Barry Keoghan’s American crime story
The young Dubliner’s exceptional talent is showcased in Bart Layton’s ‘American Animals’. PAUL WHITINGTON spoke to him
FJohn James Audubon’s Birds of America, a rare, beautifully illustrated and exceedingly valuable 19th century natural history book. “Spencer’s problem is that he doesn’t have a problem,” Barry explains. “He’s had it easy and he’s looking for that hardening experience that artists have. You know, Van Gogh cutting off his ear and all that, all the greats have this f***d up formative experience, and he doesn’t have that, so that’s what he thinks he needs.”
Bart Layton’s decision to intersperse his drama with rather sombre face-to-face interviews with the real characters gives American Animals emotional depth, and turns what might have been a glib farce into something much more serious.
“You see them crack in those interviews,” Keoghan says, “you see them get upset Seconds out (clockwise from main photograph): Barry Keoghan in playful mood during a publicity shoot for ‘American Animals’; with Caoilfhionn Dunne in ‘Love/Hate’; alongside Colin Farrell in ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’; in ‘Dunkirk’; as a young Liverpudlian soldier in ‘Black 47’; and with Even Peters in heist drama ‘American Animals’ and it brings a factor of realism to it. And when the robbery happens it’s like being stabbed, you know, all the colour goes out of the story in a way, so it was very cleverly done I think.” It must have been tempting for Barry and the other actors to start drilling the real people they’re playing for information. “Bart wouldn’t let us talk to them, he kept us away from the characters because he didn’t want us imitating them basically, because as an actor you’re going to do that, you’re gonna pick up these traits. But these lads had had time to reflect on what they’d done, and it’s ten or more years later, they’re different dudes now, so it might not have been helpful anyway. But if I’d had a choice I think I would have, because you’re looking to scrape together every bit of
Partner in crime: Barry Keoghan and Shona Guerin