The pack mentality among the cast of “American Animals” runs strong. After the film’s SXSW premiere, Barry Keoghan and costar Jared Abrahamson walked onstage wearing the same Adidas tracksuit.
“That wasn’t planned,” Keoghan says. “He texted me, ‘What are you wearing?’ I was like, ‘I’ll wear a tracksuit.’ He said, ‘I’ll wear a track suit as well.’ So we both tracked up,” he continues. “We just need Blake [Jenner] to tracksuit up, and he didn’t.”
The movie’s cast seems genuinely close. When the rest of the pack — director Bart Layton and costars Jenner and Abrahamson; Evan Peters, Keoghan’s colead in the film, was absent from SXSW — roll up on the 14th floor of WeWork Congress on Saturday afternoon, talk immediately turns to their post-press plans: boxing.
“We lived with each other for a good week and a half beforehand in this house, so we got to know each other,” Keoghan says of the casts’ pre-filming bonding in North Carolina. “We were doing rehearsals there, so we’d sit down by the fire each night outside and have a few drinks, and it was nice.”
The film is based on the strange-but-true story of a heist planned by college kids in Kentucky. Their target? A first-edition Charles Darwin book and John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America” sketches from the Transylvania University Library. The men, now in their 30s, ended up serving jail time for the robbery; all four appear in the film in the form of documentary-style interviews, woven into the feature film. Despite their availability, the cast was instructed to not meet with their real-life counterparts.
“[Layton] wanted us to stay well away from that in case we impersonate or imitate them, so it was a conscious choice,” Keoghan says. “We didn’t do any of that. We just had the script to go off of, which was enough.”
Keoghan still lives in his native Ireland, but a move to Los Angeles seems all but imminent. It’s been a year of plum roles for the 25-year-old, who appeared in “Dunkirk” last year and as a sociopathic boy in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” opposite fellow Irishman Colin Farrell. (“I hate that character myself. If I see him in the street, I’ll kick him in the head,” says Keoghan of his dark character.)
“I now want to play like a Billy the Kid, a lad,” adds Keoghan. “Not menacing, but he’s vulnerable, he’s awesome, he’s charming. I don’t think I’ve played that yet. He’s quick-witted, he’s just — unpredictable.”
Next, he’s set to begin filming the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl,” recounting the 1986 nuclear accident in the USSR. Keoghan throws in that he was also up for “Ready Player One,” which led to him meeting Steven Spielberg.
“I’m trying to keep a good record and do interesting movies with interesting filmmakers,” Keoghan says. “I’ve done all right, haven’t I?”
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