" is a classic for life, and I really enjoyed that movie...

CULKIN: Thank you very much.

CALLER: Oh you're very welcome. And I just want to know, are you going to write like a memoir about your life...


CALLER: ... the experiences that you've had?

CULKIN: I'm not really planning on writing a memoir any time soon. I think it would be a little silly to write a memoir at 25. I think I've got a lot more living to do. Yes, I've thought about it. That was one of my fears whenever -- what happened was is I brought a bunch of my -- a collection of writing to a -- my literary agent, Jennifer Rudolph Welsh (ph), and I expected her to look at it and say, go write a novel or go write your memoir, even worse, because I felt it would have been too easy to do something like that. And I wanted to be a little more creative with it. And that's why this book ended up how it is.

KING: Did you know "Home Alone" was going to be huge?

CULKIN: No. I don't think anyone did. I mean I think they expected it to do well. I mean it was a studio film, and it was well financed and the whole thing. But I don't think anyone expected it to do what it did. And it just -- it just kept going and going and going. And it was -- it was just -- all happened really, really fast.

KING: To mobile, Alabama. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Hi, Macaulay.

CULKIN: Hello.

CALLER: My girlfriend and I loved your performances in "Party Monster" and "Saved!"...

CULKIN: Thank you.

CALLER: ... and I just want to know what was your favorite movie to make all time? And I plan on buying your book tomorrow...

CULKIN: Thank you. Gosh, I can't even say I have a favorite. I think I'm more appreciative of the entire process as I get older. So something like "Saved!" or "Party Monster", at least recently, those were a lot of fun. I mean doing "Party Monster" was amazing.

We would go to Times Square at 4:00 in the morning with no filming permits or anything like that and we'd be dressed in God knows what, and it was a lot -- it was really guerrilla film making and then something like "Saved!", which was really great because when I was growing up I really didn't do a lot of films with people my own age. It was always me and people who were...

KING: Adults.

CULKIN: Adults. Exactly. So something like "Saved!" was fun because it was really kind of like a camp, like summer camp with these really great people. We were all really talented and we all had the same goal in mind and we just had a blast. And so I think I'm a lot more appreciative of the process as I get older.

KING: Macaulay Culkin is the guest. The book is "Junior". We'll be right back.


CULKIN: No, seriously, James. Anything or anyone missing? Like a drug dealer that used to live here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, Charlie, that could be anyone. Can I buy a vowel?

CULKIN: Think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. Angel. Where is Angel anyway?

CULKIN: I killed him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course you did, darling.



KING: We're back with Macaulay Culkin, the author of "Junior," and we go to St. Peters, Missouri. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Hi, Mack.

CULKIN: Hello.

CALLER: I just wanted to know -- I'm a -- was a -- I'm a big fan of your films. I loved "Uncle Buck" and I just wanted to know how was it working with John Candy?

CULKIN: Oh, he was amazing. He was really good with us kids in the film. He was really easy to work with. He was incredibly funny, and he was -- I think he was really able to bring out the funniest in everybody. And he was just a joy to work with.

KING: He was on this show a few times. He was a wonderful guy.


KING: Canadian hockey freak.

CULKIN: I know. I wish I was older, you know, so I could have appreciated just working with him.

KING: Because, as W.C. Fields used to say, it's hard to work with kids.

CULKIN: Kids. Kids and animals.

KING: Kids and animals.


KING: Were you a pain?

CULKIN: I could be. You know, I wouldn't even know. To me, I thought I was an angel. But at the same time, I had a lot of energy, and I think that's also -- was one of the things that kind of kept me going. I think that was one of the things that made some of the things I did funny. So yes, no, I was a bit of a brat, I guess.

KING: Edgewood, Maryland, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Nice to talk to you.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Hi, Macaulay.

CULKIN: Hello.

CALLER: I'd like to say, how was it meeting Michael Alig, the real guy -- how that affected your portraying him? And could you say hi to my daughter Kara? CULKIN: Hello, Kara. And it was really interesting. I watched a lot of film on him before. The people, Fenton and Randy, the directors, they did documentaries about him beforehand, so I said send me all the extra footage you had. So I don't think he understood how well schooled I was before I even met him.

So when I was talking to him, he would just lie and lie and lie, lie through his teeth about certain things. And I don't think he understood that I already kind of knew the truth. So I think it was actually -- him lying to me was more useful than him telling the truth. I think I really got to see who he was. I mean they weren't horrible lies. They were little white lies all over the place. And I think that was actually more useful than actually him telling the truth.

KING: What was it like to see yourself the first time up on the big screen as a star?

CULKIN: It was -- I didn't even register it. I was so young. I was 6 years old, and it was just...


CULKIN: ... you're an actor, so you do movies.

KING: What was your first big movie?

CULKIN: My very first film was "Rocket Gibraltar" with Burt Lancaster and Kevin Spacey and Bill Pullman. Like you know, it might have been one of his last films even.

KING: Thank you, Macaulay.

CULKIN: Thank you so much.

KING: Good seeing you. Macaulay Culkin. The book is "Junior".

CULKIN: "Junior".

KING: It's not your everyday book. Tomorrow night, Simon Cowell will be with us, the evil member of the "American Idol" group. He's now producing his own show, which looks hysterical, called "The Inventor", Simon Cowell tomorrow night and among the guests next week, Mike Wallace.

Right now let's turn our attention to New York and standing by is Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360". Anderson, go get them.