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Quint chats with Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova and John Carney about the low-budget musical ONCE!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I’ve posted about my love of this little film since Day 2 of Sundance back in January. I didn’t get the chance to sit down with the director and stars at Sundance, but luckily for me they came through Austin last week to do press, screen the flick and perform live afterwards. In the below interview you have my conversation with Glen Hansard (star of the film and a rock star, lead of THE FRAMES), Marketa Irglova (female lead) and John Carney, the director. A word of warning… I don’t think this is a bad interview. They were all very forthcoming and open, but I conducted this interview very early (around 9am) on a Saturday morning. I had just gotten back from Serbia and my internal clock wasn’t right. I ended up staying up all night instead of catching a few hours of sleep before the interview, so I’m a little bit on the tired side here. I don’t think it really shows through, but if you find the interview lacking at all, I am 100% to blame, not these nice people. Enjoy!

Quint: I saw the movie at Sundance and I really fell for it. It was one of the first three movies that screened and I caught it there at some crazy early morning screening.

John Carney: Yeah, I’m surprised you went to it that early in the morning.

Quint: Everybody flipped for it. The critics, the audiences… everybody. Where you surprised at the reaction?

John Carney: Definitely, yeah. We started it off as a little pet project (hoping) in five or ten years time people where like “you guys who made ONCE, you’ve never made anything else after… since.” Yeah, there’s a copy of it that you can get or there’s some of it on YouTube. That was the spirit the film was made: very low key and very much for ourselves really, so any response to it has been a bonus.

Quint: I’d always heard that Sundance was kind of a cynical place, but everybody was gushing for it and I think a lot of that had to do with the chemistry between you two [to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová]. I would really like to know how that came about. I’m really curious as to how who came into the project at what point and how you guys developed your chemistry together.

Glen Hansard: I came on last. John [Carney] had originally written a script and we had been talking about it, because we are good friends. I was actually just giving John stuff about being a street musician, because that’s what I was for years, so my input into the project was just as a mate… as John’s friend and John asked me to contribute a few songs, which then got me excited and I guess I got a little more involved. We talked about it a little more and you know, John’s always developing new ideas, like four or five at a time, there’s a whole bunch of areas he can move into, even now. So, I was happy to be loosely associated with this idea for a film and I was going to write some songs for it and then John was looking for an Eastern European piano player/singer/actress. I said, “Well I know a girl.” He was looking for a 35 year old, because she was supposed to be much older than the guy and she was you know, supposed to be a force of positivity in his life and I knew Mar [Markéta Irglová], I’ve known Mar for years, so I just suggested that John might want to meet her, because she’s really talented and I have no doubt that if John had cast her for the role, she would have been lovely. I suggested they meet. They met up and they just hit it off straight away and Mar got cast, so that was it. It was going to be this actor, Cillian Murphy, and Mar and that’s how it was going to move foreword and then Cillian, for some reason, pulled out at some point and then John in a way kind of saw that… after he got over the initial disappointment, then kind of saw it was a blessing, because he just felt “I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise, but I think you’d be the right man for the job, because I’ve just rethought the project and… well not rethink it, but I think that it’s better to have singers that can half act, than actors who can half sing.”

Quint: Yeah.

Glen Hansard: Because it’s musical. So, we ended up having me being cast in the role and I guess that’s sort of when it solidified. We talked for a few weeks, then we started shooting, and once we had started shooting it was very very fast – 17 days. We did it for a super low budget, I think a hundred and twenty grand and that was the idea. You know John had made a studio film a few years back and had kind of been burned a little bit by it, by a package of so many cooks, you know, and so it was like “OK, let’s keep this really close to his chest and if it’s a success, it’s his success and if it’s a failure, it’s his failure.” That was kind of our philosophy.

Quint: I love Cillian Murphy, but since having seen the movie, I don’t think there’s any way that would have worked.

John Carney: Yeah, it would have been different.

Quint: I mean, of course he’s a good actor, so there would have been something there, but once you see…

John Carney: Once you see good people play the role, then you know… it’s only when people are bad in their role that you go “you know, you should have got…” But if they’re brilliant in the role, then you can’t imagine that it would be anybody else.

Glen Hansard: It was something… you know, me and Mar are very close… me and John are very close, so now me, John, and Mar are very close, because we got to know each other very well during the making of the film. The whole thing has an air of intimacy and I think, if I might be able to speculate, I think that’s what people are picking up on. There’s a definite intimacy with the filmmaker and his cast, which I thing is the thing on almost every film, on some degree, isn’t it?

John Carney: More so on this though, because it is that sort of hooking into each other with no money and everybody wants to do their best in those circumstances. I think that with film, you know, when you have money and you get this thing that other things lack, if you really do everything then it’s like “hey why is this here?” As opposed to now… you know, you’re humble and you’re also more artistic. I think it’s easier to be…

Quint: Money caps creativity.

