Barry Keoghan on LA: ‘There’s a gorgeous feelin’ here. This mystic kind of haze’

While I didn’t really like or enjoy Saltburn or The Banshees of Inisherin, I enjoy Barry Keoghan and I want the world for him. Barry is not an actor trying to hide a posh upbringing behind a cheesy or false backstory – Barry’s background really was tragic. No father around, his mother turned to drugs and died when he was quite young. He went into foster care for years and eventually lived with his grandmother. He was born and raised in Dublin but he had stars in his eyes and always dreamed of working in Hollywood. He went from a small-time boxer to a character actor and he’s spent thirteen years working his way up the ladder. Barry covers the February issue of GQ and this piece is extraordinary. Some highlights:

He lives in London but loves his time in LA: “Just takin’ it all in, man. There’s a gorgeous feelin’ here. This mystic kind of haze. This subtle thing I feel here—it’s like a romance I hold with it. I’m in love with it.”

His energy with Jacob Elordi: “I’m really flirtin’. We were constantly close. It ain’t just for the cameras and the premiere[s]. Me and Jacob—he’s like a brother to me, honestly. I think when you’re comfortable with someone, you can be as close as you want, you know what I mean? It’s not like, ‘Oh, don’t come near me’—it’s like, I’m comfortable. When I’m comfortable around people, I’m comfy….I’m comfortable with Jacob. Messin’ about. Havin’ a laugh. We’re bein’ lads. We’ve just done a movie where we had to kiss, man. Look at the scenes we’ve done. You have to be comfortable with yourself.”

He feels like ‘Saltburn’ is the first time he hasn’t been seen as the freak: “It’s nice, man. It’s nice not just being looked at as the weird-looking guy, the unique feckin’ freaky little freak man-child, freak child-man, whatever you want to call it. It’s nice to see people kind of look at you in that way. I’ll be honest. It is nice. My prettiness didn’t get me this far,” he says, but he’s conscious that being someone audiences want to look at “opens up other lanes for me—it’s part of the leading man thing.”

He enjoys where he is but he still makes his hotel bed: “You can get caught up in it, and it’s kind of dangerous in that sense,” he says. This is why he makes his hotel bed every morning, even though he knows the staff will come around and change it themselves. “It’s just to start your day good, to kind of bring you back to gravity. At least I’ve made it. It’s small, simple stuff like that, keeps you from floating away.”

He dreamed of all of this: “It’s crazy when I think of it. I was saying to my friend last night—I was just looking out at the [Hollywood] sign and, y’know, I wanted this as a kid. I dunno why I wanted it, but I wanted it. It brings back memories, in a weird way—it’s hard to have memories of a place you’ve not been in, but I watched all those old movies, and was fascinated by Old Hollywood. This was stuff I dreamt of, as a kid.”

The loneliness of an actor’s life: “There’s a loneliness as well, that comes with this. A massive loneliness. It’s hard not to talk about that, or to pretend that’s not there.” It caught up with him in November when he walked the red carpet in Prada at the Saltburn premiere in New York. “One of the noisiest, busiest cities in the world, but for me it was like, I’m in that place on my own—the only person in New York, at some points.” Who do you think about, when you’re alone like that? “When I’m isolated? Obviously, my mother. My mother, always. She’s many years passed now, but I always think about her anyway. It’s always just in and around achievements that it’s really prominent—’cause you’d like to celebrate that wit’ ’er, y’know?”

He had necrotizing fasciitis just before The Banshees of Inisherin started shooting. One in five cases are fatal; amputation, he says, was on the table. He remembers saying to the doctors, But I’m not gonna die, right? and the doctors saying, Well, we don’t know.

He named his son Brando. He was born right in the middle of shooting on Saltburn; Keoghan managed to get away for that one day. “They gave me a day off. Good on them! Day off, and straight on to night shoots and night feedings—boom! It was probably the best time of my life, to be quite fair. Havin’ a baby boy, and leadin’ a movie. It was the best time of my life, I must say—yeah.”

