It’s strange, but there are stories across all sorts of cultures about dogs who remain loyal to their owners despite ridiculous, tragic circumstances. In Edinburgh, Scotland there’s a statue dedicated to a little terrier who sat by its owner’s grave until its own death, and in Japan there’s a story about an Akita who stood vigil over its owner for ten years, though the owner had already died.

Though I have absolutely no idea how you can make a story about a dog going nowhere into a movie, Lasse Hallstrom, who directed Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, is giving it a shot. He’s remaking a Japanese film about the Akita, called Hachiko, A Dog’s Story. He's already cast Richard Gere as a college professor who takes in the dog, and now Joan Allen has joined the party.

Hallstrom has proven he can take unusual stories and pull them off-- he and Gere worked great together earlier this year in The Hoax, which was a comedy about a man who wrote a fake Howard Hughes biography. It’s easy to see the story of a loyal dog dipping into schmaltz, especially given our current dog-obsessed culture. Still, if someone was strange enough to decide to make a movie out of this, I have to feel like they’re just strange enough to make it work. And say what you will about Richard Gere, but the man’s still charming, dammit. Filming starts in Rhode Island in January-- thank God they’re not trying to set it in Japan-- so the verdict will be out soon enough either way.

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