“But since then Marketa and I have walked somewhere else and we’re in different parts of our lives now. It’s great to revisit this because it was the pivotal moment of my life, the biggest so far, so I can only really see it as a blessed project.”
But success, even at Hansard’s level, doesn’t give you a magic cloak, he reminds you. In fact it might take a few chinks out of your armor.
“I just find the whole idea of celebrity so…” He pauses and looks up at the walls, which are literally covered in the caricatures of hundreds of world famous stars.
“We’re living in an age now where the falsity of celebrity is so clear. It seems clearer than it’s ever been. There’s a big line between being a celebrity and an artist.”
Hansard’s enjoyment working with the cast of Once before it steps out on Broadway is obvious. Since they’re all musicians as well as performers he developed an easy shorthand with them that you can see in action when they talk together.
“I can sit back and watch it this and go, ‘Jesus, this is really good.’ They play all the music themselves, everyone in the cast plays, and speaking as an Irishman I think if you can go into a room full of strangers and sing and have a really good time doing it, then that’s where you can look around and say this is in the right hands.”
Hansard says he very much thinks of himself as an Irish performer.
“I started playing music on the street in Dublin and that’s where I learned my voice needs to hit the wall and reflect back to me, otherwise I’m not being heard. So now when I walk into these amazing rooms like Carnegie Hall, what more exciting opportunity will I have than to fill a room the size of that?”
Irglova, 23, the charismatic other part of the successful pairing, is as sincere and straightforward in the flesh as she is in the film (and the documentary about the film, The Swell Season).
The Czech Republic native agrees with Hansard that the show is in good hands.
“We created it and sent it out into the world and people have adapted it and made it part of their own lives,” Irglova, who currently lives in Brooklyn, tells the Irish Voice.
“That’s what keeps it living through all its incarnations. They’ve made it their own in a wonderful way. Glen and I are now in the position of supporting it along its way.”
The Swell Season, both the band and the film, grew out of the budding relationship between Hansard and Irglova, which began on the set of Once, leading to an offscreen romance, an album, then a tour and ultimately to painful interpersonal conflicts (the two remain close friends after the breakup, and Irglova married last year).
In the documentary it became clear that Irgolva wanted to step out from under the paternalistic shadow of her mentor Hansard and find her own voice.
It was not, she made clear, a dismissal of his influence or some kind of narcissistic desire to hog the spotlight herself, it was just a young girl asking for room to step into herself. Just like she does in the film.
“I’m glad that you noticed it wasn’t some kind of attention seeking thing. I just wanted to step out and set my own terms and grow up a bit, you know?” she says.
“Now I can see Once for what it was and what it’s becoming to this new cast. And I really like what I see. My advice is to wipe the slate clean of what you think you know from the film. This is something new and it’s magic.”
Once will open in previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater on February 28 and open officially on March 18. For tickets call 212-239-6200.
Here's the music video for the Oscar-winning song 'Falling Slowly':