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Confident he knew what Hansard was going through, he called him.

"He just wanted to know if I was OK, which was incredibly kind of him. He continues to live the only life he has ever known - the touring life - but increasingly craves the comfort of his home in Kildare, to watch the seasons arrive, and to tinker with his car.

The leads' on-screen love affair followed off-screen, and the following year the doomed sweethearts (they would split up shortly after) won Best Song at the Oscars for the track 'Falling Slowly'.

Hansard's acceptance speech, made immortal on You Tube, is the very definition of incredulous disbelief.

"I became a jobbing musician, which was all I ever wanted." A full 16 years on, he was asked to be in a film again.

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

Until, that is, Carney implored his friend to step in.That was his job, he said: to help me make a living." At 20, he landed his first record deal and, shortly after, was cast in the film adaptation of Roddy Doyle's The Commitments.The film was an international sensation, and in its slipstream the fictional act became real, touring the UK and America to packed houses. So he grew a beard, and refocused his sights on The Frames.Hansard had been reluctant to repeat his experience on The Commitments - "Nothing wrong with acting, it's just not for me" - but eventually agreed.The film was shot in three weeks on a shoestring budget of €135,000 and, if the finished product was rough around the edges, it was also quite lovely, seducing all who saw it."He knew I had a brain, just that I wasn't engaging it." The headmaster encouraged him to leave school.

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