Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
May 29, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

GUFFAWS 2 Certainly, Steven Spielberg knows from emotions: All the man has to do is turn on the camera and we start to cry. But who knew he was a regular comedian? His latest directorial effort is a comedy that will debut in June on, the joint Internet venture of Paul Allen, DreamWorks, and Imagine. Ron Howard is also working on a short, and whoever finishes first will have the honor of launching the site, according to a source close to the filmmakers. The projects are under such tight wraps that company employees know only that the films’ running times will be less than five minutes, and that stars include Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Steve Martin.

OPEN BARS Who needs freedom to express oneself? He’s behind bars for a parole violation, but Robert Downey Jr. is still participating in ”The Last Party 2000,” the sequel to his 1993 documentary ”The Last Party.” Directed by rocker-model-actor Donovan Leitch, the new film has Philip Seymour Hoffman interviewing celebs and normal folk about the presidential campaign. Downey, who’s providing commentary from jail, should be released just days before the Nov. 7 election.

PLAY TIME My, how Kenneth Branagh loves sprucing up Shakespeare. Now that he’s added songs to the Bard’s work in Miramax’s ”Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which opens June 9, he’s turning his attention to a contemporary adaptation of ”Macbeth.” ”It’s a very timely story, all about ambition,” says Branagh. Still, he himself is not so ambitious this time around: While he’ll adapt the screen-play and star as the murderous king, someone else will direct.

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