Home Tips and Advice How-To Guides for Actors Barry Keoghan’s Immersive Acting Performance in “Saltburn”: A Deep Dive

Barry Keoghan’s Immersive Acting Performance in “Saltburn”: A Deep Dive

London, United Kingdom - February 18, 2024: Barry Keoghan attends the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards at The Royal Festival Hall in London, England. (Fred Duval/Shutterstock)
London, United Kingdom - February 18, 2024: Barry Keoghan attends the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards at The Royal Festival Hall in London, England. (Fred Duval/Shutterstock)

One of the most talked-about films of 2023, “Saltburn,” features Keoghan as Oliver, an Oxford University student who becomes entangled with, and ultimately disrupts, his classmate's aristocratic family. Keoghan, a BAFTA-winning actor, spoke with Variety about his method and the multifaceted portrayal of Oliver.

Method Acting Approach

Despite Oliver's shocking actions, Keoghan refrained from outright judging his character. He explains, “All the choices I made as Oliver, I didn't see them as sociopathic or wrong.” This non-judgmental approach allowed Keoghan to deeply embody Oliver's complex personality.

Five Versions of Oliver

Keoghan revealed that he played “five versions of Oliver” throughout the film. He said, “I looked at good leading performances with a strong arc to prepare because this was my first leading part. […] I created Oliver 1 for the start, then Oliver 2 for the next part, on through Oliver 5 at the end. I wanted to hit each of them with a physicality, a tone of voice, a different motive, a different pace. You see the costume and the hair changes, but you also sense his mental change and track that journey.”

To manage these different versions, Keoghan kept track of which “Oliver” appeared in each scene. He explained, “It helped with where I was in the story since it's not shot chronologically. I was shooting, say, Scene 54; I would go to my book and see that this is Oliver 4. Then I would look up what Oliver 4's traits are. What is his physicality? What is his demeanor? […] It really helped me. I've not done that before. I like to say I'm method, but I think method is your own thing — you do what works for you. You can take from other methods, you can watch others and observe — you do what gets you by. You're giving a lot. You can lose a little bit of yourself when you show raw emotion. You can take bits away from yourself that you haven't even discovered yet. I'm not going to say it's a painful process, but it's a very exhausting process.”

Challenging Scenes

Some of the film's most outrageous moments were particularly appealing to Keoghan as acting challenges. He remarked, “I looked at that and went, ‘I'm going to show some maturity here and my commitment to my craft and challenge myself.' I'll do anything once that moves the story forward and if there's a right reason for it creatively.”

Continuous Learning

Keoghan emphasizes continuous growth as an actor, both on and off-screen. He shared, “I also learn from others, both older and younger. I love watching what people bring to the table and why they make their choices and get into character. For me, I'll play around with plastic spoons in my mouth. I'll keep an accent. I'll listen to . I'll stay in a dress code. That's all so I'm mentally in it. I had no formal training and I don't think there is any right way to do what you do. To go back to the painting metaphor, there is no one correct way to paint — you just have to get it on the canvas.”

Background on Barry Keoghan

Barry Keoghan's rise to fame began with roles in critically acclaimed films such as “” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” His portrayal of troubled and complex characters has earned him widespread recognition and numerous awards. “Saltburn” marks a significant milestone in his career, allowing him to showcase his talent in a leading role.


Barry Keoghan's methodical approach to playing Oliver in “Saltburn” exemplifies his dedication to the craft of acting. By immersing himself in the character and carefully crafting multiple versions of Oliver, Keoghan delivers a nuanced and compelling performance. His commitment to learning and growth, both on and off-screen, continues to set him apart as one of the most talented actors of his generation.

For more insights into Barry Keoghan's approach to method acting, visit the original article here.

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