Auli’i Cravalho reveals why she won’t star in Disney’s live-action ‘Moana’
By Carl Samson
January 11, 2024
Auli’i Cravalho has opened up about her choice to opt out of reprising her titular role in Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of “Moana.”
What she’s saying: Cravalho, 23, first announced her decision last April after co-star Dwayne Johnson revealed that he will return as Maui for the live-action movie. In a new interview with The Wrap, she explained why she has chosen to turn the role over and work behind the scenes as executive producer instead.
“It feels really important to me to pass the baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent, and I say that with my whole chest,” the Hawaii-born actress said, lamenting the lack of and often inaccurate representation of Pacific Islanders. “We are used. And I want to tell our own stories. I want to be behind the camera as much as I am in front of it.”
Cravalho stressed that when she talks about “representation,” it includes the writers’ rooms and directors and showrunners as well. She said Taika Waititi – who wrote the original script for “Moana” – advocates for the same.
“And if it has to start with me — I’m 23, but if it starts with me, so be it. I want that door to swing wide open, and I cannot wait to meet the next Moana,” she told The Wrap.
About the live-action film: Directed by Thomas Kail (“Hamilton”), the live-action “Moana” is scheduled to hit theaters on June 27, 2025. Johnson will also serve as co-producer alongside Dany Garcia and Hiram Garcia of their Seven Bucks Productions and Beau Flynn via Flynn Picture Co. Cravalho will executive produce with Scott Sheldon of Flynn Picture Co.
Weeks after the announcement, a purported Disney casting call for a 16-year-old actor to play the film’s “heroic, bold, adventurous, [and] never selfish” protagonist who is also “determined to fulfill the quest of her ancestors and save her people” made rounds online.
For now: Cravalho is currently involved in the “Mean Girls” remake, where she stars as Janis ‘Imi’ike, a character based on the original’s Janis Ian but whose last name was changed to reflect her own heritage. In this musical version, Janis is an out-and-proud lesbian, marking a significant shift from the 2004 cult classic that used the identity pejoratively.
“Previously, in our ’04 version, ‘lesbian’ for Janis was used kind of as a slur, and we’re taking that back. Absolutely not,” Cravalho told Screen Rant. “I am a pyro-lez, loud and proud. I will light your backpack on fire if you talk sh*t about me.”
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