With the Transformers, GI Joe, and Jem movies cleaning up at the box office (okay, not so much on the last one) — not to mention revivals of ’80s hallmark properties like Star Wars and Ghostbusters — Hollywood rushes to revive everyone’s favorite cartoon/toy line of yesteryear and to bleed a few bucks from nostalgic fans eager to relive their childhood. Masters of the Universe, the epic adventures of He-Man, remains the one inexplicably untapped treasure in the midst of it all. Sony has long held the rights, and filmmakers like John Woo and Justin Marks have flirted with the property over the years, but to date, the only live action outing for He-Man is his 1987 Dolph Lundgren-led outing. Isn’t it high time he had a revival too? Include cameos for Lundgren, Chelsea Field, Frank Langella, Meg Foster and the rest of the ’87 cast for fun, we look to modern-day Hollywood to find an effective cast to bring the He-Man phenomenon back to movie screens.
With a new Masters of the Universe all but inevitable, take a look at 15 Actors We’d Love To See In A Masters Of The Universe Movie.
15. He Man – Alexander Skarsgard
First things first: a guy playing Prince Adam/He-Man needs to have the right look. As the strongest man in the universe, our leading man needs to have the ripped body and physical presence to match his animated counterpart. Granted, countless actors shed their average body shapes in favor of getting ripped for movies these days (see: Chris Pratt…or better yet, see before and after shots of his abs), though He-Man needs a bit of an edge. As in, he needs to be extra ripped. Just as important as his physicality, the actor playing He-Man needs to also convince as the young and insecure Prince Adam. No doubt the production would use special effects, not unlike those in Captain America: The First Avenger, to make Adam look younger and less physically robust.
Our pick: Alexander Skarsgard has had a rough few weeks coming off his first high-profile leading film role in Tarzan (it’s holding well enough at the box-office, but the mediocre-poor reviews can’t feel great) so let’s give the poor guy a break — and a better part — by handing him the lead in a He-Man movie. His good looks, regal presence and ripped torso make him strong choice for the role, not to mention his blond tresses. Most important, he can actually act, well enough to carry a sci-fi epic.
In a showdown with rumored frontrunner Kellan Lutz, this isn’t really much of a contest.
14. Skeletor – John Lithgow
Above all, the dark warlock Skeletor needs to be bad. Not snarky, wisecracking, whiney bad like some villain from the MCU. He should not have the shades of gray that a supervillian like Magneto would have either. Skeletor, for the uninitiated, began as Prince Keldor of Eternia — yes, He-Man’s uncle — before dark forces robbed him of his humanity and left him with a skull for a face. As a villain, Skeletor is a cauldron of bitterness, anger and ruthlessness to reclaim Eternia and steal the ultimate powers of the universe. The role demands a great actor in the part to pull of the characters pain and hatred, much as Frank Langella did in the original 1987 film.
Our pick: John Lithgow doesn’t get enough credit as a great performer. Katherine Hepburn once regarded him as one of the finest actors alive. Lithgow’s versatility and inner fury made him into a great baddie in films like Cliffhanger or Raising Cain, and given that those two movies are actually kind of horrid only testifies to Lithgow’s ability. He’s damn good in both. Now, before you panic over Lithgow’s age, consider: the actor playing Skeletor will likely be buried under pounds of make-up, or more ideally, have his skull-face CGI-ed not unlike the character of Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. For that reason, having a stunt double stand in for Lithgow in scenes of intense combat or that would require physical prowess wouldn’t be a problem, and Lithgow’s somewhat nasal vocal timbre would underline the character’s maniacal personality, not to mention recall the vocal work of Alan Oppenheimer in the original cartoon.
13. Sorceress – Nicole Kidman
The Sorceress of Grayskull, above all, has a statuesque, imperious quality about her. Once a young and idealistic girl, she found herself chosen by fate to take up custodial duties of Castle Grayskull and to protect the secrets of the universe. Though somewhat ageless, certain plot details demand that an actress between the ages of 40 and 60 take the part, and that she can pull off the redhead look (more on that in a moment). The Sorceress also carries a heavy secret: she’s one of the few people who knows the secret of Princess Adora, the kidnapped twin sister of Prince Adam. Moreover, she has a daughter of her own — the warrior Teela, who believes her mother dead. The Sorceress should project beauty, wisdom and quiet sadness as a woman who wanted a simple life and surrendered it for the good of her world.
