Barry Keoghan, who is currently riding high on the acclaim surrounding his Oscar-nominated turn in The Banshees of Inisherin, has set his next project: The 30-year-old actor will play infamous outlaw Billy the Kid in a new biopic to be directed by Bart Layton. The duo previously worked together on the 2018 heist film American Animals.
The film is a passion project for Keoghan, who, like the real-life Billy the Kid, is Irish by birth, and lost his mother at a young age (Billy the Kid at age 15, Keoghan when he was 12). He reportedly first pitched the idea to Layton during production of American Animals, and came close to setting up the project in 2020. Unfortunately, that attempt was derailed by the pandemic.
In a statement to Deadline, Keoghan says that unlike previous screen iterations of Billy the Kid, his portrayal will “humanize” the iconic bandit to “tell a version that breaks from the facade of that cool, calm, and collected gunslinger” which looms so large in pop culture:
“I wanted to step outside of the legend that was built up by the papers and tackle the pressure he must have felt from those early days. He was running his whole life. I felt related to Billy in the sense of him being a mummy’s boy, but obviously, I took a different path, turning my circumstances into something positive rather than rebelling against them. Nevertheless, there’s a soul and a vulnerability to Billy that I think it’s important to bring, to understand him as a real person rather than the myth that he has become.”
Layton went on to add:
“Our understanding of Billy the Kid is really the comic book version. But the more we researched and the more we discussed, the more it felt like something Barry was born to do. There’s a cornered child aspect to Billy that I think Barry really understands, and of the violence he has been immortalized for, not all of it was intended or premeditated. A lot of it was circumstance edging him forward.”
Written by Hunter Andrews, the movie will reunite Keoghan and The Killing of a Sacred Deer producer Ed Guiney. It may be a little while before audiences get to see the finished product, however, as Layton doesn’t believe production will commence any earlier than the first half of 2024.
In addition to The Banshees of Inisherin, 2022 saw Keoghan appear in The Batman as an ‘Unseen Arkham Prisoner.’ Director and co-writer Matt Reeves has said the character is a precursor to The Joker. Keoghan spoke to Collider last year about how it was “intimidating” to take on the Clown Prince of Crime, saying that “I want to bring my version [of the character], because I feel that is new in a way, and unique, that when you bring your version no one has seen it.”
The actor will next appear opposite fellow Academy Award nominee Austin Butler (Elvis) in the Apple TV+ mini-series Masters of the Air, as well as in Saltburn, the heavily-anticipated new film from Promising Young Woman writer/director Emerald Fennell.