The Banshees of Inisherin is kind of being sold as getting the In Bruges band back together again. Director Martin McDonagh reunites with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson about what happens when one of two close friends doesn’t want to be friends anymore. Even Kerry Condon, who plays Farrell’s sister, has worked with McDonagh before on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. So Barry Keoghan really was the “news kid at school,” here. Not to mention, he idolizes McDonagh so much, he has a picture of him as his phone wallpaper. Something he decided to delete before they had their first meeting. (I asked McDonagh about this later and he said he did find out about it and joked that’s what got Keoghan the job.)
Barry Keoghan seems to play a lot of characters with sinister streaks. In The Killing of a Sacred Dear, in which he also co-starred with Colin Farrell, he plays a young man who torments a family as part of a deranged plan for revenge. In The Eternals, he plays an immortal being with a growing chip on his shoulder. And in Matt Reeves’s The Batman we got a glimpse of him as the Joker (officially billed as “Unidentified Arkham Prisoner”) who, historically, is pretty sinister. (A deleted scene was later released that gives us a much better look at what Keoghans’s take on Joker will be like, which he talks about ahead.)
But in The Banshees of Inisherin, Keoghan plays Dominic, a sweet but troubled soul who tries his best to fit in with his fellow townspeople and to win the affection of Siobhán (Condon), but also has to deal with his alcoholic, abusive father who regularly beats him and also happens to be the town’s police officer. Keoghan may be new to the world of Martin McDonagh films, but he brings a heat and earnest soul to this movie that doesn’t work quite as well without it.
Ahead, Keoghan talks about living his dream of being in a Martin McDonagh movie and why he’s excited to show audiences a different, not-so-sinister side of his acting chops. He also talks about the possible future of The Eternals (and why he keeps texting Kumail Nanjiani for updates) and why he’s happy everyone has seen his extended deleted scene as Joker in The Batman.
Where in the world are you right now?
Literally forgot there for a second. New York.
That’s where I am.
Oh, you could have come seen me!
They didn’t offer that as an option.
[Jokingly yells to someone off camera] Hey! What’s the deal?
There’s a line you deliver in this movie that gave me the giggles I couldn’t shake. When you find a stick with a hook on it and you’re asked what you’re going to do with it and reply, “I’ll use it to hook something a stick’s length away.”
That’s Martin, because I remember Martin literally pulling me a few times on one of those lines about the stick, and Martin would say it for me in Dominic’s way. He was actually my acting coach as well that, Martin. He knew the character, but he knew a great way of putting him across to me, which made it really easy for me to do.
It’s not said with any sarcasm. It’s so sincere and it really sets up this character.
[Laughs] What are you going to do with a stick with a hook on it?
Colin and Brendan keep getting all the headlines for reuniting. You’ve done more movies with Colin at this point than Brendan has. You should point that out.
I think I have, right?
You have. You’ve done three with Colin.
Yeah, that’s another thing, I’m going to blow them all up on this … three times, actually.
I don’t know if The Batman counts. You’re not really in scenes together, but technically that’s the same movie.
Yeah, it’s the same title, you know? Well, I worked with Brendan also on Trespass Against Us. That was great. I was much younger then and we had a great time and that was years ago.
What is it like showing up on set of this? Because it is kind of being built as the reunion of In Bruges between Martin and those two.
It feels amazing to be part of that circle and cause they’ve all worked together, Kerry as well. And then it’s just to be invited in a way into the group and for them to give me their trust and stuff is, it’s just amazing. I mean it really is. To be a part of a Martin McDonagh movie, it really, really is. It’s so Irish. It’s so Irish. I can’t wait to bring it home and open it as well. And it’s going to be amazing.
I love In Bruges. So expectations were pretty high for me and it exceeded them. It might be my favorite movie this year…
Oh that’s nice man, that’s a nice big deal.
Top Gun: Maverick‘s really good, too, though.
I’ve seen it. I love Top Gun!
Oh, so how does this happen? Does Colin mention to Martin he should bring you in on this? Or does something else happen?
I remember Colin saying it to me in Sacred Deer. He was like, McDonagh, he has you in mind for a part. And the script, it’s lovely. And I was like, really? And that was it. Then I met Martin at a Three Billboards screening and I got to talk to Martin for a bit and then Martin emailed me. I was just like, fucking hell man. And I was just, yeah, it was a really nice thing to get an email and say, would you like to meet and talk to discuss this part? And I just couldn’t believe it, you know what I mean? Because I wanted to work with Martin McDonagh for so long. I had him on a list. I had him on the front of my phone! Yeah, the picture, literally, until we met. I took the picture off.
