IT seems being one of the best-known actors in the world counts for little in a city teeming with performers.

When Hugh Grant ventured out to see a show this weekend at Edinburgh's world-famous Festival Fringe, he faced the indignity of being turned away at the door by bouncers.

The star of Four Weddings And A Funeral went out in the capital with 10 friends to see US comedian Eddie Pepitone perform at the Just The Tonic venue at The Tron pub, just off the Royal Mile, on Friday night.

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But the evening suffered a hitch after some of the group could not produce proof of their age when requested by bouncers and were denied entry.

Turning away high-profile festival-goers is not a tactic many venues will be copying this year with poor ticket sales worrying promoters.

A source at the venue, who did not wish to be identified, said: "Hugh Grant had reserved tickets and the group were about to go through the door when the bouncers asked some of his friends for ID.

"Because a few of them didn't have ID, they refused to let anyone in. I can see two sides to the story, as it is a pub and the bouncers obviously don't like people entering without ID. And if people are under-age fair enough – but his friends did not look under-age.

"There was no harm done, Hugh was an absolute gentlemen and his friends were very lovely and they just walked off. He was just wanting to see a comedy show and the bouncers did recognise him. But it was all because a couple of his friends didn't have ID."

She added that the comedian, Eddie Pepitone, "found out about it afterwards and was a bit gutted that Hugh Grant had been turned away".

Grant, 51, flew to Scotland earlier this month for a golfing holiday in the Highlands.

The actor is a well-known supporter of The Highlanders Museum, near Inverness, and has longstanding ties with the Fort George barracks where it is based. His father served in the Seaforth Highlanders and his grandfather was depot commander at the barracks after the second world war.

Last night a duty manager at The Tron said she was aware of the incident involving Grant, but had not been present so could not comment further.

Many venues at the Fringe would welcome a visit by Grant and his group friends due to poor ticket sales. The event has been hit by a clash with the Olympics for the first 10 days, the terrible weather and a public seemingly reluctant to part with their money in the current economic gloom.

The woes come despite this being the Fringe's biggest year, with 2,695 shows over 279 venues and an estimated 2,457 performers in fierce competition for audiences.

Veteran Fringe producer Guy Masterton– who has two shows, The Half and A Soldier's Song, as part of the Assembly Theatre programme this year – claimed advance sales were running at their lowest levels for around two decades.

He said: "There are far less bookings being made for Fringe shows this year. It's definitely a combination of the Olympics and the recession.

"A lot of people are holding off on buying tickets and leaving it very late. It's squeaky bum time for a lot of people. I've not known it like this in the 20 years I've been coming here."

Promoter Brett Vincent, who is managing several acts at the Fringe including Australian comedian Jim Jefferies, told the Sunday Herald: "I have been speaking to a lot of comedians and a few who I thought would have sold out every single day haven't.

"The Olympics definitely did have an impact, especially with the newer acts that couldn't get the reviews out because the Olympics took over the papers this year.

"The weather has been a factor as well – while the sun was out, the audiences that were in shows weren't fantastic, because they were just thinking about being in the sun, and tickets for the shows didn't sell well because everyone was in the parks and bars."

l Meanwhile, the chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has stepped down after 17 years in the role. Lady Elizabeth Smith, widow of the late Labour leader John Smith, said she felt it was time for some "fresh thinking" and for someone new to lead the board.

She has been chairman of the Fringe Society since 1995, and stepped down at its annual general meeting in the city yesterday. The Society will announce the new chairman in October.