Just when you thought Dwayne Johnson was getting back to being his bad-ass self, the actor has decided to change course and return to safe, family-friendly fare, as the football player-turned-wrestler-turned-actor is in negotiations to star in New Line's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" sequel, Johnson's publicist has confirmed to TheWrap.
Brad Peyton is set to direct "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," which will co-star returning cast member Josh Hutcherson.
Johnson will play Hutcherson's mother's boyfriend, who the budding young explorer is forced to bring along on a trip to a mythical and monstrous island where he hopes to find his missing grandfather.
The script is loosely based on Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island," and will introduce three new characters who are expected to be cast shortly.
Back in May, Deal Central reported that "Earth" star Brendan Fraser was willing to hold out from the sequel out of loyalty to director Eric Brevig, who has been busy putting the finishing touches on Warner Bros.' "Yogi Bear" in time for its Dec. 17 release.
New Line wanted the "Journey" sequel for Fall 2011 and couldn't wait around for the filmmaker, so the studio decided to move forward without Brevig or Fraser, who will now miss out on the sizable payday he was in line for.
Oddly enough, Warner Bros. reportedly wanted Peyton because the studio was said to be happy with his "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore." However, that heavily-promoted sequel has earned a mere $41.5 million at the domestic box office since its July 30 release.
Contrafilm's Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce "Journey 2," which like its $242 million-grossing predecessor, will be filmed and released in 3D. Charlotte Huggins will also produce, while Walden Media's Michael Bostick and Evan Turner will exec produce the sequel, which is aiming to begin production in late October in North Carolina and Hawaii.
Johnson apparently has a need for speed, as he is currently filming the fifth installment in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise (tentatively titled "Fast Five"), and next stars in CBS Films' action movie "Faster," which is scheduled for release on Nov. 24.
Johnson is represented by CAA.
The news was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.