Irish actor Barry Keoghan is set to play Billy the Kid in a retelling of the story of the famous western outlaw.
The forthcoming project will delve into Billy the Kid's Irish ancestry, with Barry Keoghan hoping to "humanize" the famous outlaw.
Born in New York as Henry McCarty, Billy the Kid was orphaned at the age of 15 when his mother died and his stepfather abandoned him, prompting him to turn to a life of crime.
He committed his first robbery a year later and was wanted for murder by the time he turned 18. His notoriety increased over the following three years when he allegedly killed 21 people before he was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
Keoghan, whose mother died when he was 12, told Deadline that he could understand the desperate choices that McCarty faced after being made an orphan.
"We’ve seen many versions of Billy the Kid on screen before," Keoghan told the publication.
"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.
"I remember reading about him as a kid, but as we were digging into the project, there were so many things we discovered about his life."
Keoghan said he will try to "step outside" the legend during the project and tackle the pressure McCarty must have dealt with during his troubled upbringing.
"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," Keoghan told Deadline.
Bart Layton will direct the feature, which will be produced by Element Pictures and RAW with Film4.
Element Pictures producer Ed Guiney, who worked with Keoghan on "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" and "Calm with Horses", said he came on board after a pitch from Keoghan.
"Barry has the ability to capture a duality in the way he acts; there’s great sweetness and gentleness, but also there can be darkness and violence. He can really embody both things at once, and that’s the essence of Billy the Kid," Guiney told Deadline.
Keoghan first attempted to launch the project in 2020, but it was placed on the back burner by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Layton told Deadline that he hopes to schedule production for the first half of 2024.
"I don’t think it’s mine, or Barry’s, or Ed’s next film, but we’re building towards next year," he told the publication.
Keoghan has described the upcoming project as a dream assignment, adding that he hopes the role is the one he is remembered for.
BILLY THE KID
This project means sooo much to me to have the people bring this to life I am very grateful ❤️❤️— Barry Keoghan (@BarryKeoghan) February 15, 2023
@Film4 @BartfromRaw @ElementPictures https://t.co/lVkvniiV5C