Claire Simon casting a Detroit series; Element 79 layoffs due to account losses

CASTING DIRECTOR CLAIRE SIMON is in Detroit last week casting parts for a new ABC series, “The Prince of Motor City,” to be directed by “Lost” writer Jack Bender, known for action and drama.

Cast of the hourlong drama includes Andie MacDowell, Piper Perabo, Aunjanue Ellis and Warren Christie thus far.

According the ABC, “The Prince” is inspired by Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Philosophy lecturer Billy Hamilton is the Hamlet character, questioning whether to take over his father’s business after his scion dad is murdered.

ELEMENT 79 has started to lay off about 15% of its staff of 220, due to the substantial Gatorade loss earlier this year. The layoffs are being spread across the agency in all departments. Element 79 also recently lost the Tropicana, Propel water, Lays and Tostitos accounts.

RADAR’S GREG SOMERLOT edited a cinematic McDonald’s Happy Meals/Leo Burnett spot that partners with Dreamworks’ hit animated movie, “Kung Fu Panda.”

The spot was filmed on location outside of Beijing by Partizan Entertainment director Paul Goldman. Po and Master Tigress, two characters in “Kung Fu Panda,” appear in the spot.

Agency credits: SPV/CD, Jon Hansa, VP/CD, Tony Katalinic, VP/executive producer, Denis Giroux. For Radar, Graham Gangi produced.

WHILE ACTOR DAVID SCHWIMMER was in town last month, he went to Vagabond Audio to narrate a 90-minute multimedia tour of the Hancock Observatory for Antenna, a company that produces audio tours.

The tour, contained in a handheld device with a video component, will become available June 30. Vagabond’s Drew Weir engineered the session.

Vagabond Audio is also feeling good about the two bronze Tellys it recently won for sound design.

One was for commercial sound design for a Sargento Cheese/Jacobson Rost spot and the other for film and video sound design for a feature, “Actually, Adieu my Love,” directed by Minji Kang.

ON THE SCENE. Michael LaBellarte’s Outsider hired Marc Lichtenstein, formerly with Red Car, as executive producer ?

Glen Martin of L.A.-based Untitled was in Chicago shooting a spot for Glade/FCB ?

David O’Connor Casting placed actors on spots for New York agencies: Curt Merrill on Fixadent and Cathy Owens on Lyrica, a fiber myalgia medication.

TRIBUNE FILM CRITIC MICHAEL PHILLIPS will tell the Chicago Screenwriters Network meeting July 6 “What makes a good story a great movie ? and what makes a good story a lousy movie.” The CSN meets the first Sunday of the month at the Lincoln Restaurant.

“COURTROOM K,” one of nine proposed new Fox Television series, is called “a darkly comedic look at the life of a courthouse in a Midwestern city,” i.e., Milwaukee, well known to former Wisconsinite Paul Attanasio, executive producer and writer of the pilot.

Attanasio (“House,” “Homicide: Life on the Streets) is the brother of Milwaukee Brewers’ owner, Mark Attanasio.

Alfred Molina who portrays Judge Harold Robar who rules the courtroom like a feudal lord, heads the ensemble cast of Michael Landes, Megan Dodd, Jonathan Sadowski, Noureen DeWulf and Diana Maria Riva.

At this point, says Film Wisconsin’s Scott Robbe, “we don’t how much of the show will take place in Milwaukee.” They are hopeful that it will be more than second unit.

MILWAUKEE FILMMAKERS and other creative artists will be able to live and work in the 95-unit, low rent Blue Ribbon Loft Apartments when it is completed later this year.

The $15.8 million apartment complex is being rehabbed in what had been the old Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery.

The Blue Ribbon Loft Apartments will be unique in their style and will incorporate builder Gorman & Company’s signature “live well/work well” concept that caters to the “creative class,” encouraging resident entrepreneurship through numerous amenities.