Sony, Overbrook acquire 'American Can' rights

Film centers on Hurricane Katrina hero John Keller

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

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

Standing a 6-foot-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 edifice and 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.

"This is the story of an everyman who became a hero," said Columbia's Doug Belgrad in a statement. "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 attracted the interest of a white couple and became one of the top high school football prospects in the country.