Who is Barry Keoghan, the Oscar-nominated Banshees of Inisherin actor set to play Billy The Kid?
Martin McDonagh’s latest film, The Banshees of Inisherin, received a stonking nine Oscar nods last week when the nominations were announced.
The film, which is set on a fictional Irish island in the Twenties, follows what happens when friend Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) ends his longtime relationship with Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell). Kerry Condon plays Siobhán, Pádraic’s sister, and Barry Keoghan plays local boy Dominic Kearney. Incredibly, all of the actors picked up Oscar noms for their work in the film.
Keoghan, in particular, has been whipping up a lot of interest because it has now been revealed that he will play Billy The Kid, the infamous 19th century American outlaw, in an upcoming biopic.
Speaking to Deadline, Keoghan said: “We’ve seen many versions of Billy the Kid on screen before... My interest was in trying to tell a version that breaks from the façade of that cool, calm, and collected gunslinger Billy the Kid that we’re all used to seeing. I wanted to humanize him in a way.”
So far, little is known about the forthcoming production, but Bart Layton, the British documentary filmmaker, is attached as director. Keoghan starred in Layton’s 2018 heist film American Animals. Ed Guiney, who oversaw the development of Normal People and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, is also onboard as producer. He has previously worked with Keoghan on Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Guiney said: “Barry has the ability to capture a duality in the way he acts; there’s great sweetness and gentleness, but also there can be darkness and violence. He can really embody both things at once, and that’s the essence of Billy the Kid.”
So if you have been intrigued by Keoghan, an amateur boxer who spent seven years in foster care as a child, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the actor on the eve of international stardom.
A complicated childhood
Keoghan was born in Summerhill, one of Dublin’s most deprived areas, in 1992. According to the Irish Mirror, Keoghan’s mother struggled with addiction and died when the actor was 12. This meant that he spent much of his childhood in foster care with his brother Eric – and the two boys were moved between as many as 13 foster homes.
In the end, he was raised by his grandmother, aunt and older sister Gemma, who apparently quit work to look after Keoghan and his brother.
Speaking to Ryan Tubberty on Ireland’s Late Late Show in 2018, he said: “The drugs hit the area, it affected all the families, and she was one of them that got caught.” Speaking about foster care he said: “As a kid, you don’t know what’s happening. You get attached, and them boom, ‘Oh, let’s move over here’... “Thirteen homes. If that was on paper, you’d kind of go, he’s destined to do — mess up. But I went against it,” he added.
In a 2019 interview on Irish TV show Livin’ With Lucy, Keoghan said about his mum: “I know she is [proud]. Before every audition I say a little prayer because you want that little push before you go in. I have great memories of her, she was gorgeous. She was 6ft, long black hair, that’s where I get my looks sure.”
The actor added that he feels his mother is by his side, saying: “I really do feel it. I believe she’s here with me through this journey, the good times and the bad.”
Speaking about the love and support of his family, he said: “It’s all about my family. My nanny and my auntie, they have been a huge part of my life, taking me in from foster care. “They fought for us, there was a lot of work involved to get us. When they took us in they looked after us very, very well.”
Living in a small flat in Summerhill meant that the family had to share rooms once the boys moved in: “Gemma had to go into the room with my nanny and Lorraine and Eric and I had the other room. She was only young when we moved in, she gave up everything. I love them for that.”
Acting and his breakout role
Keoghan’s acting career kicked off when he answered a casting notice in a shop window for the 2011 crime film Between the Canals. The role clearly gave him the acting bug, and despite having hardly even enough money to get the bus, Keoghan went to study at The Factory, an acting school in Dublin.
Just two years later he starred in Love/Hate, a TV show about Dublin’s criminal underworld which was released on Ireland’s public broadcaster RTÉ Television.
Keoghan’s biggest films and TV shows
2017 was a big year for Keoghan: he starred alongside Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman in Yorgos Lanthimos’ psychological horror thriller The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and also had a role in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. He then played Pavel in HBO’s award-winning series Chernobyl. Another standout performance was in 2019’s Calm with Horses.
His next roles included playing Scavenger in The Green Knight, before being cast in two blockbusters, as Druig in Eternals and a cameo role as the Joker in the 2022’s blockbuster The Batman (though the scene didn’t make the final cut). Speaking about his career ambitions on Livin’ With Lucy, he said he wanted to, “have a respected film career and be known as someone who could go from that to that.”
Incredibly, long before Keoghan got a role in The Banshees of Inisherin, the actor had a photo of writer and director Martin McDonagh as the background image on his phone. Speaking to the LA Times he explained: “I was like, ‘Put the picture on your phone and manifest it... I looked at it every day.”
In March 2020, McDonagh got in touch saying he had written a role in his new film for Keoghan. “I said yes right away — I didn’t even read the script,” said the actor. “He’s one of the best filmmakers out there, and he’s Irish as well. This movie is about home, so to be part of that and to be in that McDonagh squad was nice.”
“We’ve not seen an Irish film like this before. I really did see it as a once-in-life experience that is not going to happen again.”
Although the Oscar nod is Keoghan’s most prestigious award nomination yet, it’s by no means his first accolade.
Before The Banshees of Inisherin, the actor earned 13 awards and nominations, including winning Breakout Star at the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle in 2017 and Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Irish Film and Television Awards for The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
But, undoubtedly, The Banshees of Inisherin has won the actor even more recognition: Keoghan was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a Critics’ Choice Awards for playing Dominic.
He’s a father
His first child, Brando, was born in August 2022. When his Oscar nomination was announced he posted a tribute on his Instagram story which said: “That ones for you Brando. Daddy loves you.”
He is an amateur boxer
The actor has reportedly been boxing for over a decade and even competes, though he’s had to park the sport at times when acting roles have demanded it of him. Speaking to The New York Times in November 2022, he said: “I’m good, man, I’m really good. I’m not one of these actor-boxers who hit the pads and look great. I’m there to compete.
“The thing with boxing is, it’s the only time I feel really present. You can do meditation — which I don’t — but people go on about feeling in the moment, and for me, that’s when I’m boxing. You’re totally immersed in this state that I can’t describe. I get that with acting as well.”
He stayed with Farrell, a close friend, while filming
While filming The Banshees of Inisherin, Keoghan lived with Farrell and the two apparently came close to blows several times. Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on The Late Late Show, Farrell explained, “I’d come in the morning and the place was like raccoons had been there - I’m not joking.
“One morning I came in and it was like, excuse my French, was like a p*ss take, right. I came in and there was a carton of milk on its side and it was empty. But there was a lovely puddle of milk where it was like somebody said, how will we piss him off.”
Farrell added: “He’s amazing, though, he’s an extraordinary talent and has a heart the size of this island itself.” The two actors have been friends since working together on the 2017 film The Killing of a Sacred Deer.