Disney’s Live-Action ‘Moana’ Casts Catherine Laga’aia in Lead Role Opposite Dwayne Johnson, Filming Starts This Summer

Disney’s live-action “Moana” has found its new leading lady: Catherine Laga‘aia will star opposite Dwayne Johnson, who reprises his role as the demigod Maui, in the highly anticipated film.

“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites,” said Laga‘aia, a 17-year-old from Sydney, Australia. “My grandfather comes from Fa‘aala, Palauli, in Savai‘i. And my grandmother is from Leulumoega Tuai on the main island of ‘Upolu in Samoa. I’m honored to have an opportunity to celebrate Samoa and all Pacific Island peoples, and to represent young girls who look like me.”

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Also joining Laga‘aia and Johnson in the cast are Auckland, New Zealander John Tui as Moana’s father, Chief Tui; Samoan-New Zealand actor Frankie Adams as Moana’s mother, Sina; and Rena Owen, who hails from Bay of Islands, New Zealand, as the revered Gramma Tala. The live-action movie was announced last April, with the news that Johnson would return to star and produce.

“Moana” is set to begin production this summer ahead of its targeted July 10, 2026, release date. The film is directed by Thomas Kail, (“Hamilton” on Broadway and Disney+, “Grease Live” and “We Were the Lucky Ones”).

“I am thrilled to have met Catherine, Rena, Frankie and John through this casting process,” said Kail. “I am humbled by this opportunity, and I cannot wait to all 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.”

Kail directs from a screenplay by Jared Bush, who wrote the screenplay for 2016’s “Moana,” and Dana Ledoux Miller, a Samoan writer who created Netflix’s “Thai Cave Rescue.”

The new movie is produced by Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia (via their Seven Bucks Productions banner) and Beau Flynn (for FlynnPictureCo). Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the original songs, will also serve as producer.

Executive producers include Scott Sheldon (for FlynnPictureCo.), Auli‘i Cravalho (who voiced Moana in the 2016 film), and Charles Newirth. In her role as EP, Cravalho, who was 14 when she was cast in the original film, will mentor the teenage Laga‘aia. At the SAG Awards, she championed the expansion of the “Moana” universe with the upcoming live-action film and the animated “Moana 2,” which hits theaters on Nov. 27 and where she reprises her voice role.

“I love that Moana is a hero to all,” Cravalho told Variety on the red carpet. “It changed what it meant to be a Disney princess. You can be strong and brave and stand up against a demigod. It feels really good that more and more generations are going to be able to relate to this character.”

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