John Carney: Oh definitely, it does.

Glen Hansard: I think this film came at a good time for all of us personally. I can’t really speak for Mar, because she’s still got her entire life ahead of her… it’s only for me and John, I think it was an important thing to do. I remember John and I were talking about this and he was just like “I really need to make a good film in my life. Right now in my career I need to make a good film that I’m really happy with and that re-inspires me.” I kind of feel quite similar myself, I’ve been in my band for 15 or 16 years now and I got to that point where I was just like… I just needed a good muse. You know, otherwise I’m going to start losing it. It gets harder at this age to justify being in a rock group, because the basic idea of a rock band is sort of a young man’s kind of game and the older you get, the more “facile,” [to John Carney] is “facile” the right word? The more kind of facile it is to begin to feel; you know kind of going and rocking our asses off in front of people and somehow winning their affection… It’s a young man’s thing, you know, you go up and you say” how can I get every body’s attention?” and you live off that, to a degree. With all the years that we have been a band, we still haven’t seen any sort of solid benefit from our years of doing it. Had we of gone and had a hit album ten years ago, we probably wouldn’t be touring as much now. We’d probably be sitting back a bit. It still feels after all this time, that’s where somehow I started from. It’s the weirdest feeling and even though I feel my band [The Frames] is drifting into somewhere really good, I think John just needed to make this film good for him and I really needed to make something that was kind of getting my songs out there in a different way and I felt really good about the project for that reason.

Quint: Well the music… I’m kind of retarded when it comes to music, so I didn’t know your work before I saw the movie…

Glen Hansard: You and the rest of the interviewers! Nobody seems to know my work.

[Everybody Laughs]

Quint: But your work in the movie is really great stuff, very touching. I’ve actually gone to the website just to have the soundtrack play, because I don’t have a copy… what I like about the music is it seems to come from a real place and it really shows through.

Glen Hansard: Sure, yeah.

John Carney: It does wonderfully as a musical in a way that if you commissioned somebody to write a bunch of songs, that they half write, because they’re getting paid to write them… You know, they were in existence. I just pilfered the best ones.

Glen Hansard: Yeah, John just kind of went through the songs that I had written and picked the ones that he wanted and I was very happy to have it happen that way, because there’s a tendency with certain musical projects that are precious, because it’s your own work. John was just like “I like this one. I like that one…” It’s was very easy.

Quint: Now when you say this music was preexisting, was this stuff from your work in The Frames?

Glen Hansard: Some of it was.

Quint: …or was some of it unpublished or…

Glen Hansard: Some of it was form The Frames…

John Carney: Most of it was new though.

Glen Hansard: Most of it was from a record me and Mar had just made.

Quint: Well that would make sense, because so much of it is integral to you two connecting [to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová], especially the main song, the first song that you guys sing together (Falling Slowly)… The movie’s not a traditional musical, it’s not like a WEST SIDE STORY thing, where people are singing in real life, you know, you guys use music to connect, but it’s something that could happen. It’s something that certainly could happen…

John Carney: A plausible musical.

Quint: Yeah, it’s like HUSTLE AND FLOW. That’s a movie with lots of music in it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a traditional musical. So, you guys had worked on a few songs prior to the film…

Glen Hansard: Well, that song in particular (Falling Slowly), we wrote together and it’s a lovely song.

Quint: Yeah.

Glen Hansard: A lot of the songs… I sit at the computer looking back at the footage of my collaborations and its like “wow, they fit really well.”

Markéta Irglová: It was fun to do, he asked to collaborate and I was like “oh, OK.”

Quint: I guess we should talk a little bit about the writing. I really liked the characters that were drawn up in the film. On one hand it’s everything that you want a romantic movie to be, but on the other hand it’s not a typical romance. Was there anything that you specifically…

John Carney: Copied…?

Quint: …copied or pulled from?

John Carney: BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET. I like those kind of films, it’s a few people around talking and while there’s actually very little chatting in this film, there’s that sense of time passing and having people wanting to seek each other out again and talk. The dialogue is kind of… I mean it’s that second language kind of dialogue between people that I find very entertaining. I guess it’s all the misunderstandings and kind of broken English. I like the sound of that and I like the idea of just communication really. I don’t really communicate in nice perfect sentences. It’s a lacking in me… I love people who use minimal words. I just finally get to a point, which is very boring to listen to in a film, so therefore I write quite long winded so hugely and… so I’ve always been looking for a way for characters to communicate beyond dialogue, even though I like to write a little bit of dialogue. Do you know what I mean by that? Kind of like I like the initial scenes where they meet at the beginning, these two [Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová], so there’s kind of this to and fro which I think is quite funny. The film is less about dialogue and more about how do people communicate on other levels? I really like the idea of doing a film with somebody who knows almost no English, but setting it in the English language.

