In the 'Can': Sony, Overbrook

Hancock will direct story of post-Katrina hero

Sony Pictures and Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment have picked up movie life rights to a former Marine who orchestrated the rescue of hundreds of his neighbors during Hurricane Katrina.

John Lee Hancock will write and direct "The American Can," which will be produced by Overbrook's Smith, James Lassiter and Ken Stovitz and Adetoro Makinde's Back Door Films.

John Keller — a 6-foot-7, 260-pounder — lived in the five-story American Can Co. building in New Orleans. After chasing away some looters, he emerged as the man in charge of the building and its 244 residents, many elderly or handicapped. For five days, Keller kept the building, isolated by 11 feet of water, safe from the chaos raging throughout the city. Dubbed the Can Man, he also directed the eventual rescue operation from the building's roof.

"This is the story of an everyman who became a hero," Columbia's Doug Belgrad said. "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 an 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."

Development of the project is based on the acquired spec script written by Makinde.

DeVon Franklin will oversee the film for Columbia.

Hancock, repped by CAA, is in production on "The Blind Side," the true story of an impoverished black teen who is taken in by a white couple and becomes one of the country's top high school football prospects. (partialdiff)