The Batman and Eternals star Barry Keoghan: From inner-city struggles and a dozen foster homes to toast of Hollywood
If there was ever a movie to be made out of the life of young Dublin actor Barry Keoghan (29), its plotline would be instantly compelling.
orn into a single-parent family in Dublin’s north inner city in October 1992, he has done his level best to confound all the odds when it comes to choosing his own destiny.
His mother died as a result of heroin addiction when he was just 12 and she was only 30.
He and his brother Eric were moved between 13 different foster homes before they went to live with his grandmother, Patricia, and aunt, Lorraine.
His older sister Gemma gave up work so she could help look after them.
At the time, his area was in the throes of a drugs epidemic. Keoghan would describe how his mum was “one who got caught”.
“The drugs hit the area and affected all the families,” he said in an interview.
“We went into foster care. The families were good to us that we went to, we went to a few of them. As a kid, you don’t know what’s happening.
“It’s only when you get older you can look back and get a bit of perspective.”
But it was the same tough upbringing and indeed his native area of Summerhill that he credits with nurturing his raw acting talent and encouraging him to make the most of his abilities.
He used to go to places like the Belvedere Youth Club where he would get a meal, watch a movie and hang out.
He recently revealed how he was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020 so it was little wonder he found it hard to concentrate on schoolwork.
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“The youth workers in there were just amazing. Any trouble I ever had, I could go in there and do my homework and get grinds,” he said. “It was a place you could really relax and get a few hours out of the day. For me, I look back and think that’s what shaped me, these clubs.”
In 2011 at the age of 19, he spotted an ad in a shop window looking for actors for a movie directed by Mark O’Connor and set in the north inner city called Between the Canals. He got the part of Aido and also caught the acting bug, going on to study in The Factory in Dublin.
He appeared in RTÉ’s Fair City but his break-out role in Ireland came as the chilling “cat-killer” Wayne in Love/Hate in 2013.
Keoghan continued learning his craft with a series of smaller roles until 2017 when Hollywood came calling and he landed a starring role in The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Although his two co-stars were Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell, he was the one who won huge acclaim for his convincing turn as the creepy Martin Lang in the acclaimed Yorgos Lanthimos-directed movie.
He was in Dunkirk the same year followed by Black ‘47 about the Irish Famine. Then came leading parts in Calm with Horses and The Green Knight.
In the last two years, he has really come to global attention thanks to starring roles in not one but two superhero movies, namely as Druig in The Eternals and a small part as The Joker in The Batman.
He has picked up a string of A-list pals along the way including Colin Farrell, whom he once lived with, as well as Cillian Murphy and Angelina Jolie.
Keoghan has won numerous accolades for his work, including being named in annual Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch list. He also received a Chlotrudis Award, DFCC Award, and both Ifta and Bafta nominations. He was also an ambassador for Dior.
On not letting his success go to his head, the down-to-earth star previously told Independent.ie how he just goes in and does the work and “try to keep my head straight and not get distracted by anything going on outside of it”.
“It’s nice to get recognition, but awards and all that is the bonus end of things. The main thing is go in there and do your work,” he said.
When it comes to his personal life, he had a long-term relationship with Kerry native Shona Guerin for more than three years. She had been a constant companion to him at red-carpet events all over the world as he enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame.
They split up some time ago and he recently revealed that he and his new partner Alyson Sandro had a baby on the way. He posted a picture on Instagram of the couple embracing as they stood in front of a box filled with blue balloons and confetti.
Reflecting on the amazing success he has had to date, he said he has been “blessed” in the roles he has landed.
“I never say ‘lucky’ because I don’t believe in good luck, but I am blessed to be working alongside incredible actresses and actors and amazing crew and directors, and everyone else who goes behind these movies that we make,” he said.
“I really am blessed.”
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