'Moana' Live-Action Movie Casts Catherine Laga'aia as Its Leading Lady

Catherine Laga‘aia and Dwayne Johnson
Alexei Hay/Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Disney's live-action 'Moana' has found its titular character in Catherine Laga'aia, who joins Dwayne Johnson as Maui.

Disney's live-action Moana has found its titular princess in Australian actress Catherine Laga'aia. 

On Wednesday, the company announced that after a worldwide search, the 17-year-old actress had won the role and will star in the movie alongside Dwayne Johnson, who reprises his role as Maui from the animated project. 

The film, which begins production this summer, will be released on July 10, 2026. The story follows Moana, the daughter of a Polynesian chief who is chosen by the ocean to set out on a quest that will save her island and her people. 

"I'm really excited to embrace this character because Moana is one of my favorites," Laga'aia shared in a statement, adding that the role is significant to her family as native Pacific Islanders. "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.

Laga'aia continued, "I'm honored to have an opportunity to celebrate Samoa and all Pacific Island peoples, and to represent young girls who look like me." 

Filling out the cast is New Zealander John Tui as Moana's father, Chief Tui, Samoan-New Zealand actress Frankie Adams as Sina, Moana's mother. Rena Owen of Bay of Island, New Zealand, will portray Moana's influential Gramma Tala.

Hamilton and We Were the Lucky Ones director Thomas Kail leads the project and shared via a statement that he is anxiously anticipating filming with the newly announced cast members. 

"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, a trio: Heihei is ready, too," Kail shared. 

The 2016 animated film used Resident Alien star Alan Tudyk's voice for Moana's sidekick, a sweet but dull chicken, however, it's unclear if Tudyk will return. 

In March, ET spoke with Johnson, 52, at the Academy Awards and he gave an update on both the live-action remake of the film and the highly anticipated animated sequel. For the latter, the original voice actress for the role, Auli'i Cravalho, returns to play the Disney princess. 

"We have a lot of Moana happening. At the end of the year, Moana 2's coming out -- the animated movie. We're starting Moana, the live-action Moana with Tommy Kail who directed Hamilton," the Jumanji actor shared. 

Moana 2 opens in theaters nationwide on Nov. 27.