‘Saltburn’ star Barry Keoghan nearly lost his arm to flesh-eating bacteria


Barry Keoghan has successfully made the jump from Oscar-nominee to internet boyfriend thanks to the success of “Saltburn,” surviving shocking bath scenes and flesh-eating bacteria on his way to newfound celebrity.

Emerald Fennell’s thriller has turned the 31-year-old actor into a new kind of sex symbol — thanks to scenes in which he slurps Jacob Elordi’s bathwater, has sex with a grave and one full-frontal long take in which he dances to “Murder on the Dancefloor.” The actor told GQ magazine that he’s finally being seen as a man and not just a “freak child” in the aftermath of “Saltburn,” and it feels good. Sometimes you just have to let your manhood all hang out.

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

The actor officially declared his “little freak child-man era” over thanks to “Saltburn,” adding: “And now I’m just Man. Freak-Man. Man-Freak.”

“My prettiness didn’t get me this far,” Keoghan concluded. “[But it] opens up other lanes for me — it’s part of the leading man thing.”

Martin McDonagh, the filmmaker who directed Keoghan to an Oscar nomination in 2022’s “The Banshees of Inisherin,” said the actor’s freakiness is part of his charm.

“He’s creepy and he freaks you out, but it’s truthful and it’s honest,” McDonagh said. “He always inhabits a person, warts and all, I think, and he doesn’t try to make you love them. He doesn’t sweeten the pill.”

McDonagh grew close to Keoghan before “Banshees” started shooting, as the actor ended up hospitalized before production due to necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease.

Keoghan has a snake-like scar up his arm from the disease. One in five people die from necrotizing fasciitis, and Keoghan said there was a moment when amputation was considered.

“I’m not sure if he was on a lot of meds, but he seemed to shrug it off,” McDonagh told GQ. “We were only about four days out from shooting, and his arm was puffed up. But he was like, ‘Yeah, no, I’m going to be fine — I’ll see you on Tuesday.’ I went to the hospital thinking, ‘S— — is he going to die?’ Let alone, ‘Is he going to make the movie?’ But I came out of there energized and looking forward to it.”

Keoghan previously spoke to Variety about what it was like filming those unforgettable, sexually charged “Saltburn” scenes.

“Take the bath scene. Yeah, it’s disgusting. But when you get into it, it’s a different level of obsession this boy has,” Keoghan said. “That’s why I made the choice to rub my face along the plug hole and not slurp it straight away — because I’m trying to take it to a new level. Oliver doesn’t even know what he’s doing; he’s confused. He’s thinking, ‘I just want to be part of it. I want it to be on me. I want it to be me.’ I was discovering that with the character, as well.”

Head over to GQ’s website to read Keoghan’s cover story in its entirety.