Sony Pictures & Will Smith’s Overbrook to develop The American Can


MUMBAI: Sony Pictures Entertainment and Overbrook Entertainment have obtained the motion picture life rights to John Keller, an ex-Marine who orchestrated the rescue of 244 of his New Orleans neighbors after their building, the American Can Company, was severely flooded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Keller’s story will be produced into a feature film by James Lassiter, Will Smith, and Ken Stovitz through their Overbrook Entertainment banner, as well as by Adetoro Makinde’s Back Door Films. The film will be written and directed by John Lee Hancock.

Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad said, “This is the story of an everyman who became a hero. John Keller embodies everything about the American spirit: he is tough, smart, resourceful, funny, and not the type of guy who takes ‘no’ or ‘I can’t’ for answer. That is the story we want to tell – in the moment of an American tragedy, when we are tested, we find that we have greater depth of spirit and strength than we ever knew.”

Stovitz added, “There were many acts of heroism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but John’s resolve to save hundreds of lives is one of the most compelling and inspiring of that national tragedy and we believe that John Lee Hancock is the perfect match to tell this daring story.”

Affectionately dubbed “The Can Man,” Keller has been profiled in several publications, both in New Orleans and nationwide. He has said that he was motivated to help not out of any financial gain, nor a desire to be a hero, but a concern for the elderly residents of his building. “I couldn’t have lived with myself knowing that I could have saved everybody in here but I left,” he has said.

He directed the rescue operations from the roof of the apartment complex, the American Can Company, a five-story building that sat in 11 feet of water after the breach of the levees.

Development of the project is based on the acquired spec script written by Adetoro Makinde. DeVon Franklin will oversee the film for Columbia Pictures.