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March 19, 2000|KATHLEEN CRAUGHWELL

HATCHING A PLAN

For the upcoming clay stop-motion animation adventure "Chicken Run," DreamWorks has launched an extensive licensing program with more than 40 vendors, among them Playmates Toys, Parker Bros. and Interactive Studios. Expect to see toys, interactive video games, children's apparel and even housewares in stores around the film's June 29 release date. What you won't find in stores is a set of ceramic eggs DreamWorks has been sending out to members of the media for the past eight months. Interestingly, nothing from this "egg-of-the-month club" has shown up on the popular auction Web site EBay, where objects like the eggs usually fetch big bucks from collectors.

LADY CAPULET AND GERTRUDE

Diane Venora, who played a hilariously grotesque Lady Capulet in director Baz Luhrmann's flashy 1996 "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet," returns to Shakespeare with her role as Gertrude, the winsome and comely widowed mother of lead character Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) in writer-director Michael Almereyda's contemporary interpretation of "Hamlet." In 1990 Venora played Ophelia in actor-director Kevin Kline's film version of the same tragedy, which was made for PBS' "Great Performances" series. Venora also appears in "The Insider" as tobacco company whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand's beleaguered wife Lucretia. Miramax will release "Hamlet" on May 12.

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"Here is one of the jokes I am not going to tell: Steven Spielberg's kidney came out six weeks ago and it's already grossed $20 million domestically."

Carl Reiner, master of ceremonies at the March 11 Directors Guild of America Awards, to an audience of more than 1,000 that included Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Spielberg.

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