Irish actor Barry Keoghan is extremely excited to tackle his newest project, the retelling of the story of Billy the Kid. The film will be produced by Element Pictures and RAW with Film4. Keoghan’s American Animals director Bart Layton will be directing the film. In this new take on the classic tale, Keoghan aims to bring a humanizing perspective to the infamous outlaw.
Unlike previous portrayals of Billy the Kid as a cool, calm, and collected gunslinger, Keoghan’s approach will be more personal. The film will delve into the Kid’s Irish ancestry and troubled childhood. Born as Henry McCarty in New York, he was orphaned at 15 and abandoned by his stepfather. After his first arrest for robbery at 16, he became a notorious criminal and was wanted for murder by 18. He was eventually shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett at the age of 21.
Keoghan lost his own mother at the young age of 12, and grew up in the foster system. He feels a connection to the pressures that led McCarty towards a life of crime. “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,” Keoghan explained. “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.”
During the shoot for “American Animals,” Keoghan introduced the project to Layton. The two realized that the more they researched and discussed the story, the more interesting it became. “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,” Layton says.
Producer Ed Guiney (Element Pictures) noted Keoghan’s ability to capture duality in his acting is perfect for the role. “He can really embody both things at once, and that’s the essence of Billy the Kid,” Guiney said. The pair worked together on “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “Calm With Horses.”
Despite the project’s initial delay due to the pandemic, the team is eager to get started with a new script from writer Hunter Andrews. Layton hopes to schedule production for the early half of 2024. “This is a project I brought from the ground up, so to have a director like Bart and a producer like Ed bring their styles to bear on it is really exciting,” Keoghan said. “This is the role I intend to be remembered for.”
Keoghan has also been nominated for his first Academy Award for his supporting role in “The Banshees of Inisherin.”