Keating makes his acting debut

Ronan Keating admits he is a little on edge. “I’m scared, I’m nervous,” the 35-year-old Irish singer says of his acting debut in the movie Goddess, which opens in Australia March 14. “The reviews are going to be … we’ll see.”

He’s good in the film, but his nerves are understandable. With his own judgement day looming, the X Factor judge knows better than most that “you have to take the good with the bad”.

“There will be people who have a dig here and there, but I gave it my best shot and I honestly believe I’m ready for it now,” he says.

Goddess is a rare beast, a full-fledged home-grown musical – about a couple struggling with the competing demands of career and family – complete with elaborate dance routines and sequences that edge into fantasy.

That’s not so different, perhaps, from the world of video clips Keating has inhabited since his teens, first as a member of Irish boy band Boyzone, which has sold more than 30 million records worldwide, and then as a solo artist with sales of another 25 million or so. But his role in the film is primarily about acting, not singing, and it is a hard-won shift that has been a long time coming.

“I’ve been trying for 10 years,” he says, to “find someone who believed in me enough to give me a chance”.

The first big part he tried and failed to land was in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. Next he had a shot at the lead in Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 version of King Arthur, but lost out to Clive Owen. Most recently, he read for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. Along the way there were myriad smaller roles that passed him by too.

In retrospect, he says, it’s probably just as well. “The thing is I wasn’t good enough back then. I’m glad I waited, and I’m glad they waited, because to be on the screen and to be bad is the worst. You’re there forever.”

The product of a working-class family in Dublin, and a prodigious athlete who won a scholarship to a New York college at 16 but chose music instead, Keating reacted to the rejection by knuckling down, studying hard and taking every acting class he could find.

“I get it from my dad,” he says. “He was a grafter. He always believed the football player who trained the hardest got a game on Sunday, and I’ve always worked that way too.”

He’s not kidding. Keating is speaking to me in an hour carved out of his day for media duties for the film. When we’re done, he’s off to sound check for the Melbourne leg of his concert tour, and as soon as he steps off the stage he’ll be on a plane to Kuala Lumpur, where he’s presenting at an awards show. When that’s over, it’s back to Sydney for another show the same night.

It’s hectic, he admits, “but it’s good, I like it. I would prefer to work than not work. I’ve had times when I’ve not been busy and I worry, so I prefer to keep going.”

He’ll be back for another series of The X Factor, assuming Seven is up for it.

“We’re close, but it’s so up in the air,” he says. “I mean, my God, they leave it to the last minute to confirm everything. I still don’t know who else will be on the panel. We haven’t signed anything but I’m locked in, so fingers crossed.”

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He “loves” the show, he says, and he “loves” the four or five months he spends in Australia each year to do it. He’ll have his three children here with him for a month or so.

“We’d easily live here but it’s a bit far,” he says. “They need that simplicity, and you need to be around them. That’s important.”

Goddess hasn’t yet an opening date for New Zealand.

– Sydney Morning Herald