Disney’s Live-Action ‘Moana’ Finds Star in Catherine Laga‘aia

After an extensive search, Disney has found the next Moana. Newcomer Catherine Laga‘aia will star as the titular character in the remake of the 2016 hit animated film. The 17-year-old actor hails from Sydney, Australia, and joins Dwayne Johnson in the feature, reprising his role as demigod Maui.

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

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Laga‘aia picks up the role from Auli‘i Cravalho, who voice starred in the 2016 original and will executive produce the remake. She is said to be mentoring the younger actor in the role.

She’s also joining the family business. Her father is actor and singer Jay Laga’aia, who played Captain Typho in the Star Wars prequel movies.

Other cast for the Moana remake include Auckland, New Zealander actor 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, NZ, as Gramma Tala.

Thomas Kail, director of Broadway’s Hamilton, is at the helm of the feature, which bows July 10, 2026. He also recently directed episodes of the Hulu limited series We Were the Lucky Ones.

Said the filmmaker: “I am thrilled to have met Catherine, Rena, Frankie and John through this casting process. 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.”

Moana is a cornerstone movie for Disney, as the 2016 feature has been among top of the most streamed films in the U.S. for several years. According to Nielsen, it was the most viewed streaming movie of 2023 in the U.S. (It was No. 4 in 2022, and No. 2 in 2021 and 2020). Disney also has a separate, animated sequel to Moana due out Nov. 27.

Johnson, Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia are producing via their Seven Bucks Productions. Beau Flynn is producing via FlynnPictureCo. Moana songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda is also producing after landing an Oscar nomination for the song “How Far I’ll Go.”

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