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Danny DeVito joins cast of Jumanji sequel

Danny DeVito will be among those welcoming you back to the jungle.

The veteran actor has been cast in an undisclosed role in the sequel to 2017's smash hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the Dwayne Johnson-starrer which grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide. Variety was first with the news.

DeVito joins Johnson along with returning cast members Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart; Jake Kasdan (son of the legendary writer and director Lawrence Kasdan) will also return to the director's chair, and co-wrote the script with Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg (who recently collaborated on Venom).

The 2017 film was a remake of 1995's Jumanji, which starred a young Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce as a pair of precocious youngsters who are unwillingly sucked into the world of the titular jungle-themed board game. There, they find a man (the late, great Robin Williams) who has been trapped inside the game for decades, and enlist his help to find a way out. The update cleverly swapped the board game for a video game, and featured four teenagers who find themselves trapped in the game's world, having taken on the appearance of its player avatars. It was a rather unexpected phenomenon, pulling in a whopping $962 million dollars worldwide, making a sequel all but a foregone conclusion.

DeVito's gruff, grubby, and hilarious persona seems a perfect fit for the burgeoning series' comic sensibility. Said Johnson in a statement, "The magic of Jumanji is who becomes who. And the idea of Danny DeVito joining our cast was too irresistible and something we knew we wanted to deliver to our audience this upcoming Christmas," adding cheekily, "Dwanta Claus loves everyone."

DeVito has been a show business mainstay for decades, having rocketed to stardom in 1978 with his role in the TV series Taxi opposite Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza, and Andy Kaufman. Although he had previously appeared in smaller, comedic roles on the big screen, he made a splash with a dramatic turn in the 1983 tearjerker Terms of Endearment, and subsequently appeared in such classics as Romancing the Stone, Twins, and Batman Returns (as the Penguin).

These days, he's best-known for his role as the foul-mouthed, borderline-sociopathic Frank Reynolds on the long-running FX/FXX series It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which he has held down since 2006. He'll also be appearing in a pair of upcoming Disney projects: Tim Burton's live-action remake of Dumbo, and The One and Only Ivan, an animated adaptation of the childrens' book of the same name. On top of all this, he's set to star in the long-gestating Triplets, the sequel to Twins, alongside original co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger and (as the third triplet, in a brilliant piece of casting) Eddie Murphy.

Although no official title or release date has been announced, the Jumanji sequel (which also recently cast Crazy Rich Asians breakout star Awkwafina) is expected to go before the cameras very soon, with an eye toward release during the 2019 holiday season. For those keeping score at home, this means that the flick will likely go head-to-head with one of the most anticipated releases of the year — the also as-yet-untitled Star Wars: Episode IX, which will see J.J. Abrams return to the director's chair to finish off the sequel trilogy. Studio Sony, however, has good reason to be comfortable with this strategy: Welcome to the Jungle's box-office busting performance was achieved despite facing off against Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi during the same frame. 

DeVito's singular presence can only spell good things for the sequel, and we're pumped to see what Kasdan, the Rock, and their partners in crime have in store for us. We'll have more details on the project as they become available.