For years the once-great Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion, Duma, Never Cry Wolf) has been tagged as the go-to guy when you’re making a spiritual-poetic animal movie, so it was no surprise when he was hired to direct Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, a feature that will star and be produced by Richard Gere. Also produced by Vicki Shigekuni Wong, it’s based on a true-life Japanese legend about of a college professor’s bond with the abandoned dog he takes into his home.

The problem is that Ballard wound up butting heads with Gere and, according to a trusted source, walked off the shoot last week just 21 days before the start of principal photography. The informer says it was “apparently due to creative differences with Gere over the film’s ending.” People on the production have told him that Ballard “was acting strange and cantankerous,” and that the producers are scrambling right now to find someone to come in and take over “while the production team sits up in Rhode Island twiddling their thumbs.”

The source has read Stephen Lindsey‘s script and calls it “good, but it needs a strong sensitivity that won’t come easily with a director just dropping in at the last minute. “