Oscar joy for Once and Day-Lewis

By Declan O'Kelly, Assistant Editor
April / May 2008

It was a victorious night for the Irish independent movie Once, as its stars and songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova picked up an Oscar for best original song for “Falling Slowly” at the ceremony held at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on February 24.  It was the first nomination and win for both, and Hansard could hardly believe what was happening as he accepted the famous statue.

“What are we doing here? This is mad,” said the 37-year-old Hansard, who is also the lead singer of the Irish band The Frames. “Thanks for taking this movie seriously!”

Just as 20-year-old Irglova was about to start her speech, the orchestra cut her off, and she left the stage with Hansard as the show went to commercial break. In one of the evening’s standout moments, when the telecast returned, host Jon Stewart brought Irglova back out to make her remarks and she took full advantage.

“This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling, and this, the fact that we’re standing here tonight, the fact that we’re able to hold this, it’s just to prove no matter how far out your dreams are, it’s possible,” said the Czech with the Irish brogue.

Ironically, the song almost didn’t make it into the running as the Academy conducted an investigation in January to verify that it was written for the movie, since  it had appeared on a Frames album and also on an album released by Hansard and Irglova.  After looking into the matter, the Academy was satisfied “Falling Slowly” met all criteria.

Once is a musical love story about two musicians, whose names we never learn, set in Dublin. Since the movie was made, Hansard and Irglova have become an item in real life.

“We shot on two Handycams. It took us three weeks to make. We made it for a hundred grand. We never thought we would come into a room like this and be in front of you people,” Hansard told the Oscar audience. Directed by John Carney, the small-budget film also won the World Cinema Audience Award at last year’s Sundance Festival.

As widely expected, Daniel Day-Lewis made a clean sweep of the major best actor awards for the year when he picked up an Academy Award for his portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Day-Lewis accepted his award from last year’s best actress winner, Helen Mirren, and the 50-year-old paid special tribute to his wife, grandfather, father and three sons. It is the second best actor Oscar for Day-Lewis, who won in 1990 for playing Christy Brown in the Jim Sheridan-directed My Left Foot.

The movie Atonement and its two Irish nominees did not fare so well. Thirteen-year-old Saoirse Ronan from Carlow lost out to Tilda Swinton as Best Supporting Actress, and Armagh’s Seamus McGarvey went down to Robert Elswit of There Will Be Blood for best cinematography. Irish-American Kevin O’Connell, who was nominated for the 20th time this year in the best sound category with colleagues Peter J Devlin from Belfast and Greg Russell for their work on Transformers, was the bridesmaid once again after the award went to The Bourne Ultimatum.

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