20 August 2022 The Irish Film & Television Network
‘Once’ In Cinemas This Week
21 Mar 2007 :
The Award winning Irish feature film ‘Once’ opens across Ireland this weekend. Directed by John Carney, ‘Once’ is described as a modern musical and stars unknown actress Markéta Irglová alongside The Frames frontman Glen Hansard.

The micro budget Irish feature ‘Once’ grabbed the world’s attention in January 2007 when it scooped the World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City USA. The mecca for independent filmmaking gave Carney’s feature a stamp of approval which gave its Irish producers valuable bargaining tools to negotiate worldwide distribution deals including sales to Icon in the UK and Australia, Kinowelt in Germany, SND in France, Toshiba in Japan and Fox Searchlight in North America.

First up for ‘Once’ is a nationwide run on home turf. The film’s release is aided by generous festival buzz and a positive critical response in the Irish media with the Irish Times calling it “thoroughly charming and unpretentious”.

‘Once’ follows a simple story of a busker (Glen Hansard) and young immigrant girl (Irglová) who meet and record music together in Dublin. “As a filmmaker with a background in music, I had always wanted to make a film that, while not a traditional ‘musical’ (in the 1940’s sense of the term), would still use a number of songs to tell a very modern, very simple love story,” says director Carney.

Carney has established a career as a respected film and television director with credits that include ‘Bachelors Walk’, ‘On the Edge’ and ‘November Afternoon’. He also played bass in The Frames during the early 1990’s and for some time wanted to collaborate with his friend Glen Hansard. ‘Once’ was the ideal project for him to do so.

However Hansard, having penned a number of songs for the film, was not the obvious choice to play the lead. "I had an Irish actor in mind for the leading role of the film, who can sing as well, but it didn't work out for him," Carney recalls. "I'd been talking to Glen about the film when he was writing songs for it, and he was very much there from the beginning as the composer, as the guy who was writing the songs behind the scenes. And it just gradually began to occur to me as I was putting him on tape, asking him about his songs, giving him script pages. He'd go off and write something according to them, or I'd write some scenes according to the song that he gave me. It occurred to me this guy's the guy to do this role, really. Because he'll sell these songs better than any actor would. And as they're his songs, he'll bring them to life in a way that no actor really would be able to do."

Hansard, who found fame playing the character Outspan in Alan Parker’s musical hit ‘The Commitments’, was a reluctant leading man: “The last thing I was thinking was me doing it, because I just did not want to be involved on that level,” he said. “It was just something I never saw myself going near again. But this was John’s film, it was being shot on a super low budget, and there's something about his aesthetic I've always trusted, and I thought: it could be alright. And he came to me, and I knew it was coming, he said: 'Glen, listen, how about you doing this? And I was like, 'Have you been spoofing me all along?'" Laughing, he adds that "It felt like John had fed me a line and then, at the very last minute, asked me to do it. I said no, but he asked me to think about it."

Despite his misgivings, Hansard eventually agreed and recommended his friend and musical collaborator Markéta Irglová to play opposite. 18 year old non-actor Irglová is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter and a resident of Prague in the Czech Republic. She met Hansard in the Czech city whilst he was touring there and the pair wrote and recorded the album The Swell Season together in April 2006.

‘Once’ was shot on location in Dublin over a short two week period in 2006. Produced by Martina Niland (Pavee Lackeen) and executive produced by David Collins of Samson Films, the musical feature boasts an impressive Irish crew with DOP Tim Fleming (Small Engine Repair, Cinegael Paradiso), Editor Paul Mullen (Bachelors Walk), Production designer Tamara Conboy (King Arthur) and Tiziana Corvisieri (Proof). This talented creative team came together to make what the director describes as “a visual album, but with a realistic, modern love-story at its heart.”


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