For Glen Hansard, the sudden burst of fame he got after starring in the movie Once was a period of extreme highs and tense lows, and they're all chronicled in the new documentary The Swell Season. The highs included an Oscar win for Best Original Song and a real-life romance with his Once co-star and bandmate Marketa Irglova, but each of those wins came with a price: Hansard and Irglova found it difficult to navigate their post-awards fame (and in one memorable conversation in the documentary, Hansard scraps with his Oscar-obsessed parents), which eventually led to several fights and the dissolution of their relationship. Hansard hasn't given any interviews about the movie until now, but as Vulture found out, he had plenty to say about that time in his life, and how he and Irglova have moved on since — she, with new husband Tim Iseler.
A lot of significant things have happened since the documentary was filmed, including the fact that Marketa is now married. Was it a tricky thing to navigate?
It was tricky in that we split up and had to remain in a band. Whenever we play music together, it's fuckin' intimate, there's no two ways about it. You cannot sing with someone and not be intimate -- it just doesn't work, and that's why I'm not playing in the band right now. I'm still in the band, but I'm not playing with Mar right now. Mar, of course, fell in love with one of the members of our crew while we were all on tour together, so that was a little difficult for us all to sort out. We were living in a bubble, you know? We were on a tour bus traveling around, and there comes a point where you have to say, "Okay, I'll jump off the bus for a year or two," and that's kind of what happened.
But at the same time, the one thing that me and Mar have always been with each other is very honest. Mar needed to move in the direction she moved, I needed to move in the direction I moved, but we're still very good. The saddest thing that could happen out of all of this is that we'd stop being friends. That's the worst-case scenario. If me and her are still buddies ... you know, she's had to deal with discomfort, too. She's had to deal with me making decisions that have hurt her. So Mar getting married is something that I think is very good for her. If I could say anything about Marketa, it's that this really suits her personality. To get married with someone who loves and respects her and who she loves and respects, to me, makes total sense. I'm very happy for her, genuinely. And I really like Tim, he's a fucking gentleman.
Did watching yourself in this documentary open your eyes about anything?
I'm definitely uncomfortable when I watch it. I regret some of the conversations, like the conversation I have with my mother. I'm very happy to see my father talk, as he's since died. My dad really opened up, and honestly, that was the longest conversation we ever had. [Laughs.] It sounds sort of bizarre that it happened in front of cameras, I guess, but it takes all sorts of things to make the world go 'round. The stuff that goes down between me and Mar? It makes me sad, because we're such good mates, we're so much closer than what you see on-camera. It's not like you see us having a screaming argument or something, but there's definitely the sense of two people moving in separate directions, and if I could have edited the film myself, I would have focused on the fun we had. We had so much fun, and we're generally a fun bunch of people, and I fear that the documentary focused maybe a little too bit on "guy gets everything he wanted, guy is miserable," which honestly I don't think is accurate. I don't like people that respond that way to success — believe me, I know a couple of people who have successful careers, and they're just miserable people. I'm always the one to say, "Look, if success is making you miserable, then give it back," and yet I look at the documentary and I see that same guy. So it's interesting, and a little embarrassing.
I was really impressed by how candid the two of you were in front of the camera. Were there any times when you would have preferred that they stopped filming, or did you just think, "We signed up for this, so warts and all"?
I have to be honest: I asked those guys to do it! I thought it would be an interesting chapter, that this was a thing you wanted all your life and then bang, the door opens to a whole new level of your career. I thought, Wouldn't it be amazing to follow that? I never assumed Mar would respond the way she did, because she wasn't really into it. She was like, "Look, I don't care for this film crew, and I don't want them knocking around in my face. But it's something you've invited in, so I'm more than happy [to do it]."
Marketa says in the film that you always have to create conflicts in your life. Do you think that's true?
I think she pretty much had me nailed the whole way, on- and off-screen. As an artist, your life just seems too bloody boring when it's black and white, so yeah, that's possibly true, although I don't think I create dramas for myself. But when she says it, of course it rings true, and it even gets to me now. At that point, I was still in my thirties, and sometimes I refer to my thirties as "the decade of the beast." I really believe that it was the period in my life where I was most lost and kind of an asshole. [Laughs.] It's interesting for me that it was documented, because Once was such a beautiful thing and the last thing I would want to ever come from that is some sort of misery from what happened afterwards. But yeah, I think I was kind of a dick at that particular moment and was drinking too much and not quite knowing how to deal with what had happened. I feel a lot more stable now, a lot more secure in my own skin right now than I was then. Do I create conflicts for myself? Sure I do. Am I an asshole? Sure I am. Am I also a good person? Sure I am. I don't fucking know! It all changes from day to day.
What can you tell me about the Once musical that's opening Off Broadway? When the idea of turning it into a stage musical was first suggested to you, did you immediately respond to it, or did you need to be convinced?
I needed to be convinced, of course. My initial response was, "Jesus, why can't we leave it alone? Why would they do that?" On the other hand, I'd talked to friends in other bands who'd put musicals on and they talked about what a big deal it is for your career and all that stuff. Honestly, I've come around on the idea. They wanted us involved, and I wanted to wash my hands of it and walk away, I just thought, That doesn't resonate with me at all. And then I had a conversation with a friend of mine who's a musician, and he was like, "Dude, don't let them fuck with your music! Get your ass in that fucking play and make sure they don't fuck it up!" So it was a very strong conversation that I took to heart, and I called the producer of the musical and said, "I'd like to help, and I'd like to be involved."
So have you seen the final version?
I went to see a version of it in Boston, and I have to say, I was really, really terrified to see it, but I was floored. It was fucking brilliant. I was very cynical about it, so I'm very happy to report that they did a great job. There will always be a part of me that's like, "A Broadway musical, are you kidding?" but having said that, I went to see a bunch of musicals to brush up on it, and although it's not really my world and the aesthetic I subscribe to, I thought they did an amazing job.
Is it a little weird to watch an actor who's essentially playing you playing yourself?
It's a little odd, but not much more odd than hearing any guy sing your song. You know, the guy did a good job, and of course, he's much better looking than me, which I think is hilarious. The guy looks like Colin Farrell. [Laughs.]