On Brando’s mother, his ex Alyson Sandro: “She’s done a great job and she’s an incredible mother.”

[From GQ]

There’s so much sadness layered into this profile but there’s something else too – joy, pleasure, wish-fulfillment. It’s nice to hear a non-American actor talk about how much he loves LA, how he still enjoys the promotional grind and he still has some Hollywood dreams. Most actors – especially Brits, but not so much Irish actors – can’t stop sh-t talking LA. To Barry, he’s happy as a clam in LA. And the fact that he had flesh-eating bacteria and almost got his arm amputated? Right before filming Banshees?? That’s insane.

Cover & IG courtesy of GQ.

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48 Responses to “Barry Keoghan on LA: ‘There’s a gorgeous feelin’ here. This mystic kind of haze’”

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  1. Jane says:

    It’s nice to read an interview with an actor who’s actually got things to say, who’s lived life and had experiences beyond private school, drama school, Oxbridge, being a nepo baby etc.

  2. Jais says:

    I vaguely remember he was in the eternals and his character was v charismatic and had a romantic storyline with another character. I would’ve watched more about them and that’s the only marvel movie I’ve seen in years. Watched it on a plane. I have a thing about watching action-type movies in plane😂. Anyways, I hope to see him in a lot more movies.

  3. Izzy says:

    Uh, isn’t that usually just called smog?

    • Mads says:

      No, Izzy, (shaking my head). It’s actually haze from a marine layer. As the day heats up it burns off and the sky will clear slowly. When day turns to night and the air temperature drops, the lands temperature drops, then the marine layer rolls inland again. Back and forth, back and forth, it’s a cycle that can easily be taken for granted. Non natives always think the vanishing and returning marine layer is smog. That “on shore flow” actually gives a little cleanse at night. I think he describes beautifully. I am delightfully surprised he regarded it so. I think most visitors would likewise cynically dismiss it as smog like you did. It says something about this actor’s awareness and observation that he noted the difference.

      During the fires, when all you could see was smoke, you couldn’t even see the sun. Sometime around 10:00 p.m. to midnight the marine layer would push the smoke away from the city and you could see the sky. Seeing the stars and the moon unveiled like that was reassuring, amazing, tragic. My senior mother and I would go for walks then when it was safer for her. It really does feel magical or divine under circumstances like those horrible days.

      • Teddy says:

        Thank you @Mads, @tom, @spicydragonfly79. He’s right that there’s something very special about the light and colors and natural rhythms of the seasons here. Easy to disparage, easy to misunderstand. The fact that he gets it makes me like him even more. Such a lovely interview. Glad @Kaiser highlighted it.

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        Mads, that’s just what I remember from my week in LA seven years ago. We drove to Simi Valley early one morning and the mist kept rising and falling in the hills. It was beautiful. By 11 o’clock, the sun was shining brightly and we could remove our sweaters because it was so warm. It certainly was not smog. I 💕 LA!

    • Bettyrose says:


      • JT says:

        Thank you Mads

      • Bettyrose says:

        @Izzy – I posted before I saw any other comments because I thought your post was hilarious. I never lived in LA proper, but I spent a decade in SoCal and while there are many positive things (especially if you like surfing, hiking, and skiing), the haze was real. So was the pressure to be skinny and eternally young coming from people who thought it was cool to brag they didn’t have a passport or vote. LA is significantly more diverse with more real culture than other SoCal counties, but I absolutely get why people who aren’t from there (me) don’t stay.

    • orangeowl18 says:

      I think smog has a more brown cast. I remember a couple years ago I was flying home from Seattle and made a connection through LA…during our landing the city looked so golden and hazy and magical, it was so captivating and I was sorry to be just passing through.

    • K says:

      I was in LA and didn’t like it at all in the city proper. I will say though just outside Malibu or further up Paso Robles or Half Moon Bay. Omg there is a magic all around. It comes off the ocean and out of the ground. The only other place I felt that before was New Orleans. And that was very different. California is magical.

