John Carney & Cast Interview, OncePosted by: Sheila Roberts
MoviesOnline sat down with writer/director John Carney and actor/musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova at the Los Angeles press day to talk about their new film, "Once,â€ a modern day musical set on the streets of Dublin.
Featuring Glen Hansard and his Irish band "The Frames," the film tells the inspiring story of two kindred spirits who find each other on the bustling streets of Dublin. One is a street musician who lacks the confidence to perform his own songs. The other is a young mother and Czech immigrant who is trying to find her way in a strange new town. As their lives intertwine, they discover each otherâ€™s talents and push one another to realize what each had only dreamt about before. During one eventful week, they write, rehearse and record songs that reveal their unique love story.
In the early 1990s, before devoting himself to a film career, Carney was a musician playing bass guitar with Dublin band The Frames. He understands and appreciates the power of a song, and how it can carry more weight than swathes of dialogue. Carney had always wanted to make a film that, while not a traditional â€˜musicalâ€™ in the 1940s sense of the term, would still use a number of songs to tell a very modern, very simple love story.
In fact, conversations about this project started in 2005 at a Frames concert in Dublin.
Carney explains, "I wanted to find a simple setting and storyline that could use songs in a way that a modern audience would accept. I finally settled on the idea of a busker on the streets of Dublin; someone who, having nothing, has nothing to lose. I developed a simple love story, essentially a two-hander, then asked Glen Hansard to write a number of songs which evolved in tandem with the emerging story. Over the next few months, Glen and I swapped ideas â€“ a story line here, a song there. Feeding off each otherâ€™s work, we eventually produced ten original songs and a 60-page script.â€
Carneyâ€™s intention was to make an original film, almost like a visual album, but with a realistic, modern love-story at its heart. "Weâ€™re in a world where a three-minute song is worth ten pages of dialogue; where the characters communicate more through the art of song than by talking or getting involved in traditional plot-points and dramatic situations. Of course, this is not to say that there isnâ€™t a three-act structure in the story; itâ€™s just a little more oblique than in your average film â€“ and the songs themselves are the key to uncovering it.â€
John Carney, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are fabulous artists and we really appreciated their time. Hereâ€™s what they had to tell us about their new film, "Onceâ€:
MoviesOnline: Can you give us a little background on how this project started?
John Carney: We shot this film in January 2006 on the streets of Dublin. We went into pre-production four months before that and shot in 17 days over Christmas and New Years. We shot it with Irish Film Board money for under 30,000 Euro which is about $50,000-$60,000 dollars and it was a real back to basics kind of [filmmaking] stripped back to its very core -- no catering, no M&Mâ€™s, no fridge, no hotel rooms, stealing cups of tea, changing in restrooms in restaurants and slipping into costumes, very little make-up. Glen and Marketa are non-actors technically so it was a very liberating experience for me and the crew. We did it very quickly because I think anything beyond 17 days people would have started getting very impatient with us, so we kept it kind of low and hard and fast.
MoviesOnline: What camera did you use to shoot it?
John Carney: We shot it on three of those little Sony HDVs. I think theyâ€™re called 325â€™s or something.
MoviesOnline: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or musicians?
John Carney: I donâ€™t know. Really just follow your heart. I guess at the end of the day if you have an interesting story to tell, I suppose the fact that we shot this so low and hard is an example that there are certain types of stories that it doesnâ€™t matter so much how you shoot it or how you do it. Youâ€™ve just got to get your story down and get it across as quickly and efficiently as possible.
MoviesOnline: The film is perfectly organic in terms of the music. Did you use playback at all? How did you handle the people walking toward the camera?
