“Happyness'” Chris Gardner in Wal-Mart spot

CHRIS GARDNER, whose determination to succeed was amazingly chronicled in the movie “Pursuit to Happyness,” appears in a Wal-Mart spot celebrating Black History Month.

Directors Corners’ Al Hawkins directed for E. Morris, Barb Stieglitz produced for the agency, The Whitehouse handled post and Gamebeat Studios the music.

GEORGE WENDT AND THE BULLS’ BEN GORDON are among the celebs appearing in a video of the rerecording of “Bear Down,” the Chicago Bears fight song, produced pro bono by JWT to unite Bears fans across the country in singing the song.

“HAVE A HEART,” says casting director Claire Simon and donate blood Feb. 15 at from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at their office, 1512 N. Fremont. For an appointment, phone Teresa at 312/202-0124, or Email teresa@clairesimoncasting.com.

DENNIS QUAID will portray Syracuse U coach Ben Schwartzwalder in Universal’s “The Express,” scheduled to shoot in Chicago-for-Syracuse for three months starting in April. It’s the life story of Ernie Davis, the first black college football player to win the Heisman Trophy. An actor for the Davis’ role hasn’t been cast yet.

Thereafter, Warner Bros. arrives for 13 weeks on the “Batman” sequel, “The Dark Knight,” also starring Christian Bale. The film is slated for a July 18, 2008 release.

EA CHICAGO is collaborating with Softimage to create a 3D game in SOFTIMAGE|XSI software. They are exploring new technologies to develop a new generation of workflow model, said Scott Cronce, EA VP/CT worldwide studios.

EAST CHICAGO WELCOMED FILM CREWS last week when executive producer Malcolm Fabiyi’s feature, “The Immigrant,” directed by Calvin Standifer, started rolling. The story’s about a visitor from Nigeria, played by Iyke Onuoha who finds himself tangled in a web of deceit when he encounters corrupt cops and white collar crime cover-ups. Fabiyi will edit in L.A. and finished for the March 1 deadline entry for the HBO Film Award.

EURO RSCG landed Circuit City’s $150 million account ? the first big, new account of the year and the biggest for the agency ? Energy BBDO added Jamie Anderson as director of interactive, from consultancy firm Whittmanhart, and new client Romano’s Macaroni Grill and On the Border restaurant chains? DDB loses ECD Dan Fietsam to Publicis West/Seattle ? Cramer-Krasselt added group creative director Ken Erke from Y&R.

DOCUMENTARIAN TOD LENDING of Nomadic Pictures receives the prestigious Henry Hampton Award recognizing documentary excellence for his doc, “Omar and Pete,” to be presented by the Council of Foundations in April.

Furthermore, he was awarded $40,000 in grants: $30,000 from the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Foundation for development, and $10,000 from the Sundance Festival for his next feature doc, “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.”

COMEDY CENTRAL tapped Second City alums Rich Talarico and Peter Grosz ? who Time Out Chicago named as a Top Chicagoan to Watch in 2007 — to write for two new series, “The Naked Trucker,” and “T-Bones Show,” featuring Dave Koechner, Pat Finn and Renee Albert, also former Second Cityites.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ILLINOIS! the treasurer’s low-interest filmmakers loan program, is on hold for a month until the new treasurer has a chance to review it and similar loan programs. LCI helped fund 16 movies since it was instituted by former treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, which in term fulfilled its goal of providing jobs and adding to the tax base.

FYI: “HOLLYWOOD SOUTH,” A.K.A. LOUISIANA, expects more than $400 million revenues from movies and TV shows this year. Currently filming is a $150 million feature starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt called “The Mysterious Case of Benjamin Button” ? the biggest budgeted feature to film in the state to date.

The state’s determined plan to build a full-scale cheaper Hollywood, is predicated on irresistible incentives, topped by a hefty 25% tax rebate. And the plan is obviously working.

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