In 2006, Marketa Irglova was approached by Glen Hansard to collaborate on music for a small Irish film he was being asked to score. The film was called Once and was being made by The Frames one time bassist and Glen’s friend, John Carney. The two entered a studio in the Czech Republic and recorded close to twenty songs for the film. The project was christened The Swell Season after a book by Czech author Josef Skvorecky which both Glen and Marketa were reading and inspired by during this session. John had been looking to cast a woman in her 30’s from Eastern Europe who played piano in the role of his leading female character and asked Glen if he had met someone who fit these requirements somewhere on his travels. Glen said he knew a girl in Czech Republic who could be just what he was looking for except she was only 17. John asked Glen to invite Marketa to come to Ireland and audition for the part, which he did. Marketa gladly accepted, took time off school and boarded a plane to Dublin. A dinner party was held at Glen’s apartment and the circle of his friends and family invited, among them John Carney with his partner Marcella. Towards the end before people scattered back to their homes, John asked Marketa to play him something on the piano. She performed a few classical pieces which she had prepared for this purpose and John offered her the part. A concert in Dublin’s music venue Whelan’s was organized for Glen and Marketa to play some music together and once hearing and seeing the chemistry between the two John asked Glen to also star in the movie. This chance offer accepted by both would reward them handsomely.
ConorM_090515_2367Once went to Sundance in January 2007 with little to no expectation. The movie was made for around $150,000 and stared a complete unknown in Marketa and a relative unknown in Glen. The film featured a score by the two of them and won the World Cinema Audience Award. The movie was released to critical acclaim in May of the same year and the two were singled out for both their acting and singing performances in it. Throughout 2007 the two performed as The Swell Season and Marketa experienced her first time actually being “on tour”. It was an overwhelming time for someone fresh out of the U.S. equivalent to high school. But it was also a magical time as the journey seemed to be heading to a place nobody could have ever predicted.
At the start of 2008, one of the songs Marketa wrote with Hansard for Once “Falling Slowly” was nominated for, and subsequently won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Marketa became the first Czech woman to win an Oscar, and at 19-years-old became the youngest person to win an Oscar in a musical category. Glen and Marketa performed the song live on the Oscar broadcast at the famous Kodak Theater introducing the band to an even wider audience. When they went on stage to receive their awards, Marketa’s acceptance speech was preempted by the orchestra’s music cue to leave the stage. For the first time in the history of the awards show, Marketa was invited back to deliver her speech following the commercial break. A classic Oscar moment was born.