John Carney: Youâ€™ve got it exactly right. The only brief that I had in my mind when I set out to make this film was how do I make -- because Iâ€™m a big Gene Kelly fan. I love Frank Sinatra movies and I love that stuff but I appreciate as well â€“ you know I try to play that to my niece who is 16 years old and I put on "Singing in the Rainâ€ and sheâ€™s like [takes a big yawn]. And Iâ€™m thinking â€˜check out this song.â€™ Because of the way they did films back then, modern audiences are just going to go â€˜no.â€™ Theyâ€™re not going to accept it. So I really wanted to try to make something that people would not know that they had watched a musical. I should be careful about pitching this as a musical or a modern day musical because I guess it scares certain people off. In another way, I feel I have to be true to myself because that was the starting point.
How do I make a film that the You Tube generation will accept and wonâ€™t have to suspend their disbelief and will get behind. Really how do I set up a vehicle by which to present all these new sounds that I happen to love and Iâ€™m a big fan of Glen and Marketaâ€™s obviously. How do I create a world where itâ€™s okay to watch 8 songs? How do you approach that? Rule #1 was be really authentic and never have playback. If the guitar has a string missing, you should hear that thatâ€™s missing. If the piano looks rickety and wrecked, it should sound that way. The most authentic thing should be in the performances and thatâ€™s why I ended up getting non-actors to do it as well. Singers who are professional, these guys, because nobodyâ€™s going to present those songs in quite as real or authentic a way as the people who wrote them.
MoviesOnline: How did you record it?
John Carney: We just recorded it on a couple DAT machines.
Glen: We used a film mike, a radio mike, and an L mike so everything you see is recorded live except the scene when Mara walks down the street â€˜cause thatâ€™s the only bit where I guess reality is suspended a little bit and you get your classical movie moment. Except for that, it was all live recording.
MoviesOnline: Which came first: the music or the idea to create the movie?
John Carney: Well I was in Glenâ€™s band in 1990 so you can say that that came first. Iâ€™m a big fan of The Frames and I used to play in The Frames years ago. I played bass so I was very mindful of the type of music that Glen wrote. I followed his career avidly and bought all his albums. Once I decided that that was going to be the music, once Iâ€™d asked Glen would you write the music for this film that Iâ€™m doing, everything kind of fell into shape so I now knew the world that I was in. I wasnâ€™t in a tap dancing world or a big band world or a funk world or a jazz world. I was in this world. Once I knew James was going to write the music, everything else fit into place. I knew the limitations and the parameters about which weâ€™d make this story.
The music for this film â€“ just to be specific â€“ some of it was written and Glen would give me songs and say â€˜What do you think of this? Listen to this.â€™ And sometimes I would say, â€˜Hereâ€™s the scene. Can I look at your back catalog of songs? Remember that song you wrote back in â€™92? I love that song. Can I listen to it?â€™ and heâ€™d be like, â€˜Well no, wait, thereâ€™s a new songâ€™ and heâ€™d play it and Iâ€™d say, â€˜Thatâ€™s perfect.â€™ Itâ€™s weird. Malleable is a word weâ€™ve been using a lot on this tour. Itâ€™s like how malleable a song is. Itâ€™s amazing. It doesnâ€™t have to be written to order perfectly and in fact this film it suits it better that the storyline and the songs theyâ€™re not constantly paralleled but theyâ€™re kind of like the wheels of a bicycle. They overlap here and there and occasionally along this thing but not specifically. Itâ€™s not like [sings] â€˜Woke up this morning at 12â€¦â€™ You know, itâ€™s not storyboard songs because Glen and Marketa donâ€™t write those type of songs. They write pictures and thatâ€™s perfect.
MoviesOnline: Why do you think musicals have had a resurgence? What do you attribute it to?
John Carney: Well I donâ€™t know that they have in one way. I know that thereâ€™s been a few musicals made recently, but I still think younger generations are going to have a problem with musicals. I donâ€™t know why. Itâ€™s just kind of a thing that your parents watch so Iâ€™m not a big fan of â€“ I like the golden era of MGM musicals and I like my musical but thatâ€™s about it.
