‘The Banshees Of Inisherin’ Star Barry Keoghan Crosses Another Name Off His Director Wishlist: Its Remarkable Whats Come True Its Freaky

Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin promises a reunion of the In Bruges team of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, and it overdelivers, featuring supporting performances from both Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan that are attracting the attention of awards groups internationally. Keoghan has had a charmed run in recent years, crossing directors like Yorgos Lanthimos, Christopher Nolan, David Lowery and Chloé Zhao off his list of must-work-withs (and there’s a literal list). And he was the highlight of this year’s The Batman, becoming the latest actor to play the Joker, even though his single scene didn’t make the final cut.

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DEADLINE: You assembled a list of directors you wanted to work with, long before you ever started landing roles in movies. You’ve worked with many of those directors already, but Martin McDonagh was right up top, wasn’t he?

BARRY KEOGHAN: He was a big one. And can you remember — make sure you get this in the piece — that you were the one that first introduced me to Martin? It was at the Fox Searchlight Oscar party in LA the year of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. You brought me along to the party and I remember talking to you that night and saying thank you, because I’d always wanted to meet him. I was in awe. You definitely deserve credit for this one.

DEADLINE: He told you he was already a fan, so my contribution was minimal. Not long after, you got an email from him saying he’d written a part in The Banshees of Inisherin specifically for you.

KEOGHAN: I couldn’t believe it. I remember Colin, while we were doing The Killing of a Sacred Deer, saying that Martin had a part in a movie he hadn’t finished writing that he thought he might want me to play. So, after that first meeting, he emailed me, and we met in New York. I put it down to a law of attraction thing of working hard toward what you want, because I had a picture of him that was the background on my phone. Literally seconds before he showed up, I thought, ‘I’d better take this off because it’s a little weird if he sees I’ve got a picture of him on my phone.’ In the end, I told him about it anyway, and he laughed his socks off.

We were due to shoot it a couple of months after that, but then Covid hit, and it gave us a year and a half to sit with it. That time really helped.

DEADLINE: You hit it off right away, but as a fan of his work, was it a challenge to get past that feeling of awe that you described?

KEOGHAN: Martin’s just a legend, man. When you get to know him, you realize he’s just a big kid. He’s so excited, and eager to go to work. When you work with someone of his caliber, you’re always quite nervous because you go in knowing you have to be on your mark. But he was open to discussing everything, and we’d have debates about how far we should go with every scene. With a character like this, you don’t want to play around so much that he comes across as being comic relief; we wanted to make Dominic feel as real as possible. But sometimes you had to push it a little further, or pull it back, and Martin knows exactly what he wants at all times — like any great director—and he put me in the right lane for it.

DEADLINE: Let’s dig into that complexity. How did you draw the line between the tragedy of Dominic’s journey in the film and the levity he brings to Inisherin?

KEOGHAN: It was a very fine line and having the right motivation behind every scene became very central to what Martin and I discussed; what felt real and what didn’t. You also have to measure yourself up against Colin, Brendan and Kerry. There were times when you knew you had to go big and times when you needed to keep it contained. I became adept at turning to Martin after every take and checking in. “Did I do too much?” or, “Do I need to bring it up a little?”

It was heartbreaking to read Dominic’s story on the page. He’s a guy who says it like it is, and on an island like that where everyone’s reserved and talking behind everyone else’s backs, it’s good to have that view on stuff, where it’s a different angle that he sees the world from. He has a naivety, but he also has a great intelligence. All he really wants is for everyone to be happy, and he’s a character who lives day by day. It’s really sad that everyone on the island has made up their mind that he’s a little f*ckin’ eejit, or whatever. But I see no harm in him. I could relate to him in that sense of wanting to be true and honest, and sometimes that honesty can sting.

The character was challenging, but at the same time I couldn’t have asked for a nicer movie to be a part of. Colin, Brendan and Kerry are all f*ckin’ brilliant, and being from Ireland, it had a feeling of home. There’s a language there I understand. A brogue. So, for all of the challenge, it was also a blessing. I just hope I get to do it again with them.

DEADLINE: Martin McDonagh has assembled a bit of a troupe. Colin, Brendan and Kerry have all worked with him multiple times on stage and screen. It may not be your only call.

