He was a hit as the Scorpion King, but is The Rock the right guy to play a real-life Hawaiian king? Some eyebrows are being raised over the wrestler/actor’s recently-announced Columbia Pictures biopic of the 19th-century Hawaiian monarch King Kamehameha the Great, in part because of the Rock’s Samoan heritage, and in part because of his irreverent, Hollywood action-sledgehammer style.
The Rock (real name: Dwayne Johnson), who is of both Samoan and African-American ancestry, announced last month that he would play Kamehameha, who is credited with uniting the Hawaiian islands during his reign, from 1795 to 1819. But producer Gary German tells the Associated Press, ”It would be a great taboo for the part of Kamehameha to go to a nationality that was a fierce enemy of the Hawaiians during that time.” Of course, German is not a disinterested party; his North Shore Pictures Entertainment is developing its own biopic of the king. ”We are looking at two actors of Hawaiian descent who will make a great Kamehameha,” he tells AP.
A Hawaiian academic is also worried about the racial implications of The Rock’s movie. ”There are so many racist portrayals of Hawaii in the media,” says Professor Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii, in an interview with the New York Daily News. She says she doubts that any film can do justice to the King’s story. ”Kamehameha is a sacred chief. He comes from hundreds of generations of sacred chiefs, and he needs to be represented properly.” She says that Greg Poirier, the former Maui resident who’s writing the Rock’s screenplay, consulted her but could not guarantee that the movie would remain historically accurate. ”He said, basically, once he hands in the script to the movie company, they’ll do what they want.”
Neither the Rock nor Columbia has commented on the Kamehameha dust-up.