MoviesOnline: What about "Moulin Rougeâ€ and "Chicagoâ€?
John Carney: I actually hate those films. That may sound terrible. I appreciate them and I appreciate that theyâ€™re wonderful in their own way but I find myself thinking like a teenager. The great thing about Frank Sinatra was that he could sing amazingly and Gene Kelly could dance incredibly brilliantly. What I love about "Onceâ€ more than anything is the fact that these guys are incredibly brilliant singers.
Glen Hansard: When John came to me first and said I want you to be in my musical, I was like, â€˜F*ck off!â€™ [laughs] just because itâ€™s such a naff idea in my opinion. I hate musicals â€“ all of them except "Willie Wonkaâ€ which is cheese.
John Carney: And "Spinal Tap.â€
Glen Hansard: And "Spinal Tapâ€ and "Stop Making Senseâ€ and a whole bunch of others. So for me, it was always like â€˜Heâ€™ll chicken out.â€™ Like weâ€™ll give him the songs, weâ€™ll shoot the whole thing, weâ€™ll kind of go along with whatever he says, but he will chicken out and he will edit the songs down to hardly anything and the songs will make an appearance and then theyâ€™ll disappear. But when we saw the edit, he was like â€˜Nope, I said I was making a musical.â€™ And actually it was only at that point when we saw the film â€“ because me and Mara didnâ€™t see a frame of the film until we saw it in a cinema at a screening â€“ and so when we actually watched it we were like, â€˜F*ck, he actually did it. He stuck to his guns.â€™ Actually it works, but I really didnâ€™t think it would. The idea of being in a musical and playing a pair in a musical was such a naff idea.
John Carney: For me, a musical didnâ€™t have to be [breaks into song] â€˜Gotta sing, gotta danceâ€™ and suddenly an orchestra appears on the soundtrack from nowhere. It could be like a Lars von Trier â€“ even though Lars von Trier has actually made a musical â€“ if you forget that for a second and you imagine how would Lars von Trier make a musical if he hadnâ€™t made "Dancer in the Dark.â€ That was my approach. How would the guy who madeâ€¦
Glen Hansard: How would Ken Loge make a musical?
John Carney: How would Ken Loge, how would Mike Lee make a musical? Well actually heâ€™d probably do not a million miles away from what we did. Heâ€™d stitch it into the dialogue so that instead of there being these big set pieces, these songs would just start creeping and youâ€™d leave the cinema. What we love about this film is â€“ in all the screenings weâ€™ve had across the states â€“ is people are coming out saying â€“ and you can see the guys too â€“ â€˜That was just beautiful.â€™ And sheâ€™s like, â€˜What? How many songs were there in it?â€™ â€˜9 songs.â€™ That was a musical but you didnâ€™t know it was a musical.
MoviesOnline: Weâ€™ve seen films like "Eddie and the Cruisersâ€ and "You Light Up My Lifeâ€ that were sort of contrived like putting together a girl group or a boy group and they were invented to advance the music. "Onceâ€ is not in that vein. Do you want to really limit it by calling it a musical when this could have been about art and artists or it could have been about writers? Isnâ€™t it about art for artâ€™s sake?
John Carney: Thatâ€™s perfect. If you can come up with a term, Iâ€™ll give you money. Iâ€™ve been saying musical and I shouldnâ€™t. Weâ€™ve been saying about this film that itâ€™s lovely to watch people work. I donâ€™t like necessarily in the mainstream films where itâ€™s like, â€˜Letâ€™s make a demoâ€™ and the screen goes whir, whir, whir and theyâ€™ve made a demo. Or it dissolves to â€“ I love â€“ Iâ€™m driving along with my girlfriend in a car and she says, â€˜Why have you stopped?â€™ â€˜Oh, Iâ€™m just watching those guys dig that hole with that thing.â€™ I like watching the guy with the T and the foreman and the crane and how thingsâ€¦ Or I like watching people paint paintings.