  4. Kristen from MA says:

    He did Hot Ones recently was was really sweet.

    • Shivonne says:

      Thank you! I’m going right to YT to watch…. I find him so interesting and he’s such a looker. It’s those hooded mysterious eyes… swoon.

  5. Chaine says:

    Refreshing to hear from someone who’s not so privileged that they’re whining and complaining about being on the shows and movies that they’d not have got on otherwise.

  6. D says:

    He’s very very charming and a fantastic actor but I worry about him. Nobody should be in love with LA, the industry or the place. It’s pretty and exciting for about a week and then all the smog, heat and people really gets to you. I could only live there for 3 years before I had to leave. I can understand it might seem enchanting coming from rainy Dublin and London, but it can be dangerous to romanticize it like he seems to.

    I get the Colin Farrell vibes, when he went off the rails with addiction. I hope he can keep it together and just continue working with great talent and stay sane.

    • TOM says:

      And yet I can think of a number of friends born and bred in LA who wouldn’t live anywhere else. I don’t know if they’re wrong and you’re right that LA is poison, only that they do feel this way and have made life choices so they can stay.

      • JT says:

        Maybe Hollywood is poison, but there is more to LA than Hollywood or the industry. As someone who’s from here, it’s so damn annoying to hear when people bash LA for no damn reason other than because a bunch of washed up actors couldn’t make it in the industry. It is the biggest county in the US, with nearly 10 million people, and so many great neighborhoods, and amazing people being reduced to “poison” because some people could only last for a few years here.

      • D says:

        Well, I didn’t say LA was “poison”, but certainly it can be for certain people.

        I’m speaking specifically about people who come from other places and work in film, or really any part of the industry. We are talking about an interview where the actor says he always had fantasies about Hollywood and romanticized it, and that is dangerous. There are beautiful parts of that city, for sure, but the idea of it as a fantasy land with perfect weather and everything is glamorous and amazing isn’t really true, at least not in my experience.

        Like anywhere, people can come, work there and have an amazing time, but my experience with it and most people I know who came from New York or London cycle through within a few years. It is very hard to be there and survive that industry.

      • Lux says:

        There’s often confusion between LA and LA county, with all the different cities and neighborhoods it encompasses. I live in the OC and I love going up to LA.

        One thing becomes abundantly clear though—SoCal is a place where money and security really matters, more so than anywhere else. Even previously affordable neighborhoods are becoming much less so. I saw a dilapidated house in a crime-ridden area listed for $500k on Zillow. If you are secure and can enjoy all the things that SoCal has to offer without wincing, you will love your life here.

        At the Huntington Library there’s a beautiful sculpture by Enrique Martinez Celaya called “The Gambler.” It depicts a man on crutches carrying a small house on his back. It is meant to signify that immigration is a “gamble” for a better life. We will always hold onto our “home” but we are placing our bets on a future unknown, away from what we know. The “gamble” is worth it for many, but it is high risk, and I understand why certain, uncontrollable circumstances make many give up.

      • Christine says:

        JT, I am so with you! I am from the midwest, but I live in mid-city now, and I absolutely love living in LA! There is the reputation everything around the industry has, and then there is being an Angeleno, and they aren’t remotely the same thing.

    • spicydragonfly79 says:

      uhm. well so you didnt like it. your right. for the many who live here and love our city, or who dont have the option or luxury to leave and love their city regardless, this place can be magical at times. and guess what? there are some pretty amazing people here too.

    • Lucy says:

      Is the first place he’s been that is mostly sunshine, give him a break 😂. London and Dublin don’t have a lot of sunny days, it’s easy to get sunshine confused with serotonin.

    • KASalvy says:

      Born and bred – and proud – LA native.

      The city is not poison. The industry is not poison, the environment that you surround yourself in is what makes it poison. I’ve spent time in multiple cities that I could say the same, but I don’t. Stop trashing a place because you had a terrible experience. That’s someone’s home and maybe someone’s dream.

