Right at Home

updated 12/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/04/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

Two years ago Rory Culkin was strolling down a Manhattan street when a group of tourists mistook him for his older brother Macaulay, famous for his face-slapping screams in the Home Alone films. "They started laughing and putting their hands on their cheeks," he recalls. "And I put my hands on my cheeks and imitated Mac."

He's still generous to his brother's fans, but these days the younger Culkin is very much his own man. In the new drama You Can Count on Me, Culkin, 11, a Manhattan sixth grader, plays the vulnerable 8-year-old son of a small-town single mother (Laura Linney). Variety lauded his performance as "flawless." Costar Matthew Broderick agrees. "He was just wonderful," he says. "He seemed perfectly comfortable in his own skin."

Well, he does have the Culkin genes. Of his six older siblings, Macaulay, 20, Kieran, 18, and Christian, 13, are working actors, while Shane, 24, and sister Quinn, 16, are studying the craft. (Dakota, 22, also gave it a shot but not for long.) "Ever since he was very little, he has been around it," says his mother, Patricia Brentrup, 46, who split bitterly from the children's father, Christopher "Kit" Culkin, 55, in 1995.

There's no doubting Macaulay's influence. Rory scored bit parts in three of his films—1993's The Good Son and '94's Richie Rich and Getting Even with Dad—before winning his role in Count on Me. Thanks to Mac's public travails, including a recent separation from actress Rachel Miner, 20, Rory, who says he likes "to draw dungeons, dragons, moats" in his spare time, is well aware of the downside of fame. Still, he is undeterred. "It'd be cool to be like Mac," he says. "He has a good house. He writes sometimes. It just looks like a good life."

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