Thereâ€™s a great show on Irish TV where this guy just paints and the camera just rolls and he describes what heâ€™s doing. I sit back and watch that. Itâ€™s kind of like reality TV without the trashy side of things. Itâ€™s just watching people work. So when somebody begins a song and says itâ€™s G and itâ€™s C but you go to a D, I think youâ€™re in the scene and you have to end the scene and I personally find it â€“ I think it works, especially in Falling Slowly in the piano shop where youâ€™re actually watching the organic process by which any piece of art as you say gets produced.
MoviesOnline: Thereâ€™s something thematic like the Gift of the Magi here because she gives up something. She gives of her time for the art that heâ€™s producing knowing she wonâ€™t participate in it and he takes a huge stake in it and his Dad gives him the money which he uses to buy her the piano. Itâ€™s just so bittersweet. Was that intentional?
John Carney: Yeah, it was intentional. I love the female character in this film because as you say sheâ€™s a complete giver. He takes everything actually and sheâ€™s left and at the end you see these two parallel shots. Heâ€™s walking down through the London Underground with his guitar and a smile on his face and itâ€™s like â€˜Thank God I met this girl. Thank God she kept me at an armâ€™s length. Thank God we didnâ€™t kiss or consummate our relationship because now I can get my girlfriend back and I can record music.â€™
Sheâ€™s liberated him and sheâ€™s given him all this stuff and then it cuts to her and sheâ€™s looking out the window. His shot is saying â€˜we did the right thingâ€™ and for a moment you look at her and itâ€™s like â€˜did we?â€™ and then it fades out. Itâ€™s a funny one. She gives everything to him and what sheâ€™s left with I guess is kind of a memory. I guess what theyâ€™re both left with is a ghost â€“ like these two ghosts who come into each otherâ€™s lives and then head off.
MoviesOnline: How did you handle the rehearsal process?
John Carney: These guys were very rehearsed already. I mean they had a working relationship and had produced songs together and had written together. We rehearsed the dialogue on the day and we changed lots of the script on the day weâ€™d come to â€¦ Iâ€™ve made a lot of TV and film. Iâ€™ve been in TV in Dublin for the past three years and you rehearse everything and you block it out and by take 3 itâ€™s done. A lot of the takes in this areâ€¦ I mean I would roll in the rehearsal which I think sends fear into a production team. Thereâ€™s a couple scenes in there which are the rehearsal. The lighting cameraman would kill me for saying that but itâ€™s true.
MoviesOnline: Glen and Marketa, obviously you did the music for the film but apart from being musicians, where do you take your inspiration from, especially the melancholic side?
Glen Hansard: I guess my mother really. She raised me up on Leonard Cohen. She was a huge Leonard Cohen fan and Dylan. She was into Buddy Rich, Tammy Wynette, so I grew up on [starts singing a Hank Williams song] I guess all that wonderful Hank Williams. My mother taught me "Bird on the Wireâ€ for my 5th birthday. I remember learning that song off a record player. And itâ€™s only now when Iâ€™m in my thirties and Iâ€™m still sorting out what those lyrics mean. Those lyrics are repeating themselves to me years and years later. So I guess itâ€™s kind of a diet of very intense, very beautiful and [inaudible] music from being a kid. Itâ€™s funny, I guess there are two kinds of people: people who find Leonard Cohen depressing and people who find him quite uplifting.