Our pick: Gravitas and cool dignity help give the Sorceress her mystique, and the actress playing her needs to look good with red hair and wearing a falcon costume. Look no further than Nicole Kidman, the Oscar winning actress who brought the same sad, cool allure to her roles in Moulin Rouge! and The Golden Compass. Kidman also has a way of embodying weary sadness, as her turn in Rabbit Hole attests. The role would make a great transitional part for Kidman, helping her move away from playing ingénues and into character parts.
12. Man At Arms – William Hurt
Tough, grizzled, loving and wise, Duncan, Man-at-Arms for Eternia, has seen it all. He’s lived through war, he’s seen days of peace, he’s raised a daughter, and protected a kingdom. Despite all his military duties, Duncan enjoys tinkering around in his laboratory and spending time with his daughter Teela. As the closest advisor to King Randor, he also is something of a surrogate father figure to Prince Adam, and one of the few to know that Adam and He-Man are actually the same person. Duncan therefore needs fatherly benevolence, and he sports a bit of a weathered look. Though generally a kind, gentle man, he should also have a hint of sadness in his eyes.
Our pick: Oscar winner William Hurt looks good with a moustache, as his recent outing in Captain America: Civil War will attest. His work in the Syfy miniseries Dune also hints at his ability to work in the world of science fiction. Perhaps most interesting, his role in Into the Wild hints at the mournful, brooding sadness that should lay just beneath the surface. He knows what became of his daughter’s mother, and the fate that lays in store for his only child.
11. Teela – Rooney Mara
As captain of the royal guard, Teela is one of the original badass female characters. Young, beautiful, tough and resourceful, she could hand even the best warrior his own behind in a fight. Oh, and she loves animals. So, there’s that.
Teela also has a hidden destiny. The lost child of the Sorceress of Grayskull, she will one day replace her mother as custodians of the castle’s secrets. Raised alongside Prince Adam, the two have a somewhat combative relationship. When Adam becomes He-Man, however, much like Superman and Lois Lane, the two seem made for one another, and Teela is totally smitten.
Our pick: Rooney Mara has distinguished herself as a fine actress, and one that can take on a very physical role. Her Oscar-nominated work in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo proves she can handle a tough female character, though it’s her more recent work in Carol that shows her softer side, and the breadth of her dramatic talents. Her ever-youthful looks make her perfect for taking on a young character wise beyond her years, and Mara’s bright blue eyes, like Nicole Kidman and William Hurt’s, make her a reasonable candidate for playing their offspring.
10. Evil-Lyn – Angela Bassett
If Skeletor is the Magneto of the Masters of the Universe film series, Evil-Lyn, his sorceress minion, would undoubtedly be his Mystique. Leggy, statuesque and ruthless as all Hell, Evil-Lyn has a strange attraction to Skeletor, whom she follows with great ambition. Evil-Lyn would love to conquer Eternia herself, but lacks the power to do so; her need for greater magical instruction keeps her working for Skeletor, though it also makes her unpredictable. A woman of cunning, intensity and quiet desire, her she’s a formidable villainess.
Our pick: Angela Bassett hasn’t had a great film role in years, and it’s high time she got one again! One of the most beautiful women to grace the screen, her leggy stature, high forehead and chiseled face make her perfect for playing the embodiment of beauty, while her cool eyes suggest a woman of secrets. Audiences gasped at her prowess in What’s Love Got To Do With It playing Tina Turner, and her ripped arm muscles inspired a generation of women (and men) to hit the gym. Like Lithgow, Bassett has the sizable gravitas needed to play an outrageous villain while still making her believable.
9. Beast Man – Ron Perlman
No villainous team up is complete without a heavy, and Skeletor introduces Beast Man into the fray. A near-mindless brute, he specializes in torture and can use his empathic abilities to take control of animals to use as weapons. For hand-to-hand combat, he prefers a spiked whip to challenge his enemies. He also boasts superhuman speed, and super strength. Still, one-dimensional bad guys are never much fun, so a wise production of Masters of the Universe will give him a little bit more pathos.
Our Pick: Beast Man could be realized through motion capture, though given his hairy appearance, and more importantly, the need for an actor to inject humanity into the role, using heavy prosthetic make-up makes more sense. No actor alive better fits the bill than Ron Perlman. Look at films like Hellboy, Quest for Fire or the TV series Beauty and the Beast to see how he uses his eyes, voice, and body posture to convey a character through intensive make-up. Perlman succeeds Lon Chaney as the greatest make-up actor in history, and quite simply, nobody else in Hollywood could play the part better.
