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I’m supposed to meet Barry Keoghan at 9:30 in the morning at a boxing club just off Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, so I can watch him do the thing he loved most to do before he started acting, and maybe do it with him. We’d met for the first time the day before, and at the end of that hang I admitted that I’d never actually boxed. “I’ll show you a good jab or two, my man,” the Dublin-born actor had promised, or cheerfully threatened. But when I roll up at 9:27, Keoghan is already sweaty, invigorated, and finished working out for the day; he’d like to go someplace else.

Around 20 minutes later, he’s stepping onto the rooftop pool deck at the Four Seasons. This is more like it. He’s feeling good—“Feckin’ happy, for once,” he says, sounding like he means it. He drops his boxing gloves under a chaise and stretches out for some sun.

Keoghan lives in London, has a baby son there, but he’s been staying here a while, living the abstract pampered life of an actor doing the promo rounds for a buzzy awards-season movie that’s expanding from seven screens to 1,500-plus on the day we meet. He digs LA, a good place to howl at the moon: “I howl every night, man. Wooooo.” He laughs—maybe not every night. (The root of “Keoghan” is “cano,” which means “wolf cub” in Gaelic. “It’s crazy, man,” Keoghan says. “It’s crazy, the connection—me and wolves.”) But last night, he says, he just looked out at the Hollywood sign, having a moment: “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.”

Barry Keoghan covers the February 2024 issue of GQ. Subscribe to GQ gtgtgt

Barry Keoghan covers the February 2024 issue of GQ. Subscribe to GQ >>>

Hoodie by Balenciaga. Jeans (throughout) by Magliano. Bracelet, his own. Necklaces (on top, and bottom two) by David Yurman. Necklace (second from top), his own. Necklace (third from top) by Miansai.

His movie is called Saltburn, it’s directed to maximum provocative effect by Emerald Fennell, and Keoghan is in every scene as Oliver, a nerd who annihilates a family of upper-crusty British twits from within. The reviews have been all over the place, but most everybody agrees that he’s phenomenal in it, which is true—it’s like watching Marlon Brando’s Last Tango in Paris character slowly take over the body of McLovin. It’s a performance that feels decisive, defining, destined to figure in Keoghan’s lifetime-achievement montages the way, say, The Graduate does in Dustin Hoffman’s, except that Dustin Hoffman does not hang dong on camera at the end of The Graduate, nor does he slurp residual spooge from a bathtub drain, nor does he tearfully fuck the dirt of the fresh grave of a sweet dumb Oxford boy (Jacob Elordi) his character may in some twisted way have loved.

In Fennell’s script, the last stage direction in that scene reads: “Then slowly, weeping, he undresses,” dot dot dot. On the day, Fennell said, she told Keoghan, “I just have the feeling that Oliver would unzip.” Keoghan said, “Yep,” and Fennell cleared the set—not quite knowing where Keoghan would take it. “Unzipping is one thing,” she said—but dot, dot, dot.

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