      I’ve worked my way up into the industry from the bottom (with zero inside connections) and it’s hard and frustrating at times but it’s the best job I’ve ever had and wanted. Sure, I’ve also been around terrible people but that happens with every job and every place. Nowhere is perfect. (Well, besides that tiny little beach on the Coromandel coast in New Zealand, but that’s my opinion).

      Also everyone, it ain’t smog, it’s a marine layer.

      • d says:

        Again, can someone please point to where in my comment I called LA poison? I did say nobody should be in love with it, and that was hyperbolic and not true about the general LA area, really just the industry or maybe just the part of the industry I was in.

      • Christine says:

        You didn’t, whoever TOM is did. Your comments in the original post weren’t remotely complementary, so I am confused why you are shocked?

    • Normandes says:

      Yes D total Colin Farrell vibes.

    • East Villager says:

      Colin is very good friend with him – they were roommates during the Banshees shoot. Not that it’s any grown man’s responsibility to look after another, but I do hope Colin’s keeping an eye out for our dear Barry.

      • AC says:

        I was raised and still live in LA(although living temporarily in Europe, due to my husbands job). There’s more things to LA than Hollywood. It’s very very diverse(people and landscapes), the weather is always amazing, and there’s natural beauty if you step outside the city and away from the touristy sites. I love our stay in Europe but there’s times I do miss CA weather and the diversity of food. One of the big cons in LA is our Traffic(even though some outlets claim people are moving out than in, but traffic seems to be worse every year).
        I do agree with @kasier, it irks me it’s mostly the Brits and some Australian actors that complain about LA and HW but don’t go outside their bubble. I mean if they don’t like it, then why come. They have their own entertainment industries at home they can support.
        IMO, some of the cult classic movies and genres from the 80s, 90s and the early 2000s that are still popular Today are because of the Authenticity in the casting . And I hope studios take note(which I’ve noticed they are starting to). Have a Diverse cast, but have a cast that has some real personalities and bring the magic back in movies.

    • GrnieWnie says:

      Oh, give it a rest everyone saying “there’s no smog, it’s a marine layer.”

      A quick AQI check for LA today and oh, yea, 58. Poor. All that exhaust from the acres of cars sitting at a standstill on LA freeways has to go somewhere and yes, LA is famous for its smog. Not its fog.

      Smog vs fog! My favourite game, been playing it for years. I’ve gone outside in an AQI over 300, with air so thick you could chew on it. No one is going to play “it’s just fog” and get away with it around me, not when it comes to a city with traffic like LA.

    • La Dolce Vita says:

      Why do you “get the Colin Farrell vibes”? I don’t see any similarity beyond them both being Irish.

  7. BeanieBean says:

    It’s called ‘smog’.

    • Jdbohac says:

      Read the comment above about the marine layer. The explanation is spot on. It’s not smog.

      • BeanieBean says:

        Hmmm, apparently my facetiousness didn’t come through. And FYI, smog? A combo of the words ‘smoke’ + ‘fog’. Fog & marine layers are very, very similar. And I grew up there. I know what I experienced.

  8. Brassy Rebel says:

    I am always amazed at how many actors came out of chaotic and even traumatic childhoods. There’s something about childhood trauma that draws people to the performing arts.

    • Zappos Brannigan says:

      Complex PTSD person here (from childhood trauma) and drama class is often recommended to people suffering trauma. It’s said to help inhabit the body again in a safe manner. Trauma causes disconnect from our own bodies so drama classes, yoga, drumming are all often recommended to help reconnect. Bessel Van Der Kolk has done a lot of work on this and has videos on YouTube with better explanations than I can give.

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        I think dance is good for trauma survivors too. I’m glad you’re doing well! We’re learning so much about CPTSD now, and it’s very encouraging.

  9. Pomski says:

    You gave LA a shot and it didn’t end well. That’s no excuse to dump on someone else’s dream. LA, like any major metropolis, is multi-faceted with lots to admire and much to avoid. One thing you’ll hear many folks from the UK talk about is LA weather and the surrounding topography. Let Barry enjoy the hazy shade of winter.

