Producers in Spain are fighting to keep Terry Gilliam's new film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote alive after shooting stalled last week when 70 year-old lead actor Jean Rochefort suffered a double disk hernia.

Sources close to the production say that shooting can't resume until at least January, which might make it unfeasible for the large international cast and crew to reassemble. Meanwhile the completion bond company is expected to make a decision on the fate of the film by the end of the week.

The film is a labour of love for Gilliam who has been struggling to get his time-travelling update of the Cervantes classic financed for years. Earlier this year Pathe Pictures, StudioCanal and Hachette Premiere in France boarded the film, recruiting Germany's KC Medien and Spanish companies Mate Productions, Impala, Anola Films and Sogepaq to co-finance and co-produce the $32m picture. A spokesperson for Pathe, which has international sales rights, confirmed yesterday that "Don Quixote is on hold until further notice".

Shooting began on Sept 26 with a glittering cast including Johnny Depp and his real-life partner Vanessa Paradis, Miranda Richardson, Christopher Eccleston and Peter Vaughan, but all hinged on Rochefort, the veteran French actor whom Gilliam had always wanted to play Don Quixote.

It is unclear if the film will go forward if necessary without Rochefort, but sources close to Gilliam say the director plans to fight against the possibility of seeing the production permanently shelved.

The latest setback will bring back uncomfortable memories for Depp, once involved in the Irish film called Divine Rapture before that film was stopped midway through production. And Gilliam himself will wonder whether the ghost of Baron Munchhausen, his legendarily troubled epic made more than a decade ago, has come back to haunt him.