Interview with Barry Keoghan

  • 11-27-2017 01:22pm

Q: Tell us who you play?
A: I play Martin. He’s 16 and he’s lost his father and he hangs out with Steven who is played by Colin Farrell.
Q: How did Yorgos explain the character you play to you?
A: There was none of that, ‘what’s this character about? Where is he from?’ It was all in the script and Yorgos isn’t a big fan of digging into it. Maybe it’s the best way. Yorgos is creating his own style and it’s a new way for actors too. It wasn’t acting, what I was doing, it was just saying the words.
Q: Did he talk to you about how you would deliver the dialogue?
A: It’s very monotone. And it’s all delivered in the same tone. The thing is in life you say things with different levels of emotion, whereas what happens if we just say it a normal way? I’d seen The Lobster and that was similar in regards to the dialogue, so I just went with that way. And I was working with Colin and he’s a master at that, so I just followed Colin.
Q: But at the same time you have to make it natural to speak that way..
A: Yes, Yorgos didn’t want it to be robotic either.
Q: What’s the one thing that you have taken from the experience of making this film?
A: Appreciating camera work; I love the tracking shots. And not taking everything too seriously. Yorgos is pretty chilled and relaxed and his directing is pretty simple, it’s like ‘fast’ ‘slow’ or ‘don’t move around a lot.’ And it’s the best way because it’s all there in the script. So that would be the thing I take away. Everyone has their own way, and there’s no right or wrong way, and they all get tense before a scene but this was like ‘action’, and we would just do it.
Q: How do you describe the movie to your friends?
A: Oh they’ve no clue (laughs). They have no clue what they are going to see. I would tell them to watch The Lobster to get into it first. I would say it’s about a boy toying with people’s lives and I’d say it’s a thriller.
Q: Did you enjoy playing Martin?
A: Yes, I did. I didn’t see him as a really scary character. I read him as a normal teenage lad who has a lot going on in his head and a lot of power. So I played him like that.
Q: What’s your background?
A: I come from Dublin and I got involved in acting when I was about 17. There was an open audition for a film called Between The Canals and I rang in and the director picked up the phone and he was telling me about funding [the film] and he said he was looking for lads who could be part of this gang in the film and I said ‘I’d love to do that’.
Q: What made you phone in the first place?
A: It was money! (laughs). I was good at lying as well and I still am, but they have figured me out now.
Q: But you thought it was a way to earn some money?
A: Yes, that and I remembered doing something on stage, messing about, when I was at school and I remembered the feeling I got from that. It was ‘everyone likes this, they like the way I do it.’ They were laughing and I thought ‘right, I could do this.’ And I’d watched Irish films growing up with lads like Colin and Cillian [Murphy] and seeing them do it and I thought ‘I want to do that.’ They inspired me. And Michael [Fassbender] who is a cool lad; there’s something about the Irish lads, you know, they are just carers. When you go on set they’re good people.
Q: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t acting?
A: I’d love to be doing boxing still full time. I was a featherweight amateur boxer. But this is a pretty good gig though. But I can still box as well as act.
Q: But maybe not tell your director that you’re boxing when you’re making a film…
A: I was boxing when I was making The Killing of a Sacred Deer in Cincinnati. I was at the boxing club there for eight weeks training. And I’ve got to keep doing that.
Q: How old were you when you started boxing?
A: 15. Where I grew up it’s football or boxing, they are the sports, there’s no rugby. It’s the traditional working class sports.
Q: You’re in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. What was it like working with him?
A: Chris is a master just like Yorgos. I got The Killing of a Sacred Deer when I was making Dunkirk so going from that extreme to this extreme was amazing. They are both masters. Yorgos is creating a genre and a style that’s unique, no one else has it. And Chris just has a vision in his head and to work with those two was incredible. I can’t say too much about my role in Dunkirk right now but it’s a good role and it was a great experience. We had Spitfires [aircraft] and everything and we filmed in Dunkirk as well so it was good to feel that, you felt a bit of presence there. I didn’t get to work with Tom Hardy because he’s a pilot and he’s up in the air. But I did get to work with Cillian [Murphy] and Mark Rylance and an actor called Tom Glynn-Carney, it was his first film and he’s a great lad. And those lads taught me how to play poker. When we were chilling out on the boat, in between scenes, we’d play poker. And when Mark Rylance came to Ireland to do some interviews he said ‘don’t play poker with Barry Keoghan!’ (laughs). And that’s because I won. But I never knew how to play poker and that’s one of the things I learnt from that set!
Q: Could you talk a little more about how Yorgos and Chris differ in their approach?
