Liz Smith: Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave Brush Up Their Shakespeare

And more from out Liz: Robert Evans shopping for an 8th? … Mark Wahlberg sinks the ink … Elton John asks, “Why are we not doing more?”

“WITH THE wife of the British Ambassador/Try a crack out of ‘Troilus and Cressida,’/If she says she won’t buy it or ‘tike’ it/Make her ‘tike’ it what’s more ‘As You Like It.’

“If she says your behavior is heinous/Kick her right in the Coriolanus!/Brush up your Shakespeare, and they’ll all kow-tow.”

So sang the semi-cultured gangsters in Cole Porter’s musical comedy classic, “Kiss Me Kate.”

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JANUARY IS generally a pretty dreary month, in terms of screenings. Most everything that will or might be award-nominated has been seen.

But sometimes there are exceptions. Take tomorrow night’s big do at the Paris Theatre on West 58th Street in Manhattan. Harvey Weinstein — once again masterfully ubiquitous — is hosting his company’s latest deluxe offering. I do mean the Ralph Fiennes-directed version of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus.” Set in modern times — screenplay by John Logan — this tale of timeless political intrigue stars Mr. Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain and Vanessa Redgrave.

Mr. Fiennes, Miss Chastain and Miss Redgrave are scheduled to attend the premiere. (I know, one imagines Vanessa would be Dame Vanessa by now, but it is rumored she has refused that honor on at least two occasions.)

This is Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut. It’s a big deal. Or, as Cole Porter put it: “Just declaim a few lines from Othella//And they’ll think you’re a hell of a fella//If your blonde won’t respond when you flatter’er/Tell her what Tony told Cleopatterer.”

Once you start on the score from “Kiss Me Kate” you just can’t stop!

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ROBERT EVANS, the legendary producer, has been married seven times. But who’s counting?

Robert is one of Hollywood’s most fascinating men — and he’d be the first to tell you that. And despite his unfortunate track record, he hasn’t grown cold at heart when it comes to the ladies. Indeed, he is now dating the delicious actress/model/mogul Daisy Fuentes. Miss Fuentes is currently running a hugely successful clothing line for Kohl’s.

Daisy and Bob were brought together by Hollywood’s Nikki Haskell, hostess and StarCaps diet queen. Mr. Evans must really trust Nikki. It was she who introduced him to his last wife, Lady Victoria White. That lasted a year. (Which is considerably more than Catherine Oxenberg could claim; she was annulled after nine whirlwind days.)

And even though Joe Eszterhas refers to Evans — his good friend — as “the devil,” most of Bob’s ladies remain fond of him. In fact, Lady Victoria maintains a home right next door to her ex.

Now that we are firmly in the grip of political mudslinging, I wouldn’t mind reporting something amusing, like Miss Fuentes becoming the eighth Mrs. Robert Evans.

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TALK ABOUT watching a public figure mature beautifully. I mean Mark Wahlberg, onetime rapper/underwear model/bad boy. He has turned himself into a fine actor, a wildly successful producer, a devoted husband and father.

How far has he come along the road to taming that long-ago beast? Mark is going to remove his tattoos — all six of them — including an elaborate decoration across his chest. Why? Because he doesn’t want his children to get tattoos. He is going to take the kids along when he has the ink removed, so they can see what a painful process it is. He thinks tattoos send a negative message.

He also says he would not encourage any of his children to get into show biz. Just the opposite. However, if any of them are simply passionate about acting, he’ll support their choice; after they finish their schooling. (Funny, most actors with children say the same thing. Nobody thinks it’s a nice business, except if you happen to become a star and get rich and then have the luxury and opportunity to declare — “it sucks!”)

I’ll always remember Mark as the baby-faced fledgling actor interviewed back in the early 1990’s. He had this awful reputation, but couldn’t have been sweeter. Like a choirboy. As I left him, another journalist was waiting. About a week later, I read that interview. Mark was everything he hadn’t been with me — snarky and profane.

I was surprised, but impressed that Mark was so aware of the difference in media outlets; how to behave with me, how to behave with Interview magazine, how to know what was expected of him.

Right then I knew that one day I’d be referring to him as “Mr. Walhberg.”

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BOOK NEWS: In July, Little, Brown & Company will publish Love Is The Cure: Ending the Global AIDS Epidemic. Author? Sir Elton John. Elton has raised millions fighting the disease through his own foundation. Despite advances made in medicine — people who can afford it, live longer and healthier lives — AIDS continues to take a terrible toll, worldwide.

Elton says: “Why are we not doing more? This is a question I have thought deeply about, and wish to answer — and to help change — by writing this book.” He will also read the audio version of his work.

All proceeds benefit The Elton John AIDS Foundation.

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