Wait, you had a picture of Martin McDonagh on your phone? The main picture?
Like I have Darth Vader here, like that?
Yeah. Literally had him on my phone. And then I was sitting in New York in a little burger place and I was waiting for him. And I literally looked at my phone. I was like, I should probably… yeah I need to get rid of this picture. If he sees it on my phone he will go “that kid is insane.”
Yeah, I’m curious what he would’ve thought if he would just seen that. Why does this guy have a picture of me on his phone?
Crazy. Crazy! But I told him and we laughed about it. I actually showed him the picture, I’ll pull the picture up again. But yeah, it was just a dream come true basically.
You mentioned Killing of a Sacred Deer. This is a very different role than that. You’re good at playing sinister characters. Even in Eternals you are sinister. Your character here, Dominic, is so sad and profound.
It is. To get to play that kind of part of being innocent and a sweet little soul, it’s nice because people are used to seeing me in that sort of role, with a bad streak or devious. And to get to play someone where we’re opposite? Totally opposite, is kind of like I get to show my range as an actor and that’s all I want to do. I’m being quite honest, literally show my range and bring people on board and get them to relate in any way they can and then make them ask questions and feel. So that’s all I want to do. And also to go on and enjoy myself with it to learn something from it as well, and to enjoy it and be challenged. So yeah, it’s quite nice.
It is interesting hearing you say you to bring people on board. You’re on the Irish Times list of greatest actors in Irish history already. I think things are going pretty well for you.
Good little Ireland put me on that list, did they?
Did you go to SNL when Brendan hosted?
We got in and I’ve got a newborn son, his name’s Brando and he’s only eight weeks old….
Thank you. He needed his sleep and he comes first now so, yeah. But I would’ve loved to go. I did see it and the lads killed it and I’d watch Brendan and Colin do anything all day. They’ve got a great energy together. Is it Midnight Cowboy with Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman? Like that kind of thing? I’d love to see something like that. That’s what they kind of remind me of. I’d love to see that.
Who plays Ratso?
I’m sure you like In Bruges, right? That’s a dumb question. It would be weird if you’re like, no, I hate it. What a bad movie.
I love it.
Is that why you have Martin on your phone? Or is it is plays? Or the whole package?
Movies yeah. And the plays. I mean, I’ve seen The Cripple of Inishmaan, as well. Never got to see Hangmen, never seen that. But when I read the script, it’s just a rhythm to it that makes it so easy to read in a good way. And there’s so much being said in a way, if you get what I’m saying, it’s not off the page. But he brings you to a place of knowing that there’s so much depth basically is what I’m trying to say. So yeah, I mean Seven Psychopaths, not in any order, but Three Billboards and the short film, Six Shooter, I remember seeing that. He’s just unreal man. He’s just unreal. And I’m curious to see what he does next. But he’s a lovely man. He’s a lovely fucking man.
So with Eternals, do you hear anything? Do you know what’s going? Do they keep in contact with you about what’s next?
Kumail is always the one I’m texting. I’m like, “Yo, have you heard anything on Eternals 2?” Kumail knows everything. You know what I mean? He loves comic books. The comic world.
They’re secretly giving you all the information and you’re just not telling Kumail. Maybe that’s what’s actually going on here.
Well, I’m always texting him like about San Diego Comic-Con. I’m like, “Hey, are we going to San Diego for Eternals?” but I’d love to see where it goes. I really would.
I mean there’s literally a giant stone Celestial coming out of the ocean. Someone’s going to notice that.
No, there’s a lot that we could dive into and there’s a lot of character stories that we can go with and that as well. So I will be curious to see where Kevin, Victoria Alonso and they all take it.
I hope Chloé Zhao gets to do it again, too…
It was shot and made, you really get, with the characters, it sort of felt like an independent movie at some points as well. But she, she’s amazing. Chloé, she’s another great one I would work with. At the drop of a hat again.
After The Batman came out they released your deleted scene as “Arkham prisoner”…
Seen it, right?
Well, I’ve done the job, if you’ve seen it. I think the lad’s done quite well with it. They wouldn’t release anything that they didn’t think needed to be released. And again, yeah, I am super happy it got released because it was a massive deal for me and everyone involved. So it’s good to put it out into the world and put my take and spin on it.
I’m out of time. Again, that line about the stick with the hook on it, it still makes me laugh.
[Laughs] Collect your money.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ opens in select theaters this Friday, October 21st. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.