Sony, with Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment, have obtained the rights to the life story of John Keller, an ex-Marine who was nicknamed “The Can Man” by New Orleans press. Keller resided in the American Can Company apartments; when the hurricane hit and flooded the building beneath 11 feet of water, he stood guard against looters and troublemakers. Keller also hot-wired cars and boats in order to get to the grocery store so he could provide neighbors with food.
“I could have got in that boat and paddled my ass out of here,” Keller told The Times-Picayune in 2007. “What made me stay was the old people. I just realized that nobody else in here could have gotten those people out. They would have sat in here for five more days. And they didn’t have five more days.” He rescued 244 residents of his building, often carrying them on his back, and he still had the energy to document the experience of Katrina with his cousin, Chris Roberts, via photographs and video tape.
John Lee Hancock (“The Rookie”) is on board to write and direct the film. Smith is currently only listed as a producer, but there’s little doubt that he’s also eying the role of Keller. It would be a natural fit and a timely, gut-wrenching story for Smith to bring to the big screen — not to mention one that would have a lot more mass appeal than his “Oldboy” remake.
Readers: is this the film Smith should make next? Should he focus on dramas like this and “Ali,” and avoid the summer blockbusters and remakes?