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‘Moana’ Live Action Film Casts Catherine Laga’aia as Lead Opposite Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

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Disney’s live action Moana film has found its leading lady.

It was announced on Wednesday, June 12, that Catherine Laga‘aia would take on the titular role in the highly-anticipated movie opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who will reprise his role as Maui. Joining the duo are John Tui as Moana’s father, Chief Tui, Frankie Adams as Moana’s mother, Sina, and Rena Owen as Gramma Tala.

“I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites,” Laga‘aia, 17, said in a Wednesday statement. “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.”

The film is set to begin production this summer with a July 10, 2026, release date. Thomas Nail will direct with a script from Jared Bush, who also wrote the original 2016 film, and Dana Ledoux Miller.

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Related: Everything to Know About ‘Moana 2’: Plot Details, Cast and More

“I am thrilled to have met Catherine, Rena, Frankie and John through this casting process,” Kail said in a separate statement. “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.”

Johnson and Lin-Manuel Miranda are credited as producers, while Auli‘i Cravalho, who voiced Moana in the 2016 film, serves as an executive producer and mentor to Laga‘aia.

“It feels like the Moana universe is expanding and I love that,” Cravalho, 23, told Variety in February. “I love that Moana is a hero to all. 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.”

Johnson first announced that a live-action version of Moana was in the works in April 2023.

“I’m deeply humbled and overcome with gratitude to bring the beautiful story of Moana to the live-action big screen,” he shared in a video while on the beaches of Hawaii at the time. “This story is my culture, and this story is emblematic of our people’s grace and warrior strength. I wear this culture proudly on my skin and in my soul, and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reunite with Maui, inspired by the mana and spirit of my late grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia, is one that runs very deep for me.”

He continued: “I want to thank my partners at Disney for their strong commitment to this special endeavor, because there is no better world for us to honor the story of our people, our passion and our purpose than through the realm of music and dance, which is at the core of who we are as Polynesian people.”

Johnson voiced Maui in the 2016 flick and will be voicing the character for Moana 2, which was announced in February. The sequel is expected to hit theaters just before Thanksgiving on November 27, and will be directed by Dave Derrick Jr.

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Related: Stars Who Played Disney Characters in Live-Action Films

Days after Disney unveiled plans for Moana 2, Cravalho confirmed that she will return to voice the character. “We’re sailing WAY beyond the reef this November…,” she wrote via Instagram at the time.

Per Disney, Moana 2 will bring audiences on an “expansive new voyage with Moana, Maui and a brand-new crew of unlikely seafarers. After receiving an unexpected call from her wayfinding ancestors, Moana must journey to the far seas of Oceania and into dangerous, long-lost waters for an adventure unlike anything she’s ever faced.”

Although originally planned to be developed as a TV show, Disney CEO Bob Iger upgraded the project to feature film after seeing early clips of the footage.

“Moana remains an incredibly popular franchise,” Iger in a statement shared to CNBC at the time. “We can’t wait to give you more of Moana and Maui when Moana 2 comes to theaters this November.”

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