Barry Keohane, fresh off an Oscar nomination, lines up for dream ‘Billy the Kid’ project with director Burt Layton and producer Ed Guiney

Fresh off an Oscar nomination for that Flute of Inisherin, Irish actor Barry Keohane is turning his attention to a dream assignment: a new feature on the story of Billy the Kid. of Keoghan American animals Film 4 has director Burt Layton on board to helm the feature, produced by Element Pictures.

“We’ve seen many versions of Billy the Kid on screen before,” Keoghan tells Deadline. “My interest was in trying to tell a version that broke away from the facade of the cool, calm, and collected gunslinger Billy the Kid that we’re all used to seeing. I wanted to humanize him in a way.”

“This is not just a passion project for Barry,” notes Element Pictures producer Ed Guiney, who came on board while working with Keoghan. Killing a sacred deer And Calm with the horse. “This approach is something new, and it’s a version of the story that we hope the world wants to see.”

The project will look at children’s Irish ancestry and complex childhoods. Born Henry McCarty in New York, he was orphaned at age 15 when his mother died and his stepfather abandoned him. His first arrest for robbery followed a year later, and when he was 18, he was wanted for murder after an altercation in Arizona. His notoriety grew from there and he was 21 years old when he was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Keoghan, who lost his own mother when he was just 12 and grew up in foster care, says he understands the pressures McCarthy faced that led him to a life of crime and the desperate choices he made as a result.

“I remember reading about him as a kid, but as we were digging into the project, we discovered a lot about his life,” Keohane says. “There are many eyewitness accounts and many different versions of his story that don’t add but contribute to the legend.”

What he found in the margins intrigued him. “I wanted to break out of the legend that was created by the papers and deal with the pressure that he must have felt from that first day. He was driving all his life. I felt related to Billy in the sense of being mummy’s son, but obviously, I took a different path by turning my situation into something positive instead of rebelling against them. Still, Billy has a soul and a vulnerability that I think is important to understand as a real person rather than the myth he’s become.

Keoghan introduced Layton to the project while shooting American animals. “The more we look at the story and the truth of it, the more interesting the possibility becomes,” Layton says now. “Our perception of Billy the Kid is really the comic book version. But the more we researched and the more we talked, the more it felt like Barry was born to do something. Billy has an angular kid side that I think Barry really understands. , and not all of the violence for which he is immortalized was intentional or premeditated. Much of it was driven by circumstances.”

Producer Ed Guiney of Element Pictures, who worked with Keohane Killing a sacred deer And Calm with the horse, said Keoghan’s pitch for the project was irresistible. “For an actor, it’s always interesting to do something that punctures the myth and humanizes it,” he notes. “Barry has the ability to capture duality in the way he works; There is great sweetness and gentleness, but can be dark and violent. He can really embody both things at the same time, and that’s the essence of Billy the Kid.”

Keoghan first tried to deploy the project in early 2020, but the pandemic shutdown pushed it back. Now, with a new script from writer Hunter Andrews, Keohane and co. Eager to go. Layton hopes to schedule production for the first half of 2024 “I don’t think it’s mine, or Barry, or Ed’s next film, but we’re building toward next year,” he says.

Keoghan says he wants to be the role he is remembered for. “Burt is like a brother, and Ed is always there for me. To have the two of them stand by me on this, knowing that it wasn’t going to be a short film, that we had to work hard to set it up, meant a great deal. This is a project that I’ve brought from the ground up, so to have a director like Bert and a producer like Ed bring their styles to bear is really exciting.”

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