The idea in persuading Into The Wild song composer Eddie Vedder to perform a short acoustic set at the Paramount theatre last night was to promote Vedder’s soundtrack album (featuring nine originals, two covers). It was also, naturally, about refreshing everyone’s thinking about Sean Penn‘s film being a serious Best Picture contender. Which it seems to be. Penn’s best-directed, much-admired film has caught a kind of current; ditto Emile Hirsch‘s Oscar-calibre lead performance and Hal Holbrook‘s supporting turn.

Into The Wild star Emile Hirsch, director-screenwriter Sean Penn at tonight’s Eddie Vedder performance (i.e., songs he composed for the film plus two or three others) at Paramount Studios — Friday, 11.2.07, 10:10 pm.

Penn and Hirsch introduced Vedder around 10:10 pm following a screening of the film. (I was off seeing the 3-D Beowulf at Universal Citywalk until 9:30 pm.) Vedder sang six or seven tunes, the stand-outs being “Rise Up,” “No Ceiling,” “Drifting” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” We all love that rough gravelly voice, don’t we? I was standing ten or so feet away as he performed, and admiring his fret work as he went through the chords of the John Lennon song.

(l. to r.) Penn, Hirsch, Eddie Vedder following performance — applause, cheers, whoo-whoos.

Long-haired and bearded, dressed in denim and work boots, Vedder seemed healthy, alert and in good spirits. I noticed and for some reason considered the fact that Vedder has relatively small feet.

I saw Mark Ruffalo milling around, didn’t say hi. Kris Tapley reported last night that former HE hombre Cameron Crowe (hasn’t responded to e-mails in ages, probably hates me for bringing up the post-Elizabethtown fetal-tuck position syndrome), Ringo Starr and Wynona Rider were there also.