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Catherine Laga’aia Joins Dwayne Johnson in Live-Action “Moana”


I’m Catherine Laga’aia will star alongside Dwayne Johnson, reprising his role as demigod Maui, in the eagerly awaited live-action adaptation of “Moana.” The 17-year-old Sydney native expressed her excitement: “I’m thrilled to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites. My heritage from Fa’aala, Palauli, in Savai’i and Leulumoega Tuai on ‘Upolu in Samoa makes this role deeply personal. It’s an honor to celebrate Samoa and Pacific Island peoples, and to represent young girls who look like me.”

Joining Laga’aia and Johnson are John Tui from Auckland, New Zealand, as Moana’s father Chief Tui; Samoan-New Zealand actor Frankie Adams as Moana’s mother Sina; and Rena Owen from Bay of Islands, New Zealand, as the revered Gramma Tala. The film, announced last April, will start production this summer, aiming for a July 10, 2026, release date. Directed by Thomas Kail, known for “Hamilton” and “Grease Live,” the project promises to bring a fresh take on the beloved story.

“I am thrilled to have met Catherine, Rena, Frankie, and John through this casting process,” Kail said. “I cannot wait to be on set together. And there’s no better pair to be in a canoe with than Catherine and Dwayne — actually, trio: Heihei is ready, too.”

The screenplay is penned by Jared Bush, who wrote the original 2016 “Moana” script, and Dana Ledoux Miller, creator of Netflix’s “Thai Cave Rescue.” Producers include Johnson, Dany Garcia, and Hiram Garcia of Seven Bucks Productions, alongside Beau Flynn of FlynnPictureCo. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who composed the original songs, will also serve as a producer.

Executive producers include Scott Sheldon (FlynnPictureCo.), Auli’i Cravalho (the original voice of Moana), and Charles Newirth. Cravalho, who was 14 when cast in the original film, will mentor Laga’aia. At the SAG Awards, Cravalho emphasized the importance of expanding the “Moana” universe with both the live-action film and the upcoming animated sequel, “Moana 2,” set to release on November 27.

“I love that Moana is a hero to all,” Cravalho told Variety. “It changed what it meant to be a Disney princess. You can be strong and brave and stand up against a demigod. It feels wonderful that more generations will relate to this character.”