Recently a lot of people have been saying to me, even people at Fox, â€˜Weâ€™re working on your film and we find the music is very depressing, but we really like it.â€™ Not that I feel like theyâ€™ve missed the point, but itâ€™s kind of like for me itâ€™s self medicating. You write a song, you sing your blues, itâ€™s out of your system. Like Iâ€™m a pretty easy going human being. I donâ€™t consider myself miserable in any way but I express myself so itâ€™s out, itâ€™s done, itâ€™s there. Some of the most intense human beings Iâ€™ve ever met in my life are folk musicians because [starts singing] â€˜everything is so f*cking sweet and nice and the world is a great place to be.â€™ And some of the most relaxed people I know are punks because they get up on stage, they f*cking let it go, they push it all out, they come off stage, put on their sound, and start eating vegan meals. Itâ€™s like theyâ€™re totally chilled out. Theyâ€™ve got it out of their system. For me, certainly I feel like these songs are my songs. I didnâ€™t write them specifically for the script. A couple songs we did but Iâ€™m drawing from the same place I would if I was writing anything else. I really like what it does for me. If other people like it, then great, but I guess Iâ€™ve never really pitched myself out there to be Chris Marley. Thatâ€™s never really been my thing so itâ€™s none of my business what people think of me. Iâ€™m happy that we made this film. Iâ€™m really glad that John liked these songs and that thereâ€™s a vehicle for these songs to be out there. I guess the basic scenario is people hear these tunes and if they like them, then great. Iâ€™ll be over the moon because it means they might hear my band and might buy a few records which would be wonderful.
Marketa: I have to say I think the biggest inspiration for me is in the melancholy side of the music that I make. Itâ€™s a thing that you feel. Itâ€™s what comes naturally when I sit down to write a song. I love more than anything to write songs that are [inaudible] and uplifting rather than to be depressing myself. So itâ€™s hard to say. In terms of other musicians, I listen to the female singers like Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, and Steven Ordenstein (?)
MoviesOnline: What does the filmâ€™s title, "Once,â€ mean to you?
Marketa: I have forgotten what my picture of it was because Iâ€™ve heard John say the explanation of it so many times, itâ€™s kind of hard to remember what I took it for at the beginning. I guess what makes the most sense is the typical human thing of never living in the present but living in the future and always putting things off by saying, â€˜Once I do this, Iâ€™ll be happy, and once I do that, Iâ€™ll be rich.â€™ I guess thatâ€™s what makes most sense to me.
MoviesOnline: John, one of the things that makes this not so much like a musical is thereâ€™s no choreography with the songs. Was that done on purpose? I mean Glen and Marketa didnâ€™t break out in song and start dancing and a bunch of chorus girls didnâ€™t come out of the woodwork.
John Carney: We couldnâ€™t afford them. [Laughs]
MoviesOnline: Without that element, you canâ€™t really tell itâ€™s a musical. Is that what you had in mind?
John Carney: I think this judgment is right. It doesnâ€™t matter that itâ€™s music. It just happens that itâ€™s music that theyâ€™re creating. Thatâ€™s an interesting point. Once you decide what the type of music is, then you decide the aesthetic that follows that kind of course. Thatâ€™s the greatest breakthrough for any director is â€˜okay, Iâ€™ve got the world.â€™ In a way, for me, the world is much more important than the script. The script comes secondarily in a way to me. And once I have the world of â€“ is it melancholy because weâ€™re talking about â€“ you know for me Tom Waits is one of the great geniuses of that art form in a way. I listen to his albums.
I get really depressed but at the end of it Iâ€™m really uplifted and I go away a better person than I did before I sat down and listened to the album. And Iâ€™m a happier person weirdly because Iâ€™ve found another guy whoâ€™s just as depressed as I am in the world. [Laughs] If you were doing a Tom Waits movie â€“ you know, you take the tools at hand, you look at them and then you apply â€“ because it would be off for anything too colorful. The maddest thing I had in mind that we didnâ€™t shoot in this film is that they were walking down this street one day and stuff was being moved out of an apartment building. There was a big moving van and there happened to be a big piano in the street. I think I was watching a Woody Allen film actually and he walks past a piano and I thought thatâ€™s a really good idea for my film and theyâ€™ll walk by it and heâ€™ll pick up a guitar and then I thought thatâ€™s pushing it a bit too far. Every song has to be naturalistic.
MoviesOnline: Can you see this project on stage?