KEOGHAN: Hopefully. Honestly, I’ve been blessed to work with some of the most amazing filmmakers, and you learn so much from them. But I still have the same determination and drive that I had when I started out doing this job, to go where I want to go. It’s not about fame or recognition, although it’s beautiful to be recognized for your work. It’s about challenging myself, breaking stigmas and stereotypes, and seeing how far I can push myself with what I play.

DEADLINE: You’d come off two big movies — The Batman and Eternals — and this was a return to set from Covid lockdowns. Given you grew up in inner Dublin, did that pandemic life give you a sense of the isolation the script was dealing with? That for all of the real traumas present on this tiny island, for some reason the residents are all focused on two friends falling out.

KEOGHAN: Definitely. It’s incredible that this breakup is what holds our focus. And it is a breakup story, although you don’t usually see it in the context of two friends drifting apart. It hits you because loneliness is scary. It hits you because things like that have happened to all of us — certainly to me — growing up, where it’s not so direct but where someone just stops wanting to be friends with you. It’s f*cking heartbreaking; you start questioning yourself. The collage of everything in this movie engages you. It takes you along for the ride and it’s enjoyable.

You know, I’ve been watching it all Christmas. People have come over to the house and I’m like, “Want to watch Banshees?”

DEADLINE: Seriously?

KEOGHAN: Well, my girlfriend’s usually the one making everyone watch it, but I don’t exactly stop her. I’ve seen it four times now. Once in the cinema and three times on Disney+. I’m very proud of it. I know we’re always critical of our own work, and that’s a healthy thing to an extent, but with this I just thoroughly enjoyed the ride, so watching it is a pleasure. And every time you watch it, you pick up new details. It’s like a play whereby every night it evolves. That’s hard to translate to screen, but Martin has done it.

DEADLINE: This is your third movie with Colin Farrell. What has getting to know him meant to you, personally and professionally?

KEOGHAN: I’m a massive fan of Colin’s work, and of Colin as a person. We’re always chatting. I swear, when you see your friends get attention for their work you think it’s great and brilliant, and you’re so happy. But when it happens to someone as genuinely lovely and supportive as Colin, it means all the more. He has a genuine care for other people, and I see him chat to people who he hasn’t met before, and he immediately engages them and makes them feel heard. It’s a rare skill, and Colin has been like that for me from day one. He’s been so helpful in a million ways, and he’s a massive mentor to me.

DEADLINE: Let’s get back to that list of directors you wanted to work with. Are there more collaborations on the horizon?

KEOGHAN: Well, I’m about to work with someone else on that list. Now, this is not a list that contains 100 filmmakers. It’s a list of maybe 35 or 40, max. And I’ve managed to check off quite a few. The one thing I’ll say has changed for me after doing a few movies is that the opportunities are there more than they were. But my determination and will to keep elevating and diving deep into characters, and figuring stuff out about myself, has only really gotten stronger. It’s just that now, because people have seen me in stuff, it’s easier to get in a room.

DEADLINE: Are you actively pursuing those names on that list, or are they coming to you?

KEOGHAN: lt’s more of a law of attraction thing. I’ve always made lists. Things that would bring me contentedness, happiness and health. I don’t get too specific about it, and I don’t ask for ridiculous stuff, but I always write it down; put it in print. I don’t believe in luck and I’m quite religious, so I have faith. And the law of attraction is preached on a level where it’s not like you say, “I want a nice car,” and you get a nice car. It’s more about opportunity. “Give me the opportunity and I’ll work for it.” If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen, but it has felt like there’s someone out there in the universe who’s listening to me.

It’s quite remarkable what I’ve written down that’s come true, man. It’s freaky, to be honest. I don’t chase these people. I don’t bombard them. But I’ve had the opportunity to walk in their space and be in their circles — like when you brought me along to that party and introduced me to Martin — and the rest has followed. It’s not just in the acting world that I’ve been asking, either. In life, too. I think: be good and receive good, you know?

I just want to try everything. Not just in the industry, but outside it. I’m putting down carpets three days a week at the moment, with my girlfriend’s brothers, because they have their own company. Using my hands and learning the craft. I’m doing a bit of boxing again. I’ve been doing falconry. And I’m learning how to be a father, with my 6-month-old Brando. That’s a fulltime job in itself. I have a massive interest in the world outside of acting, and so trying a bit of everything is very important to me.

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