Currently playing to strong reviews and surprisingly robust box office, John Carney’s deceptively slight Once is a perfect antidote for the beginning of a summer season top-heavy with the weight of blockbuster sequels. A simple love story cast as a folk musical, Once was an unexpected sensation at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival where it played alongside a raft of high-profile duds. What follows is Jeannette Catsoulis’s conversation with Once’s writer-director (and musician) John Carney, actor and front man of Irish band the Frames, Glen Hansard (Guy), and actress and musician Markéta Irglová (Girl).
Reverse Shot: Where did your initial idea for the film come from?
John Carney: The idea really came from being a musician and loving music. When I watch films I find myself responding to the score much more than the dialogue. I always imagine that the director wrote the music—when you’re young, you think the director does everything—and I would always be blown away by the music in Hitchcock films, for example. You can watch those without any of the dialogue and the music would just carry you along.
All day, instead of working, I would be downloading music. So I started thinking, how can I turn that into work? In the few films I made before this, I had too much music. So rather than going backwards and stripping away the music, I decided to go full on. What would it be like nowadays to make a musical with eight songs, very little dialogue, and a small story, just a two-hander really? So the whole project came out of being a musician and being a fan of musicals—and just listening.