John Carney: On stage? If somebody has money for it and I still own the rights to it, yeah, maybe. Thatâ€™s an interesting idea.
MoviesOnline: Glen, the guitar you have with you today seems like the same guitar as in the film. Can you talk about the history of that guitar? It seems itâ€™s been really, really used. Also, in this movie, your father really supports you. In your own life, how did your parents support you in life?
Glen Hansard: I was very lucky in my life to have my mother. Again, she was a very musical person. She sang a lot. She never played an instrument and her family were all people who played music. My motherâ€™s brother, when we were kids, he was a very charismatic guy. He worked in a theater. He had a guitar. He was a musician. He had a Gibson Hummingbird which was like this really, really posh guitar that he had gotten from saving up. When I was about 8 years old, my unclesâ€™s â€“ both his car which was a beautiful, sporty RS 2000 Ford Escort and his guitar â€“ his guitar was in my motherâ€™s wardrobe and his car was parked in our garden and it was there for months. I was like, â€˜Whereâ€™s my Uncle Paul?â€™ Apparently heâ€™d took a job he shouldnâ€™t have taken and he ended up in prison in Amsterdam for a few years and during that time his guitar was in the wardrobe. I kind of discovered it and would pull it out and [strums guitar] just listen to the sound of it and I kind of learned how to play on his guitar.
I remember listening to things [inaudible] Leonard Cohen and actually trying to pick out the chords while listening to it. I guess my first public performance was when my mother said, â€˜When your Uncle Paul gets back into the airport, the whole familyâ€™s going to go meet him, so will you play him a song in the airport?â€™ So I went and played with his guitar and he freaked out there because Iâ€™d put a few bangs into it. I was a kid. I didnâ€™t realize that a few knocks on the wood were going. So he made up for it by getting me this [holds up guitar]. He got me this because he felt bad about giving me a hard time and he got me this guitar and I played in his band for about 3 years. I used to plays in bars around Dublin. So I had it since I was a kid. Iâ€™ve had it since I supposed I was 12 or 13 and when I first went out and became a street musician, this was the guitar that I brought with me. It was a very posh guitar at the time. Now itâ€™s quite frail but all that time itâ€™s been the guitar Iâ€™ve recorded all my albums with. Honestly while making this film youâ€™re not going to be wearing anyone elseâ€™s clothes, youâ€™re not going to be playing anyone elseâ€™s guitar. You just use your own so I did.
MoviesOnline: Glen, youâ€™re primarily a musician. What made you want to become an actor?
Glen Hansard: I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a huge leap between being a musician and being an actor because being a musician is certainly like it, you just get up and slip into the character of your song I guess depending how you were when you wrote the song, if you were frustrated, if you were happy or sad. Songs are just like diary entries and as part of the answer to your question, youâ€™re wrong. John was making the point the other day that whenever you read back over your diary, most of the time youâ€™re depressed. You donâ€™t write in your diary when youâ€™re happy so itâ€™s like you wrote songs when you needed to. Itâ€™s not like youâ€™re signed to a big major label and â€˜we need 4 songs by next weekendâ€™ and you go out and you sort of write. [makes sound of rhythm guitar] I only ever write when I need to and thatâ€™s really important to me that that music never becomes my job. The idea of music becoming my bread and butter on that level is kind of scary because it means at some point youâ€™ll make a decision that is wrong.
So when John asked me to be involved in this project of making the music and then to play the part of the character, I guess my logic was weâ€™re going to make this together, weâ€™re going to make it authentic, and weâ€™ll make it with Dublin accents and when we play music, we play it live. We donâ€™t cheat and we make this as real as we can and if we make it like that, it will have to have shelf life. If you make it and you wrap it up in a nice, happy ending and it becomes a romantic comedy, then it has no shelf life. It just becomes another shitty bit of pap thatâ€™s been made and thereâ€™s a lot of plastic on shelves. You donâ€™t want to make another DVD thatâ€™s just another bullshit story â€“ a B movie. So if youâ€™re going to make something, do it right. I guess for me thatâ€™s what was so attractive about it.
