Not all friendships can stand the test of time, as seen in The Banshees of Inisherin. Written and directed by Oscar-winner Martin McDonagh, the film is set in early 1900s Ireland. It explores the fallout between two lifelong friends on the titular island and how it affects those around them.
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who previously worked with McDonagh on In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, lead the cast of The Banshees of Inisherin alongside Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny, and Bríd Ní Neachtain. Blending gut-bursting comedy with more meditative explorations of isolation, friendships, and community, McDonagh once again strikes gold with his deft tonal balance.
Ahead of the film’s release, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with star Barry Keoghan to discuss The Banshees of Inisherin, his eagerness to work with Martin McDonagh, getting to play a brighter character than usual, and more.
Barry Keoghan on The Banshees of Inisherin
Screen Rant: I’m very excited to talk about The Banshees of Inisherin. I have been a big Martin McDonagh fan for a long while now, and this just feels like another wonderful entry into his filmography. What about the project really caught your interest?
Barry Keoghan: I mean, I’ll be honest, Grant. Anything that Martin McDonagh does, I’d sign up to it. When I got the email off him, it was just like, “I’m in, I’m in.” He was like, “Do you want to read it?” I didn’t obviously say, “I’m in, I’m in,” but I would say, “Whatever you do, I’d love to do or be a part of,” I think he’s amazing. He is amazing.
What was your first reaction when you learned about Dominic and the arc he would go through in the film?
Barry Keoghan: When I read it and read it again, it was just so feckin’ funny, but heartbreaking as well. I’d never read a script I understood so much, if you get me. There’s a certain rhythm to it, and Martin, I don’t know, but he just does it, and it just [acts out music notes]. It’s so easy to read, and I wouldn’t say that’s just because I’m Irish, and it’s an Irish story, I just think his writing is feckin’ unreal. He has a great understanding of humans, and these characters, so yeah, I remember texting him and was like, “I couldn’t stop laughing, but I’m also heartbroken.”
Yeah, that’s definitely a mood he’s well-known for. Dominic feels like the epitome of that feel-good/feel-bad storyline to watch. What was that like getting to the heart of him to bring him to life on screen?
Barry Keoghan: It was fun getting to play a character with such innocence and kind of naivety. It’s nice, especially when I go play these other characters that are so sinister, to kind of show that range and show that I can go to that place of being vulnerable, and also [having] no bad demeanor or nothing behind it, it’s literally just pure good and a pure soul. But it was nice to go there, and get my teeth into Dominic. I understood him when I read him, I understood them, and I had a lot of versions for Martin that I wanted to play with, and we just found him together, and he was totally on my side, Martin was.
That’s great, that’s always good to have that collaborative experience. What was it also like developing your rapport with Colin and Kerry? Because you share most of your screen time with those two, and you all have just a great rapport.
Barry Keoghan: They’re great, and Colin and Kerry are great together as well. There was a scene or two where it was three of us involved. When you’re working with such incredible people, it’s easy, and the next take, and the next take, you’re enjoying it, you’re in that flow state of just learning and actually pushing yourself to different places, and coming up with new little things as well on the spot. That’s a credit to them, too, so it’s just great to see them work, they’re both fascinating in the movie. It was my first time working with Kerry, and she is absolutely amazing, so yeah, I was grateful.
What was it like for you to go back to Ireland and explore something that feels so rooted in that culture?
Barry Keoghan: There was something mythical about it, definitely. On the islands, the two islands we shot on this, we were in a bubble, but there is something really mythical and Irish about it. It was beautiful, and you know being a young lad trying to get phone service on the islands, it’s hard to sometimes sit back and just pause for a minute and just feel it, if you get me. I was watching Colin do that a lot, Colin just immersed himself in it totally, and just became part of the islands. It was a really magical shoot, and an Irish crew as well, which is always amazing, it just was really nice to be on.
That’s awesome, I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, and then after seeing this film, I’m like, “Oh, I definitely need to go visit.”
Barry Keoghan: You have to go to Ireland first, and then get another little plane, and get another little plan to go to this place. [Laughs]
Did you have any particular set or location you loved filming in the most?
Barry Keoghan: On the cliffs, because in one direction, you’ve got the set, the wee little pub, and then the other direction you’ve got the Atlantic Ocean, which kind of took you away from everything. Literally just getting to turn this way while the crew set up and watch that, the waves and [everything]. Again, there was something mythical about it, just that you’re on the edge of the [island], next up is the States, where a lot of that is, there’s the history there, and the Irish emigrated, and you feel it all, you really do. Then, you turn back to the set, but that was my favorite, yeah.
When you got that little mental escape for a moment.
Barry Keoghan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
That’s awesome. Now that the film has made its festival premieres, the reception has just been overwhelmingly positive. How does it feel to see that really positive early reception of the film?
Barry Keoghan: It’s great, it really is great. Making it felt special, but to see everyone respond to it, I think it simply is because this story can take place anywhere. I know it’s a certain time period, but this story exists everywhere, in all of our little communities. It’s about male friendship, and we don’t often see that, so it’s nice that everyone is kind of latching on to it.
About The Banshees of Inisherin
Set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN follows lifelong friends Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. A stunned Padraic, aided by his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan), endeavors to repair the relationship, refusing to take no for an answer. But Padraic’s repeated efforts only strengthen his former friend’s resolve and when Colm delivers a desperate ultimatum, events swiftly escalate, with shocking consequences.
Check out our interview with The Banshees of Inisherin star Kerry Condon as well.
Next: The Banshees of Inisherin Ending ExplainedThe Banshees of Inisherin is now in select theaters.