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Last Updated: Friday, 22 February 2008, 11:00 GMT
Hansard rolls with Oscars 'dream'
By Caroline Briggs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, in Los Angeles

Glen Hansard
Hansard says that Once was produced on a shoestring budget

"I feel like a plumber at a flower show," laughs Glen Hansard, Oscar-nominated musician and star of low-budget indie film Once.

The Irish rock singer and actor - whose only other film credit was as Outspan in 1991 movie The Commitments - is just days away from performing his song Falling Slowly at the Academy Awards.

And Hansard, who is up for best original song, admits he is finding his Hollywood experience a little surreal.

It is a far cry from the Dublin streets where he and co-star Marketa Irglova made the film on a shoestring budget in just 17 days.

Humble beginnings

"I just feel so out of place among it all, and at the same time I'm just really glad I was invited to the party," he says.

"It's a dream, it's weird, and it's brilliant, and I'm just rolling with it."

Once is a simple love story about a struggling Irish busker and an impoverished Czech immigrant, who meet on a Dublin street and find they share a love for music.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in a scene from Once
Hansard found real-life love with Once co-star Marketa Irglova

With a budget of around 80,000, the film, directed by John Carney, was shot with "two cameras, a bit of a script and some songs," Hansard says.

But from those humble beginnings the film has gone on to captivate audiences and critics after it became an unexpected hit at the Sundance Film Festival.

No-one is more surprised at the film's success than Hansard himself.

Now aged 37, Hansard is a little greyer around the edges than when he starred in The Commitments.

His long red hair may be gone, but when talking about the film and co-star Irglova - also his off-screen partner - the excitement in his blue eyes is undiminished.

'Miracle'

He insists that they "got lucky".

"Our marketing plan for Once was to take one copy around cinemas in Ireland," he says.

"John would do an introduction, we would show the movie, then myself or Marketa would play four or five songs, and we would sell the DVD to people on their way out.

Glen Hansard
It's a dream, it's weird, and it's brilliant, and I'm just rolling with it
Oscar nominee Glen Hansard

"And that's kind of what we did. But John had sent it off to the Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca, Toronto and the Edinburgh festival, and it was rejected by everyone.

"Then we got one festival interested, in Galway in the west of Ireland. To cut a long story short this guy, who was on holiday, randomly walked in and watched it.

"Afterwards he said to us 'I work for Sundance and I want to take your film there'".

"We didn't dare tell him we had already been rejected! In the end, it was the miracle that the film needed."

After Sundance, the film was bought by Fox, and has far exceeded its modest ambitions, which only stretched as far as paying back the money put up by the Irish Film Board.

As well as the Oscar nomination, music from the film also received two Grammy nods.

"When we shot the song Falling Slowly in the piano shop in Dublin, we finished and John said 'cut.. that was great. And the Oscar for the best song goes to...' and we all laughed at how ridiculous it was," says Hansard.

"We were sat in a piano shop in Dublin, in January, making this no-budget film, and John was cracking jokes like that.

"Now here we are at the Oscars. It's absurd!"

Hansard says the film has brought nothing but happiness to his life during the last two years.

'Real blessing'

Its success has given his music career with Irish band The Frames a huge boost, and he found love with his 19-year-old co-star Irglova.

"It's beautiful and I feel very lucky that I have such a great person in my life. She very much grounds me. Creatively we are really good together too.

Glen Hansard with screen and real-life partner Marketa Irglova
Hansard says his journey with the film has been a happy one

"Going through this experience together has been a real blessing, and it has strengthened our relationship."

Hansard says he will be sad to say goodbye to Once when his Oscar performance ends on Sunday.

"Come Sunday, the story of Once will be over because it will either win or it won't and that will be it," he says.

"I'd love to walk away from this whole experience with the Oscar for my mother. For me it's not about the winning. As far as I'm concerned, the success of Once means we've already won."

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