Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson has signed up to star in a new film by John Carney, the Irish writer-director responsible for the hit 2006 indie musical film Once. The low-budget film made international names out of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova and was awarded an Oscar for best original song, which the couple performed at the Academy Awards ceremony.
The new film – called Can a Song Save Your Life? – will be executive produced by Judd Apatow, who was behind films such as Get Him to the Greek and Knocked Up. Although the male lead has not yet been cast, Mark Ruffalo and Jim Carrey have been rumoured as possible leads.
The film has a budget of around $10 million, relatively modest by Hollywood standards but a massive leap from Once, which was shot on a shoestring budget of €130,000 (US$160,000).
Set in New York, the film tells the story of a washed-up A&R man who forms a passionate bond with a young singer-songwriter (Johansson) from out of town.
‘‘I’ve been writing it for a year and a half,” said Carney, who will also direct the film. ‘‘I went out to Los Angeles to meet Scarlett a couple of months ago. She was everything you could imagine – very hot, elegant and she’s really smart.”
Johansson will sing a number of songs in the film – the actress has previously released an album of Tom Waits covers and collaborated on a record with Pete Yorn.
Shooting will begin in New York next year.
Meanwhile, Once will get another round of publicity this autumn, as a musical version of the hit movie becomes an off-Broadway show.
The stars of the original film, Hansard and Irglova, have written the music and lyrics for the stage production, and the award-winning Dublin-born playwright Enda Walsh has written the script, taking on the commission after Carney decided against it.
‘‘I started to write Once, the stage version, but I realised I was done with the story and exhausted with that film, even though I love it,” said Carney. ‘‘There’s a time to move on.”
Walsh accepted the role on the basis of the involvement of John Tiffany, associate director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and choreographer Steven Hoggett.
‘‘They make such great work,” Walsh told The Sunday Business Post. ‘‘I also really loved the music and I could see the lo-fi quality of it working.”
The plot, which is based on a growing friendship between two musicians in Dublin, represents a departure in style for Walsh, who’s best known for claustrophobic drama like Disco Pigs and Misterman, which will feature in the upcoming Galway Arts Festival.
‘‘It’s like a massive holiday from myself,” Walsh said. ‘‘There’s a big part of myself that yearns to feel that optimistic.”
The musical adaptation will open at the New York Theatre Workshop in November, with Broadway a possibility after that.