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Until, that is, Carney implored his friend to step in.

Hansard had been reluctant to repeat his experience on The Commitments –"Nothing wrong with acting, it's just not for me" – but eventually agreed.

"I've been filthy for days, and I'm happy as a pig in shit.

"Eddie made me feel slightly less self-conscious about it," he says.

"I'm grateful for that." Hansard and Vedder became friends in unlikely, and tragic, circumstances.

It was 2007, and Hansard's friend and former Frames bassist John Carney had begun working on Once, a tale of two buskers in Dublin falling in love through music.

Cillian Murphy had signed on to appear alongside a 19-year-old newcomer, Czech musician Marketa Irglova; Hansard would write the songs. "Cillian doesn't like me saying this, but he had reservations about some of my songs. But, then, the character was pretty dark." With Murphy gone, the funding disappeared, and the project seemed doomed.

I didn't know why." It was Bruce Springsteen, sitting up with him one night drinking whiskey, who explained things to him.

"He said that everything I had ever been in my life – that guy struggling against the world – had died the night we won the Oscar.Like The Commitments before it, Once went on to have a second life as a wildly successful stage musical, with productions all over the world. True, I didn't like the idea of it becoming a musical – I feared overexposure would kill it – but I suppose it helps me stand up and be in the world.In 2012, it won eight Tony awards on Broadway, casting a shadow that fell squarely on his shoulders. And if I am remembered for that one song, well, there are worse fates…" Still, he stopped playing "Falling Slowly" altogether at concerts – not entirely sick of it, but in no hurry to revisit it. But then Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder invited him on tour, and insisted they sing it together nightly.In 2000, during a Pearl Jam performance at the Roskilde music festival near Copenhagen in Denmark, eight fans were crushed to death in the crowd (a ninth died later in hospital).Confident he knew what Hansard was going through, he called him.It's all very abstract compared with nuts and bolts.

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