Billy the Kid with an Irish brogue? Begorra!
The iconic American outlaw may be wielding a shillelagh instead of a six-shooter in his next film appearance, thanks to Barry Keoghan, who will be playing the role in Bart Layton’s upcoming feature for Element Pictures and RAW with Film4.
Keoghan recently won an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Banshees of Inisherin, and Layton most recently directed the crime-themed 2018 film American Animals
The Irish-born actor was quoted as telling a Deadline interviewer: “We’ve seen many versions of Billy the Kid on screen before. My interest was in trying to tell a version that breaks from the facade of that cool, calm, and collected gunslinger Billy the Kid that we’re all used to seeing.
I wanted to humanize him in a way.”
Ed Guiney, who is producing the film for Element, added that “This isn’t just a passion project for Barry. This approach is something new, and it’s a version of the tale we hope the world will want to see.”
Billy the Kid himself can claim roots from Eire. Born as Henry McCarty to Irish immigrants in nineteenth-century New York, the future outlaw (also known as William H Bonney) was orphaned at 15. By the time he was 18, he was wanted for murder in Arizona, and was shot dead by a sheriff three years later.
Keoghan relates to McCarty’s situation since he was forced to grow up in the foster-care system after losing his own mother at 12.
He says he understood the pressures McCarty faced that led to his life of crime. As he told Deadline: “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. He was running his whole life. I felt related to Billy in the sense of him being a mummy’s boy, but obviously, I took a different path, turning my circumstances into something positive rather than rebelling against them.”
Director Layton said he wanted to avoid creating a “comic book version” of Billy the Kid, instead focusing on the “cornered child” aspect of his character, portraying “great sweetness and gentleness” as well as “darkness and violence.”
Production of the film is planned to start in 2024 with a script by Hunter Andrews.