I thought the portrait of Dublin was really strong â€“ the multicultural Dublin â€“ because Irish films are still about a guy who [inaudible] or a bunch of drunk IRA people. Irish films are kind of staying in the old mold even though Ireland is changing so much. I felt that this was the first script, the first thing that I had seen that actually took a snapshot of Dublin now in modern times and that was exciting for me. So there were reasons to get behind this and reasons to kind of give it a go, but I did say to John first and foremost, if Iâ€™m shit, if me and Mara are really shit, youâ€™ve got to fire us like for our own sakes, not for yours but for our sakes, youâ€™ve got to get us out of your film if we donâ€™t pull it off. We just trusted him and I think he got a good performance out of us.
MoviesOnline: How did the budget affect how you shot this film and was there anything that you really wanted to do that you couldnâ€™t do because of the budget?
John Carney: Once we had decided that Glen and Mara would be in the film, that it wouldnâ€™t be like two film stars, then I quickly realized Iâ€™m going to shoot this for nothing, for a really small amount of money. Iâ€™m just going to get exactly what I need because at the end of the day, as Glen says, after like a week of shooting, if we think this is rubbish, we can shelve it and nobody would care too much. Iâ€™ve made some good low budget stuff back in Dublin and Iâ€™ve cut my teeth on going out there and asking for favors and getting the film done because I love the freedom that that extends you as a film director. Thereâ€™s nobody around you with a ticking clock saying you didnâ€™t make your day today. I guess John Cassavetes is my big -- heâ€™s the guy that made me convince myself I can actually make a film. I mean look at this guy.
Basically itâ€™s his wife, itâ€™s his mother, heâ€™s got his Moviola and heâ€™s editing, heâ€™s distributing his films himself â€“ not that I can do that but you know I can make a good film for a very little amount of money. I donâ€™t need a bunch of amazing crane shots. I donâ€™t need set pieces. The one crane shot that we had in the film we were like kids at Christmas, â€˜Itâ€™s the crane shot!â€™ The one prop, the one expensive thing that we had was like on Tuesday and it was the second to the last day of shooting. It was like â€˜Can I get up on the crane? Can I have a go at the crane?â€™ It was really childish and it was really silly but it was really liberating in terms of the way you told the story. There was never any moment where I was going, â€˜Shit, if I only had an extra $100K, I could do this. I think we spent every cent of the film when it was done and we were really happy with it.
Glen Hansard: That $5K we spent on the crane was absolutely worth it for that last shot where it pulls away from the window because that always gets me.
MoviesOnline: Thereâ€™s a point you raise about being fired if your performance was bad. If you guys wrote and performed the music and it was shot in real time, it wouldnâ€™t have been this movie if you hadnâ€™t been in it. Thereâ€™s no firing you.
Glen Hansard: What we could still be in and anyone could raise the point if they want, we could still be rubbish acting. Do you know what I mean?
John Carney: The weird thing is the film was actually originally written for a 26-year-old guy and a 30-year-old girl. I wanted to get Cillian Murphy in the lead role who I had worked with before and I was thinking Iâ€™d get some posh Czech Republic actress who is famous at home to come over to Ireland to make this film and Iâ€™d raise â€“ thatâ€™s still a low budget â€“ Iâ€™d raise like $2.5 million and Iâ€™d shoot it on 35mm and weâ€™d lock in for a 5 or 6-week shoot. So itâ€™s really weird the way the story has turned around with these guys. Youâ€™re right,. I guess you look at any film thatâ€™s good or that has good acting in it and you say well nobody else could have done that. And in this case, certainly nobody could have sung a song in that way.