A: They aren’t actually that different. The direction is very concise; they say one or two words to you. Some directors can go on and on but Chris and Yorgos just use a few words but you know exactly what they mean.
Q: In general do you prefer smaller independent films or big blockbusters like Dunkirk?
A: I just want to keep working with filmmakers like Yorgos and Chris; filmmakers who are bringing something different and new. And it always depends on the scripts.
Q: But how about super hero movies? We see a lot of them right now. Does that appeal?
A: I’m not going to deny it, I’d like to play Robin in Batman (laughs). There hasn’t been a Robin yet and it’s about time.
Q: So what does the future hold for you?
A: Well, I’m talking to different directors and this film is obviously helping hugely. I’ve got to see what I want to do next. It’s exciting and a great position to be in. I’m going to go back to the countryside and chill out and box and eat (laughs).
Q: Your life has changed a lot over the last few years…
A: Yes, it has.
Q: Do you still live in Dublin?
A: I live in the countryside in Ireland, which is great.
Q: Do you get recognised in Ireland?
A: Yes, but more for the things I’ve done on TV and the odd person will recognise me from a movie. I’m not about to complain about people recognising me, that’s for sure.
Q: Has anyone in your family ever been involved in acting?
A: Jesus, no. No one in the area has ever been in acting. [Director] Jim Sheridan was born a few minutes away. I was born in Dublin 1. It’s a working class area. There are some soccer players who come from there.
Q: Was it hard to get the American accent right for your character in The Killing of a Sacred Deer?
A: It wasn’t easy. I put a lot of work into that.
Q: What do your family and friends make of your success as an actor?
A: ‘He’s on the telly’ (laughs)! I wouldn’t want to go home to find they were treating me differently and they don’t. They’re great.
Q: What do you enjoy most about acting?
A: I like meeting new people and I take something from every movie, whether it’s a different skill or I learn something from somebody. When I’m hanging out with other actors I’m trying to learn all the time – it could be how they talk to people or how they deal with things. It’s an education, you know. Colin is a mentor for me. He’s just a very, very caring person. And it’s the same with Nicole. They were so kind to all of the younger actors. And Colin just took me under his wing. It was great to be in America making a film with another Irish lad like Colin.
Q: How do you prepare for roles?
A: I put in two or three hours a day and it’s all about not being too hard on yourself. I think it’s about however you want to prepare, there’s no right or wrong way, whatever way is comfortable for you is the best way. Usually I get my granny to write out some questions. I give her a book and say ‘if you didn’t know this person, write down the questions you would ask him.’ And she writes down these random questions. She has no idea what she is doing but she writes down questions that she would ask a person she wants to find out about. So then I have the script and I have the questions, too. I didn’t do it for The Killing of a Sacred Deer but I did it for Dunkirk. And then I just try to be present when I’m on set. I don’t have a set way of acting, if something happens, if it evolves, then react and be present.
Q: What did you dream about doing when you were a kid? Boxing?
A: Yes, boxing. But I was really into drawing too. I would draw The Simpsons. I was always making something, like I remember making a slingshot, or doing something. I remember when I was a bit older and I’d started the acting I had this list of directors and filmmakers I wanted to work with and Yorgos was one of them and he was right at the top. Bart Layton [American Animals director] was one of them and Ed Guiney [producer of The Killing of a Sacred Deer]was one of them. You have to believe it will happen, and it did. I put Yorgos on the list after I’d seen The Lobster. I said ‘I want to do a film like that’. I love his films, Dogtooth, The Lobster,and they all have this unique tone and it’s like a different genre. What a man! And you know it’s such a lot of fun working with him. There wasn’t one day when stuff went wrong. It was pretty chilled and we didn’t take it too seriously; we knew our stuff, we knew our lines and it was fun.
Q: You must have been thrilled when you got the chance to work with Yorgos…
A: Can you imagine? I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely thrilled. Not only was it the chance to work with Yorgos but it was Colin and Nicole Kidman, too. I didn’t stop smiling for a week
Q: Nicole is a huge star. Were you a little star struck when you first met her?
A: She is! I remember preparing for this big scene I have with her and there was a part of me that was like ‘Nicole Kidman!’ and I have to sit there in my boxers (laughs). But she has a feel for her younger co-stars who aren’t very experienced. But Nicole and Colin had a way of making us feel at ease and it wasn’t like ‘we’re around big film stars’ at all. And you get to know them as people and they are just lovely. I’ve met a few well-known directors before, and I’d tell my nanny and she would say ‘who?’ and that puts everything into perspective.