Over a decade ago, Dwayne Johnson -- or "The Rock" as he was then billed -- left the world of professional wrestling behind and made his big-screen debut in "The Mummy Returns," the sequel to a movie that starred Brendan Fraser. And this weekend, Johnson headlines "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," a sequel to a movie that starred Brendan Fraser.
When you look over his filmography, Dwayne Johnson has actually starred in a number of film that were sequels to movies he wasn't originally in. He was in 2005's "Be Cool," the sequel to "Get Shortly." He starred in "Race to Witch Mountain," a sequel/remake hybrid of "Escape to Witch Mountain." And last year he had the biggest hit of his career in "Fast Five," the fifth installment of the "Fast and Furious" franchise.
In "Journey 2," Johnson plays Hank, the new stepfather of Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson, returning from the first movie). Hank accompanies Sean on an excursion to the South Pacific after receiving a distress signal from Sean's missing grandfather (Michael Caine). With the help of a local helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens), Hank and Sean discover the location of the fantastical Mysterious Island that Jules Verne wrote about in his novel.
Why does he get cast in so many sequels? For studios, he does seem to help their bottom line. Both "The Mummy Returns" and "Fast Five" were the most successful films in their respective series. He also has a broad international appeal, which has become extremely important for Hollywood. For example, "Fast Five" made $50 million more in the US than "Fast and Furious" did. But when you add in worldwide grosses, the fifth film made almost $300 million more than the fourth.
Strangely, the only time that Johnson has played the same character twice to date was in "The Scorpion King." That was technically a prequel to "The Mummy Returns" (which was itself a sequel to a remake). "The Scorpion King" also spawned two direct-t0-video prequels where Johnson didn't appear. A different actor played the title character in each of those installments.
Johnson isn't about to stop jumping aboard movie franchises, either. This summer, he'll be headlining "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." It's the sequel to 2009's "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra," and while that movie's star Channing Tatum reprises his role of Duke, it's Johnson who is front and center as the new character Roadblock (Tatum doesn't even appear once in the ad that played during the Super Bowl). Obviously, the studio is hoping that the action fans who turned up for "Fast Five" will flock to the new amped-up "G.I. Joe."
But before you think Dwayne Johnson will take a role in just any sequel, there is good news. It was announced this week that a sequel to Johnson's moderately successful family comedy "Tooth Fairy" will be going straight to DVD next month. Johnson, however, opted not to appear in it. He'll be replaced by an actor known for his discriminating taste in film projects: Larry the Cable Guy.
You can see Dwayne Johnson in "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" in theaters now. "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" will hit screens on June 29. And he's scheduled to return in the sixth "Fast and Furious" movie sometime in 2013.
Watch Dwayne Johnson in an exclusive clip from "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island":