Home Entertainment Disney casts 17-year-old Australian Catherine Laga‘aia to star in live-action ‘Moana’

Disney casts 17-year-old Australian Catherine Laga‘aia to star in live-action ‘Moana’

Originally Published: 13 JUN 24 06:02 ET
Updated: 13 JUN 24 06:29 ET

(CNN) — An Australian teenager of Samoan heritage has been announced as the star of the upcoming live-action version of the hit Disney movie “Moana.”

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Laga‘aia has been cast as the eponymous heroine of the movie, which begins filming this summer.

The movie will celebrate “the islands, communities and traditions of Pacific Islanders in a spectacular adventure,” according to the announcement from Disney, which added: “Catherine Laga‘aia will be voyaging to Motunui and beyond as the adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people in Disney’s upcoming live-action Moana.”

Laga‘aia’s IMDB profile shows just one other listing – for three episodes of the TV series “The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart,” which also starred Sigourney Weaver.

She is no stranger to showbiz, however, as her father is Jay Laga‘aia, a New Zealand-born actor who starred in two of the “Star Wars” movies.

Disney announced the casting online, saying Laga‘aia will appear alongside Dwayne Johnson as Maui, the larger-than-life demigod for whom he provided the voice in the original 2016 animated feature. He is also one of the movie’s producers, alongside, among others, “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote much of the original movie’s soundtrack.

In a statement included in the announcement, Laga‘aia, who lives in Sydney, said: “I’m really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites.

“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.”

Her proud father took to social media to announce the news, too, posting on Instagram: “My family and I are so pleased to share this news with the rest of the world. My daughter Katie can finally share the news that she will be taking on the role of Moana in the live action Disney movie along side Dwayne Johnson and Lin Manuel Miranda.”

Set for release in July 2026, the movie also features New Zealand actor John Tui as Moana’s father, Samoan-New Zealand actress Frankie Adams as her mother and Rena Owen as the storyteller Gramma Tala.

Directing is Thomas Kail, whose previous credits have included “Hamilton” on Broadway and Disney+.

News of the live version was announced by Johnson last year. He said on Instagram that “this story is my culture, and this story is emblematic of our people’s grace, mana and warrior strength.”

The animated “Moana” was a smash, making over $680 million at the box office and the most-streamed movie of 2023, according Nielsen tracking. The sequel, “Moana 2,” is set for release in November.

Auli’i Cravalho starred as Moana in the original film, along with Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger and Temuera Morrison.

Disney has successfully reimagined several of its animated classics as live-action movies, beginning with “Beauty and the Beast” in 2017, followed by “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” in 2019 and “The Little Mermaid” last year.

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