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While You Wait for Will Smith’s Katrina Drama, ‘American Can,’ Watch the Real Can Man Tell His Story on Sunday

While You Wait for Will Smith's Katrina Drama, 'American Can,' Watch the Real Can Man Tell His Story on Sunday

One of the dozens of projects on Will Smith’s future slate is a film initially announced 6 years ago, in May 2009, when Sony Pictures and Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment picked up the movie rights to the story of an ex-Marine who orchestrated the rescue of hundreds of his neighbors during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

John Lee Hancock was to write and direct the project, titled “The American Can.”

Standing at 6-ft-seven and 260 pounds, John Keller, the ex-Marine, lived in a five-story apartment building; and after chasing some looters, emerged as the man in charge of the 244 residents, many of them elderly or handicapped.

For five days, Keller, dubbed the “Can Man,” kept the building, isolated by 11 feet of water, safe from the chaos raging around the city. He also directed the eventual rescue operation from the building’s roof.

At the time of the initial announcement of the film that would be based on his story, I fully expected Will Smith to star in the film, although it wasn’t stated.

2 years later, in 2011, it was reported that Big Willie would instead be working behind the camera, with an offer to Denzel Washington to star instead.

At the time, I wondered about the choice, since the lead character would have to be aged to accommodate Denzel, who was in his 50s that year (Keller is closer to Will Smith’s age); also, Denzel isn’t 6-ft-7 and 260 pounds, but I assumed that they’d make changes to the script to accommodate him.

Skip ahead another 2 years to 2013, to the announcement that Will Smith would actually star in the film, and was then courting Ed Zwick (“The Last Samurai,” “Blood Diamond”) to direct it, from a script penned by both John Lee Hancock and Adetoro Makinde – a multi-hyphenate (actor, director, writer, producer, casting director, more) who co-produced Dennis Dortch’s feature film debut, “A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy.”

She’s also listed as a producer on “The American Can.”

Another 2 years have passed, and, while it appears that the project is still very much alive, there hasn’t been any news reported on its progress (at least nothing that I’ve read since 2013). 

What I can share is that, on July 12th, the National Geographic channel will air a 2-part miniseries titled “The 2000s: A New Reality,” which, in brief, examines the tumultuous 2000s, and the major events that helped define it – of course, one of those events being Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and social, economical and political climate that was its backdrop.  

John Keller is featured in the Katrina segment of the series, which airs Sunday, July 12th and 13th, at 9pm ET / 8pm Central.

Check out a preview below, as Keller and his acts of heroism are introduced:

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