Glen Hansard admits to "some hemming and hawing" before taking the starring role in the new movie "Once."
Hansard, who fronts the Irish rock group the Frames, has acted before -- a support role in the 1991 film "The Commitments." But playing a street musician known as The Guy in "Once," which was written and directed by founding Frames bassist John Carney, was an entirely different kind of challenge and circumstance.
"Things are going alright in my career," says Hansard, 37, who wrote or co-wrote the songs for the movie and produced the soundtrack. "I was happy enough with the way things were rolling along. I didn't necessarily want to rock the boat.
"So I was kinda scared about it. At the same time, I know John. I know Mar (co-star Marketa Irglova). All I had to really thing about was, 'Do I want to be involved in a movie that might appear like a bit of a vanity project, because it's my songs and I'm the actor."
Carney actually had Irish actor Cillian Murphy lined up for the film when he approached Hansard for some songs and to share some tales of his days busking in the Dublin streets -- where The Guy meets The Girl, played by Czech native Irglova, a relationship based around music that draws the two together in an intense and intimate but platonic fashion. When Murphy dropped out, Carney pitched the role to Hansard, who had already helped bring Irglova, the daughter of the Frames' Czechoslovakian promoter, into the project.
Hansard, who also worked with Irglova on his 2006 solo album "The Swell Season, says that The Guy "is incredibly close to reality...without actually stepping in and calling the guy Glen. I think it just falls far enough away from the tree not to be me." But he's cautious about what the starring role means in the big picture of his career.
"I don't buy the whole musician-actor idea," says Hansard, who plans to bring the Frames back to North America in the fall. "I think Tom Waits does it very, very well, Kris Kristofferson did it amazingly, but I can only think of very few others.
"I just find the whole idea of being an all-around entertainer kind of a bit cringey, a bit embarrassing. So I'm thinking of myself as a musician who happened to make this film that I'm very proud of."
"Once" opens Friday (May 25th) exclusively at the Uptown Birmingham 8, 211 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham. Call (248) 644-3456 or visit www.uptownpalladium12.com for showtimes.
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