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Saltburn's Barry Keoghan opens up about near-fatal health battle that almost led to an amputation

The Oscar-nominated actor dealt with a difficult disease before getting back to work


Barry Keoghan at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.© Getty Images
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
January 9, 2024
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Barry Keoghan has proven that he's the embodiment of sticking it through, whether it comes to his career and difficult upbringing, or a bout of necrotizing fasciitis.

The 31-year-old actor, who is currently on the promotional circuit for his movie Saltburn, sat down with GQ to discuss life and career in the fast lane, and opened up about a health battle that almost left him without an arm.

He revealed that a few years ago, he'd developed a case of necrotizing fasciitis, which the Center for Disease Control describes as "a rare bacterial infection that spreads quickly in the body and can cause death."

Barry Keoghan for the February cover of GQ© Jason Nocito/ GQ
Barry Keoghan for the February cover of GQ

The Irish actor revealed that the disease, which can prove fatal for one in five cases, left him in the hospital days before he was set to begin shooting for the 2022 film The Banshees of Inisherin.

He recalled that amputation, for a while, was a prospect, and remembered asking his doctor: "But I'm not gonna die, right?" and hearing in response: "Well, we don't know."

Banshees director and writer Martin McDonagh spoke to the publication about visiting Barry at the hospital four days before filming was scheduled to take place.

Barry Keoghan for the February cover of GQ© Jason Nocito/ GQ
The actor revealed that he was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis a few years ago

"I'm not sure if he was on a lot of meds, but he seemed to shrug it off," he shared. "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, [expletive] – 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."

MORE: What you need to know about Oscar nominee Barry Keoghan and his remarkable journey

Barry remembered the director telling him "just remember this when you've been nominated for an Oscar" with the heart monitor beeping in the background. He eventually made a full recovery and even kept his arm.

Barry Keoghan attends W Magazine's Annual Best Performances Party at Chateau Marmont on January 05, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.© Getty Images
The disease almost left him without his arm, but thankfully, he made a full recovery and turned up to shoot "The Banshees of Inisherin"

What's more, The Banshees of Inisherin, also starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Kerry Condon, was one of the year's biggest critical darlings and an awards season favorite. Barry received rave reviews for his supporting turn and won a BAFTA Award for his troubles. Plus, he got that Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (losing to Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once).

Barry is touted as a potential Best Actor nominee this year for his leading role in the psychological divisive black comedy Saltburn, co-starring Jacob Elordi and Rosamund Pike. In fact, he was nominated for a Golden Globe at Sunday night's ceremony, losing to Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers.

RELATED: 8 films with major Oscar buzz to add to your must-watch list

Director and writer Emerald Fennell told GQ about the drastic turns the film takes (it could scar you if you're weak, let's just say that) and how the father-of-one was game to play ball. Watch the film's trailer below...

WATCH: "Saltburn" trailer, starring Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike

"Both of us are really interested in pushing things really far," she said. "Not in a way that's just supposed to be deliberately shocking, but because especially if you're talking about desire, if you're talking about obsession, you need to get somewhere that feels really hard to watch, because that's what it feels like. 

MORE: Inside Saltburn: the super private, exclusive estate that rivals the royals

"So I think for both of us, the whole time, it was about the understanding between us, and pushing each other always to do something more interesting, more surprising."

Paul Rhys, Jacob Elordi, Emerald Fennell, Barry Keoghan, Carey Mulligan and Archie Madekwe attend the Los Angeles Premiere Of MGM's "Saltburn" at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on November 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.© Getty Images
"So I think for both of us, the whole time, it was about the understanding between us, and pushing each other always to do something more interesting, more surprising."

The February issue of British GQ is available via digital download and on newsstands on January 30th

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