While I didn’t really like or enjoy Saltburn or The Banshees of Inisherin, I enjoy Barry Keoghan and I want the world for him. Barry is not an actor trying to hide a posh upbringing behind a cheesy or false backstory – Barry’s background really was tragic. No father around, his mother turned to drugs and died when he was quite young. He went into foster care for years and eventually lived with his grandmother. He was born and raised in Dublin but he had stars in his eyes and always dreamed of working in Hollywood. He went from a small-time boxer to a character actor and he’s spent thirteen years working his way up the ladder. Barry covers the February issue of GQ and this piece is extraordinary. Some highlights:

He lives in London but loves his time in LA: “Just takin’ it all in, man. There’s a gorgeous feelin’ here. This mystic kind of haze. This subtle thing I feel here—it’s like a romance I hold with it. I’m in love with it.”

His energy with Jacob Elordi: “I’m really flirtin’. We were constantly close. It ain’t just for the cameras and the premiere[s]. Me and Jacob—he’s like a brother to me, honestly. I think when you’re comfortable with someone, you can be as close as you want, you know what I mean? It’s not like, ‘Oh, don’t come near me’—it’s like, I’m comfortable. When I’m comfortable around people, I’m comfy….I’m comfortable with Jacob. Messin’ about. Havin’ a laugh. We’re bein’ lads. We’ve just done a movie where we had to kiss, man. Look at the scenes we’ve done. You have to be comfortable with yourself.”

He feels like ‘Saltburn’ is the first time he hasn’t been seen as the freak: “It’s nice, man. It’s nice not just being looked at as the weird-looking guy, the unique feckin’ freaky little freak man-child, freak child-man, whatever you want to call it. It’s nice to see people kind of look at you in that way. I’ll be honest. It is nice. My prettiness didn’t get me this far,” he says, but he’s conscious that being someone audiences want to look at “opens up other lanes for me—it’s part of the leading man thing.”

He enjoys where he is but he still makes his hotel bed: “You can get caught up in it, and it’s kind of dangerous in that sense,” he says. This is why he makes his hotel bed every morning, even though he knows the staff will come around and change it themselves. “It’s just to start your day good, to kind of bring you back to gravity. At least I’ve made it. It’s small, simple stuff like that, keeps you from floating away.”

He dreamed of all of this: “It’s crazy when I think of it. I was saying to my friend last night—I was just looking out at the [Hollywood] sign and, y’know, I wanted this as a kid. I dunno why I wanted it, but I wanted it. It brings back memories, in a weird way—it’s hard to have memories of a place you’ve not been in, but I watched all those old movies, and was fascinated by Old Hollywood. This was stuff I dreamt of, as a kid.”

The loneliness of an actor’s life: “There’s a loneliness as well, that comes with this. A massive loneliness. It’s hard not to talk about that, or to pretend that’s not there.” It caught up with him in November when he walked the red carpet in Prada at the Saltburn premiere in New York. “One of the noisiest, busiest cities in the world, but for me it was like, I’m in that place on my own—the only person in New York, at some points.” Who do you think about, when you’re alone like that? “When I’m isolated? Obviously, my mother. My mother, always. She’s many years passed now, but I always think about her anyway. It’s always just in and around achievements that it’s really prominent—’cause you’d like to celebrate that wit’ ’er, y’know?”

He had necrotizing fasciitis just before The Banshees of Inisherin started shooting. One in five cases are fatal; amputation, he says, was on the table. He remembers saying to the doctors, But I’m not gonna die, right? and the doctors saying, Well, we don’t know.

He named his son Brando. He was born right in the middle of shooting on Saltburn; Keoghan managed to get away for that one day. “They gave me a day off. Good on them! Day off, and straight on to night shoots and night feedings—boom! It was probably the best time of my life, to be quite fair. Havin’ a baby boy, and leadin’ a movie. It was the best time of my life, I must say—yeah.”

On Brando’s mother, his ex Alyson Sandro: “She’s done a great job and she’s an incredible mother.”

[From GQ]

There’s so much sadness layered into this profile but there’s something else too – joy, pleasure, wish-fulfillment. It’s nice to hear a non-American actor talk about how much he loves LA, how he still enjoys the promotional grind and he still has some Hollywood dreams. Most actors – especially Brits, but not so much Irish actors – can’t stop sh-t talking LA. To Barry, he’s happy as a clam in LA. And the fact that he had flesh-eating bacteria and almost got his arm amputated? Right before filming Banshees?? That’s insane.

Cover & IG courtesy of GQ.