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Some Hawaiians Are Wary of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Playing King Kamehameha
On Wednesday, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced on his Instagram that he would be playing King Kamehameha—the legendary founder and first ruler of the Kingdom Hawaii—in an upcoming film.
In the early 1800s, Kamehameha unified the warring Hawaiian islands and ensured that that trade with Europe and the United States would resume after his death.
“From the day I began my Hollywood career (2001), my dream was to bring this legacy to life,” Johnson said on his Instagram, announcing that Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) would direct with a script from Randall Wallace (Braveheart). “In Polynesian culture we have a belief, that something isn’t done when it’s ready… it’s done when it’s right.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, The King “is described as a sweeping historical epic based on the true life story of Kamehameha, who fulfilled the prophecy that surrounded his fabled life since birth.”
Though, some native Hawaiians are wary of Johnson—who is of Polynesian descent, but lived in Hawaii as a child—playing Kamehameha.
“I love Dwayne Johnson and some of his films, but he’s such a comedian. I hope this is not going to be a comedy and the character is not a comic character,” Vicky Holt Takamine told Hawaii News Now.
Others, like Lilikala Kameeleihiwa—senior professor at the University of Hawaii’s Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies—said this casting choice reflects previous Hollywood efforts to appropriate the native history.
“Kamehameha is a grand chief of Hawaii and not some Hollywood Disney character,” she said. “It is totally inappropriate to have a non-Hawaiian actor play him. There must be a hundred descendants of Kamehameha who could play the part. If ever a film should be made (about Kamehameha), it should be written, in Hawaiian, by one of Kamehameha’s descendants. It’s their kuleana.”
After the news was announced, Johnson assured fans that, “The cultural and historical significance of this role, I hold with the highest respect and reverence, and I’m honored to share the epic story of our people and culture with the world. Imua!”