Marketa Irglova

Women's Impact Report: Defying Convention

It was an instant classic Oscar moment. “Falling Slowly,” from the infectious indie romance “Once,” won the Oscar for original song. But before co-writer Marketa Irglova could deliver her acceptance speech, she and co-winner Glen Hansard — who did get to speak — were ushered offstage. A palpable feeling of dashed expectations ran through the Kodak Theater; after all, this was the charming little indie that grossed $20 million worldwide, boosted the careers of the musicians who starred in the film and, cornily enough, captured the hearts of filmgoers everywhere. Show host Jon Stewart caught the vibe, broke protocol and brought her back onstage to address the crowd.

Evoking a fresh-faced European ingenue from the early 1960s, the poised Irglova, graceful in a simple black gown, used her 30 seconds in the spotlight to expound upon the audacity of hope and provided one of the few Oscar highlights where symbolism, as opposed to cynicism, all but dwarfed the award itself.

“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,” she said. “Fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up,” she continued. “This song was written from the perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are.”

If winning an Oscar makes you an instant Hollywood player, you’d never know it from the Czech Republic native, who could not be reached for this article. Her commitment to music is evident in the brutal tour schedule of the band she fronts with Hansard, the Swell Season.

The daughter of a musician and concert promoter, Irglova met Hansard during a Czech tour of his band the Frames. They wrote and played music together for years before director John Carney cast them in “Once,” made in 17 days for $120,000.

Now living in Dublin, she’ll find the time between dates to work on the follow-up to the “Once” soundtrack and the Swell Season debut, targeting an August or September 2009 release.

As for more acting, she’s fielding offers but can’t see how to fit a film into her plethora of tour commitments. No matter, the film world stopped and listened when a couple of dedicated artists captured Oscar gold.

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