Barry Keoghan Reflects on No Longer Being Seen as ‘Little Freak Man-Child’


Actor Barry Keoghan weighed in on his post-Saltburn sex-symbol status in an interview with GQ, telling the outlet that he’s relieved audiences finally see him as something other than a “little freak man-child.” 

Keoghan won an Oscar last year for his heartbreaking performance in The Banshees of Inisherin, playing a simple-minded, love-lorn man-child who meets a tragic end. Most of his roles, in films like Killing of a Sacred Deer and Dunkirk, have been in a similar vein.

Keoghan subverted that type in Saltburn, a sexually charged gothic melodrama in which his character toys with the man-child archetype to manipulate (and murder) a wealthy family. The film ends with an astonishingly buff Keoghan waltzing a completely nude dance around the titular mansion, now all his.

The movie, and its final sequence, bequeathed Keoghan a somewhat unlikely sex-symbol status. When asked by GQ, even the star expressed some astonishment, but admitted it felt nice to be seen as something other than a “freak man-child.”

“It’s nice, man,” Keoghan said. “It’s nice not just being looked at as the weird-looking guy, the unique 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.”

After being told that he’s mastered the “little freak” era of his career, Keoghan replied: “Little freak child-man era, as we call it. And now I’m just Man. Freak-Man. Man-Freak.”

The actor acknowledged that he’s not traditionally heartthrob material, but has welcomed this new era of his career because he knows it will lead to more varied opportunities. “My prettiness didn’t get me this far,” he quipped. But his recent sex-symbol status “opens up other lanes for me—it’s part of the leading man thing,” Keoghan reasoned.

Keoghan is getting some Oscar buzz for his Saltburn performance. The movie itself has captivated the cultural zeitgeist with its combination of tawdry mystery and ribald sexuality. One of the most controversial scenes, in which Keoghan guzzles co-star Jacob Elordi’s used bathwater, even spawned a scented candle.

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