Craig slips into Bond role

THE NEW James Bond, Daniel Craig, was filming “The Visiting” in a Baltimore supermarket with Nicole Kidman when he got word he’d been selected as 007. After “Casino Royale” opens this week, he’ll work again with Nicole on another movie “His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass.” The blond, blue-eyed, now buff Craig has signed for two more Bond movies, but admits his feelings were hurt by public reaction against his taking the role in the first place. He was heartened by Sean Connery’s approval and a loving message. He says of his idol: “He did something extraordinary with that role. He was bad, sexy, animalistic and stylish, and it is because of him I am here today.”

HILARY SWANK is busy in New York with her latest film “P.S. I Love You,” co-starring Gerard Butler, Kathy Bates and Gina Gershon. (Gerard was the phantom of the opera in the movie version.). Swank sustained a small cut on her forehead last week when a pair of trick suspenders snapped and one end flew up and gave her a whack. This drama is also the P.S. of its producer Wendy Finerman, who is still taking bows for “The Devil Wears Prada.” … In San Francisco, Marlo Thomas is acting onstage as a blonde in Elaine May’s one-act “George Is Dead,” which May also directs. This is part of the Magic Theater’s “Moving Right Along” series of one-act sketches. Thomas is having a ball and has received terrific reviews as the dizzy Doreen; they hope the venture is a pre-B’way run. Marlo’s character has been described as “a whirlwind of pampered frivolousness.”

THE GORGEOUS George these days is still Phyllis, onetime Miss America, and she’ll be honored at the Alzheimer’s Assn. Rita Hayworth Gala happening Tuesday at the Waldorf. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan still helms this with Deborah Grubman and Allen Brill assisting. Rolex watches have underwritten the show “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” and Michael McDonald stars. Don’t miss the silent auction trip to the Kentucky Derby and a stay at San Simeon. Call 212-843-1712 for tix.

BORAT finally cornered Conan O’Brien and got the nighttime host to admit on air that he is a real natural redhead — all over. This stuff about “matching collars and cuffs” is usually directed at women and seems kind of denigrating and derogatory. It was fun to see a guy getting the treatment. And congratulations to Conan for going along with the gag. … Taye Diggs says, “I was never 100% comfortable with the women I was hanging with because I was afraid they’d find out that I’m still the same person I was in junior high. With Idina, I didn’t have to be ashamed of the nerd inside that came out.” This is Taye speaking of his wife, Broadway’s Idina Menzel of “Wicked” fame.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)

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