Once is a 2006 Irish musical film written and directed by John Carney. Set in Dublin, this naturalistic drama stars musicians Glen Hansard (of popular Irish rock band The Frames) and Markéta Irglová as fictional struggling musicians. Collaborators prior to making the film, Hansard and/or Irglová composed and performed all but one of the original songs in the movie.
The film has received awards and extremely enthusiastic reviews. Shot for only $160,000, it was very successful, earning substantial per-screen box office averages in the United States.
Neither of the two leads is a trained or experienced actor; Hansard and Irglová are both professional musicians. Director Carney, former bassist for Hansard’s band The Frames, had asked his long-time friend to share busker anecdotes and compose songs for the film, but had intended the male lead to be played by actor Cillian Murphy, who was an almost-signed rock musician before turning to acting. Murphy was also going to be one of the film’s producers. But Murphy balked at acting opposite non-actor Irglová (then 17 years old) and at singing Hansard’s octave-leaping songs, so he pulled out, as did the film’s other producers along with their financial resources. Carney then turned to songwriter Hansard, who’d previously done only one acting job, a supporting role as guitarist Outspan Foster in the 1991 ensemble film The Commitments, the story of a Dublin soul music cover band. Hansard was initially reluctant, fearing that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off, but after stipulating that he had to be fully involved in the filmmaking process and that it be low-budget and intimate, he agreed. “Though I was initially thinking of using a good actor who could half sing, I quickly realized I should do it the other way around and get a good singer who could half act,” Carney said in a Chicago interview.
Produced with a shoestring budget of only $160,000, about 75% of the budget was funded by Bord Scannán na hÉireann (The Irish Film Board), plus some of Carney’s own money. The director gave his salary to the two stars, and promised a share of the back-end for everyone if the film was a success. Shot with a skeleton crew on a 17-day shoot, the filmmakers saved money by using natural light and shooting at friends’ houses. The musical party scene was filmed in Hansard’s own flat, with his personal friends playing the partygoers/musicians—his mother, Catherine Hansard, is briefly featured singing solo. The Dublin street scenes were done without permits and with a long lens so that many passersby didn’t even realize that a film was being made. The long lens also helped the non-professional actors relax and forget about the camera, and some of the dialogue ended up being improvised.
Once (film). (2007, December 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:26, December 17, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Once_%28film%29&oldid=178344202
Moira Macdonald. (2007, May 31). “Once” a modern musical in the new Dublin. In The Seattle News. Retrieved from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2003728195_onceint31.html
Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová @ Sundance 2007 (2007, February 1). In YouTube. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzlfXvF1ekc
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova “Falling Slowly”(2007, January 29). In YouTube. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=938XY6DX02w