  10. Torttu says:

    I love this interview. He was amazing in Saltburn. I wish Saltburn had been a mini series, I didn’t really like it as a movie, the characters felt drafted half way and just left hanging.
    He is right, LA is magical and it’s hard to explain why. It’s as if individual dreams hold it together. The history of it all is in the air. It’s crummy and noisy and vulgar and gorgeous – it’s magical.

    • orangeowl18 says:

      I just finally watched Saltburn (even though I already knew everything that was going to happen from the podcasts I listen to, haha) and I agree that it might have worked better as a series. The characters were pretty thinly drawn but you could see glimmers of how they could flesh each one out a lot more. The Carey Mulligan friend alone could have had a whole arc, even the nerdy young man who initially befriended Barry/Oliver could have been interesting to see/hear more from.

  11. Normandes says:

    He has a young child and a woman he left in the UK. He is definitely striking while the iron is hot and apparently enjoying LA life.

  12. Kkat says:

    We used to have smog, but that was in the 70’s early 80’s. It was a brown cloud that hung over the whole basin and some days it hurt to breathe.
    We haven’t had that for like 40 years now.

    What he is talking about, and all the other natives is the marine layer that burns off noonish.
    A lot of the year the sky’s are overcast till early afternoon, especially at the beach.
    We can have some really beautiful sunsets because of it.

    People also don’t understand just how big Los Angeles is, the actual city and Hollywood are just a small part of it.
    With zero traffic is a 40-45 minute drive on the freeway to get to Hollywood from my house.

    I’d go to Hollywood to the clubs in my 20’s, but I haven’t been there for 30 years
    Except for this week, had to take my 18 year old to a Drs appointment in East Hollywood During the crappy storm on Monday 🥴
    LAX is the most L.A. I do.
    I’d say it’s the same for most people south of the city, I know plenty of people who have never been to Hollywood or been maybe once ( usually when a relative visits)

    Los Angeles isn’t about Hollywood at all for most of the natives here.
    My husband from Denmark was really surprised about how big l a county is and the thing he noticed most is that we have a ton of trees and parks

    • GrnieWnie says:

      Amazing how LA doesn’t have smog yet still ranks at the top of “cities with the worst air quality” lists for the United States. I guess it magically has terrible air…but no smog.

      Here’s a link to an article on the worst smog in 30 years in LA. It’s from 2020.

      Google exists, people! Here’s another quote for you:

      “Los Angeles (the ranking also includes the city of Long Beach) has remained the city with the worst ozone pollution in the nation for all but one of the 22 years since the State of the Air report began.”

      But sure. There’s no smog. Just lots of fog. Fog that kills you, I guess. I mean, LA has trees. It couldn’t possibly have terrible air quality.

  13. CruzMom says:

    I love this interview! It is so hard to explain why LA feels different and magical, but it does. I moved to LA after college (for the weather, not for the entertainment industry), but the energy of it is palpable. In a good way! Much of the real estate has been maintained to keep its original aesthetics (some places even have the original appliances!), so the history is all around you. Even the breeze feels magical. I eventually moved to a beach town to raise my family, and it is beautiful, but there is nothing quite like Hollywood.

  14. AC says:

    Reading more and more about Barry, I actually like him. I think he’ll get far in his career.

  15. La Dolce Vita says:

    Why on earth are people saying he’s going to “go off the rails like Colin Farrell”? Because they’re both from Ireland? Bigoted much?
    And talking about him like he’s some doe-eyed ingenue starlet who needs protecting – Barry Keoghan is a thirty-one year old man who has been acting in TV and films for fourteen years.
    He seems grounded and appreciative.

  16. AC says:

    “The subtle thing I feel here – it’s like a romance…I’m in love with it”
    Going back to this, Now I’m wondering if it’s because of Sabrina Carpenter 🙂.
    A bit Surprised about the People exclusive photos. But then again it seems there’s a trend of up and coming actors dating gorgeous/talented singers(songwriters). (ie Dua, Olivia, now Sabrina)