Glen Hansard: Thereâ€™s also that thing where John had Cillian and he had a producer and then Cillian pulled out and John says. â€˜Well the producerâ€™s pulled outâ€™ and I was like, â€˜Brilliant! Letâ€™s make this f*cking film. Letâ€™s make it for nothing. Letâ€™s show them that this is a great story. Letâ€™s do it.â€™
MoviesOnline: And arenâ€™t you glad he had something better to do that day?
John Carney: Well, like we said, one of the lines we said about this film, letâ€™s say rather than getting great actors who can half sing, letâ€™s get great singers who can half act. [Laughs]
MoviesOnline: Who were the people who were singing in the group scene?
John Carney: They were our friends.
Glen Hansard: That was my mother. The blonde woman was my mother. And that was my flat we shot in.
MoviesOnline: How much of this film was autobiographical?
John Carney: For me, for all of us in a way, it was autobiographical but it was accidentally autobiographical. I never sat down and said Iâ€™ve got to hold all this stuff that I want to unburden. I started writing a thing about an artist who meets another artist and it was autobiographical in the sense that at the time myself and my girlfriend were living in different countries. We were overseas and we were trying to negotiate this relationship and that was difficult so I guess thatâ€™s reflected. It made it easier for me to write this lead character whoâ€™s kind of â€˜should I go to London or should I not go to London?â€™
And then, of course, the father thing in that film. Itâ€™s harder to leave your roots when youâ€™re older. If you leave home when youâ€™re 19, itâ€™s easier. Your parents are still young, you head off, youâ€™re wild. At this stage in my life, I was into my 30s, my parents were getting older, and specifically I had a really sentimental relationship with my dad and I was worried if I go over to London or America now at this kind of late stage, my parents are getting older. For me those are the two strands that made it easy for me to write and make the film.
Glen Hansard: And also I guess the relationship between the guy and the girl is very, very, very close to my relationship with Mara so there was very little acting on my part as we are very close so it was easy.
MoviesOnline: Are you and Mara together?
Glen Hansard: We actually are.
John Carney: Letâ€™s play some songs.
Glen Hansard: When youâ€™re kind of thrust into someoneâ€™s company over a long period of time in a very intense way, the dynamic can shift and just on this press tour weâ€™ve kind of given it a go and itâ€™s nice, itâ€™s sweet. It was always kind of heading that way but this f*cker [referring to John] just sped it up. [Laughs]
John Carney: A lot of storylines are autobiographical like the ex-girlfriend character that Glen watches on the screen, thatâ€™s actually my fiancÃ©e. Thatâ€™s kind of the 7 years of our relationship that I had taken of us together in our house. So I rang her up and I asked her permission could I use all our footage for the last 7 years and I got a flat answer that said, â€˜Lies, lies, lies.â€™ [Laughs] Weâ€™re still engaged. Put it that way. [Laughs] So weâ€™ll play you a couple songs from the movie. [to Glen] Iâ€™m not going to play bass.
Glen Hansard: [Laughing] Yes, you are.
John Carney: I havenâ€™t played bass in years. I couldnâ€™t believe the day we got into Chicago and I was in a really bad mood. We were on the bus for like two weeks together. I was going to bed and Glen said, â€˜Hang on a second. Weâ€™ve got something for you.â€™ That day Glen and Marketa went off shopping and I rang them up and I said, â€˜Do you want to hang out?â€™ and they said, â€˜No, weâ€™re doing our own thing,â€™ and I was like, â€˜Well, f*ck you then!â€™ Actually they were going to buy this for me [referring to bass guitar heâ€™s about to play] which is a Fender Precision 1972 which is exactly my age.
Glen Hansard: Heâ€™ an angel.
John Carney: Thatâ€™s what friends are for.
Glen Hansard: Is it in C?
John Carney: [checking his new bass guitar] Yes, itâ€™s in C.
The press conference ends on a lovely note with Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, and John Carney performing several songs from their new movie. "Onceâ€ opens in theaters this week.