Columbia Pictures has made a deal to develop a biopic of the Hawaiian King Kamehameha as a starring vehicle for Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.
Col brass hopes the project will be a Polynesian “Braveheart.” Col bought a pitch by Gregory Poirier (“Rosewood”), who will write the script. Jon Shestack will produce; Original partners Neal Moritz and Marty Adelstein will likely be involved in a producing capacity.
The Rock grew up in Hawaii and was aware of the exploits of Kamehameha, who conquered the tribal-ruled seven Hawaiian islands in the 1700s and made himself king. The Rock also liked the take given by Poirier, the son of hippie parents who grew up on a commune in Maui and spent eight years trying to mount a movie about Hawaii’s most fabled leader.
“He was this fantastic, larger-than-life warrior king who united the islands into a single kingdom and built the nation of Hawaii,” Poirier said. “The islands had been ruled by tribes, with different chiefs fighting each other all the time. People think of Hawaii as lolling in the surf, little umbrellas in drinks, but back then it was a brutal, war-oriented society, and Kamehameha pulled them into the modern age and made them able to deal with outsiders like the British. When Captain Cook first landed … (Kamehameha) assimilated the white man’s weapons, had an armed British warship under his command and established Hawaii as a trading outpost with the British. The story is epic in scope, and there is also a wonderful love story.”
Poirier long plotted the pic with producer Shestack, but despite its promise, the film remained beached because there was no bankable star who could reasonably play the Polynesian.
“Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner weren’t going to work in the part, there was just nobody,” Poirier said. “Then one day Jon called me and said, ‘Two words: the Rock.’ I knew that was it. He even looks like Kamehameha. The Rock flipped over the pitch and attached himself to it.”
Poirier’s reps at WMA and AMG quickly set a script deal at Sony, with execs Shannon Gaulding, Amy Baer and Peter Schlessel making a preemptive buy of the material.
“It shows that if you hold on to your nearest and dearest projects, eventually the circumstances will line up in your favor,” Poirier said.
The Rock, who is repped by Endeavor and Original, will next star in “Helldorado,” the Peter Berg-directed action comedy for Universal.