FILM / Take One Actor: Stairway to movie hell heaven: At first nights, the last thing on people's minds is seeing a movie

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My agent calls. He's got a ticket for a film premiere. He wants me to go. 'After all, you never know who you might meet.'

So, at eight o'clock, I am seated in a cinema auditorium next to a man who assumes I know who he is. I do, but I'm not so sure he does. He keeps referring to himself in the third person as if he were really someone else. He's not alone. When I look around, I am reminded of a holiday camp lookalike competition. Except that here everyone's dressed to look like themselves. When my neighbour praises a pop concert he'd gone to, the supergroup in question turn round from the row in front and thank him in person.

The film is introduced. The applause is rapturous. It's a comedy. The film ends. The applause is rapturous. The lights go up. The stars go out. I should get a taxi to the party - it seems the thing to do. But I decide to walk - it's only 100 yards.

I am at the club entrance. The third person phenomenon has come into its own here as everybody shouts out their full name hoping to catch the eye of the clipboard manager. It's like On the Waterfront, when the dockers fight for work.

Inside, about to be sucked into the seething depths, I am suddenly stopped. I turn to the security guard with the dry-eyed stare of someone caught at a checkout without enough cash.

'You can go up there if you want,' he tells me. 'You've got a blue pass.' He pins it to my chest. My sins have been forgiven. I enter 'Heaven' by means of a huge central staircase, like David Niven in A Matter of Life and Death.

Here, nobody talks about the film. Nobody came to see the film. They came to be seen seeing the film. And they've come to this bar to be seen having been seen seeing the film. As assorted industry grandees line its peripheries, I am reminded of a stud-farm paddock where exhibitors come to tour their prize livestock around the circuit.

I find myself marooned on the edge of the universe near where the screenwriters gather. There, I hear my name being called and turn to look. It's the film's star. Having already blazed a trail around the room, she's now heading towards me at a frightening speed, satellites in tow. We're sure to collide.

We do. We first met on a set in Moscow a few years back. It was with her I had my first insight into the power of fame. She took me to the front of the queue at McDonald's.

Now I am about to tell her how much I admire the director of this evening's film but I don't get the chance. In fact, I say nothing and just listen as, in a room filled to at least four times its capacity, she stretches herself out over a three-seat couch. And as she talks, I begin to think I must be a very poor analyst as each of her seemingly unending problems are exactly as the last time we met.

'How do they look?' She wants me to assess her legs. 'I put them on specially,' she confides, as if she had a wardrobe of spares from which to choose. I stare at them for a moment, remembering that it was these legs, less than two hours ago, stretched across a 70ft screen. And for the first time in 30 minutes, I speak.

'They looked great,' I say and she smiles, triumphant.

'There's someone else you should talk to.' I am led back through 'Heaven', through the meteor shower of minor celebrities, past the producer who made a lot of 'big ones' in the Sixties, straight up to the one angel on whose cloud, tonight, everyone wants to sit - the film's director. And I suddenly realise that, in the film arena, it's this type of circuit training that can really shape you up.

So when I finally leave, I know I should feel like a world-wearied Humphrey Bogart in The Barefoot Contessa. But I don't. Not really. The next day I ring my agent first thing. After all, I need to tell him who I met.

Hugo Blick writes regular reports about life as a working and resting film actor.