Quint: Well, the communication that would be going on would be mostly nonverbal, probably be like body language and pointing…

John Carney: Well I guess music is another… art and music is a whole other form of communication. I find it quite amazing.

Quint: [To Irglová] This was your first movie wasn’t it?

Markéta Irglová: Yeah, it was.

Quint: But you’re a performer, so I assume you’re used to going up in front of people. Was there any pressure on you when you started the film?

Markéta Irglová: Yeah, there was definitely pressure, because nobody really knew if I could act until the very first day of shooting. No one had ever told me that I had a talent for acting and you know, I was kind of excited as well, because John and Glen were so involved with it and I was certainly feeling a little pressure on myself.

Quint: Yeah.

Markéta Irglová: More from me than from anybody else. And so, I wasn’t really aware of what I hade gotten myself into. The risky part was whether I could act or not, until the first day of shooting when I was sitting on the bus and driving to the location. Only then did I realize, “gee, I hope I’m going to be alright.” So yeah, I felt a huge pressure on me, because I knew that John… he was kind of nervous and a little bit unsure if this was going go work. So, it was quite nerve wrecking. I have preformed in from of an audience, but it’s a whole other thing. I’ve been performing in front of people since I was ten years old with my piano playing, but having to memorize dialogue and every time I would screw-up every body on set would go “oh, she screwed up again.” They might not be, but you always feel like they are, you know, so you feel you’ve got to hold it together all the time and give it your best even though you’re wrecked. You know, you wake up the next day and then you’re tired and yet you feel that you’ve just got to get the best out of you with whatever it takes. It’s very… there’s a lot of pressure on you.

Quint: Was the first thing you shot… was it the first appearance in the movie? Did you guys shoot sequentially?

John Carney: No, no the first thing we shot was the one in the clothes shop.

Markéta Irglová: Yeah.

Glen Hansard: Which is different, because we’re thrown into the relationship, like they had mashed, they knew each other, so it was difficult for Mar and I. It’d be difficult for any actor.

Markéta Irglová: The difficult thing was that I had this kind of image in my head, whenever I watch a film, that the characters are always so true in the things that they are doing and going through and that you know, if this had happened chronologically when we were shooting it… one day you’re doing the end of the film, even though you hadn’t done the beginning, so you lose track of where you are in the relationship and how close you’re supposed to be, but John was great and he kept reminding us of what had happened so far and “this is how you feel.”

John Carney: Kind of why actors are so fucking schizophrenic.

[Everyone laughs]

Markéta Irglová: Well, yeah.

Quint: I also imagine that since it was such a short shoot, short and fast, any butterflies that anybody might’ve had would be pushed aside just to get the job done.

Markéta Irglová: Exactly, once you hear “action” you know, everything has to go silent for what you’re about to do.

Glen Hansard: You just got to trust the team and make sure you’re doing your job right and just hope that you do your lines or do them again. We didn’t see rushes or anything, we’re just trusting (John).

Markéta Irglová: Plus, it feels like being able to swim. You would never get into the pool yourself, because you’d be afraid you couldn’t do it or you’d be too afraid to get it, but once somebody grabs you and throws you into the pool, you’ve got to swim and you manage. You’d be surprised at what you can actually do.

Quint: Well the movie got picked up at Sundance, right? Or was it picked up before then?

John Carney: Nope, after.

Quint: So, when’s the release?

John Carney: May 18th in New York and L.A., so I guess a good estimate is like the 25th (in Austin).

Quint: Yeah, so what are you guys doing? Are you doing a lot of these city stops to promote it?

Glen Hansard: We’re on a big bus, traveling around America.

Quint: You going to college towns and stuff?

John Carney: We started in Boston, then Philadelphia, Washington, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louise, Memphis…

Glen Hansard: Dallas.

John Carney: Dallas, here, Phoenix tomorrow, San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, and then home.

Quint: [Laughs] Is that all?

Glen Hansard: I can’t believe we’re almost there. Four more screenings…

Quint: Have you been watching the movie with every audience?

John Carney: Oh no, just the end.

Glen Hansard: We should watch the beginning at one at least. We should, actually. Maybe San Francisco or L.A. Actually, L.A. I’d like to watch… to see what they say.

John Carney: To be honest… I mean I guess it’s an opportunity for us to do press, but our time has been so allotted that that bit of time, when the film’s actually on, is the only time we get to…

Quint: To breathe, yeah…

John Carney: So we haven’t gone to many screenings for that reason.

There’s my interview. Hope you enjoyed it. If the film comes to a theater near you, do go support it. It’s doing well in its limited release, out-performing SHREK 3 on a per-theater basis. Hopefully that means we’ll see it going out much wider. -Quint

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