8. She-Ra – Juno Temple
Adora and Adam are twins, though the former spent her life as commander of the brutal Horde army. Once upon a time, the Horde, led by the wicked Hordak and his minion Skeletor, invaded Eternia and almost succeeded in conquering the planet. The forces of good led by King Randor rebuffed the invasion, but at very high cost. Randor’s wife Marlena had just given birth to twins, and on the eve of the Horde defeat, Hordak broke into the Eterinan palace and kidnapped the infant Adora, escaping with her to a far off world.
Years later, Adam and the Sorceress managed to track her whereabouts to the planet Etheria, where Hordak had raised her as a surrogate daughter, and Adora had participated in Horde atrocities. With Adam’s help, she freed herself from the Horde and took on the secret identity of She-Ra, which gave her powers similar to those of her brother. Blond, tough, and with regret in her eyes, she offers a plumb role to an up and coming actress.
Our pick: She-Ra doesn’t quite need the gladiator build that He-Man demands, though she should sport similar features and some physical prowess. Juno Temple has had a good run these past few years, with featured roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Black Mass and Maleficent. Perhaps she’s earned the right to a lead role, and should she manage the physical training the role demands, no doubt her blond hair and bright smile would make her fine casting in the pivotal role of She-Ra
7. Hordak – John Voight
A dark menace that even manages to scare the hell out of Skeletor, Hordak commands the same kind of gravitas and brutality, but with a more deliberate, slow edge. He’s older — how old, nobody quite knows — and has watched thousands of worlds fall before his invading armies. One notable exception: Eternia, where Randor managed to rebuff the Horde advances. Brooding, ruthless, and with maybe just a hint of fatherly empathy, Hordak makes for a complex and unpredictable villain. Like Skeletor, his albino bat-like appearance will demand a good deal of make-up or CGI to look credible. For that reason, the part requires an actor capable of drama and of tongue-in-cheek wickedness.
Our pick: John Voight has an Oscar and a long history as an effective dramatic actor. For that matter, the man knows how to have fun in B-movie camp: look no further than his winking (literally) performance in Anaconda for proof. He also has strong bone structure, which, believe it or not, would help him give Hordak the right look under all that make-up. Like Skeletor, it’s vital to have a great actor playing the role with total conviction, and while the part would require some hefty action-stunts, the heavy camouflage of the actor could easily also hide a stunt man for more elaborate sequences. Voights deep voice also would help him convey the aged ruthlessness of a galactic Stalin.
6. Catra – Alexandra Shipp
Standing at Hordak’s right side, the metamorph Catra slinks her way through the halls of the Horde bases, and has a long rivalry with Hordak’s adoptive daughter Adora. Catra has her own predatory prowess, and, courtesy of a magic mask, can morph into a panther at will. Even without the mask, she has a feline quality at all times: sensuous, flirty and, well, catty, she’s a tough space woman without a shred of empathy. Much like Evil-Lyn, though she shows allegiance to Hordak out of necessity, she has her own hidden agenda, and would gladly see Hordak overthrown if it meant her own prosperity.
Our pick: Actress Alexandra Shipp made a great impression in X-Men: Apocalypse when she finally nailed the role of Storm in a way Halle Berry never could. Like a young Eartha Kitt, she also has the sensual, feline quality that makes her sexy without having to try. Moreover, her seductive eyes make her true intentions elusive, and suggest she’s wicked to the core. Shipp deserves A-List status, and if she could fit a Masters of the Unvierse film in her bountiful slate of X-Men projects, she would make an ideal Catra.
5. Glimmer – Ellen Wong
The princess of Etheria, the leggy Glimmer refuses to bow beneath the attacks of the Horde, and like the fabled Princess Leia of the Star Wars movies, she leads a resistance movement. Capably of managing political bureaucracy and holding her own in a fight, she has enough exotic beauty and pluck to warm the hardened hearts of soldiers and make them swoon — before taking them out herself. Her slightly alien looks gifted her purple hair, so the actress taking on the role would need a certain air of dignity for an audience to take her seriously in the part. Glimmer has spent most of her life watching her world in pain thanks to the invasions of the Horde, but even that dire circumstance cannot diminish Glimmer’s spirit.
Our pick: Finding an actress that can pull off athleticism and purple hair at the same time poses a problem for casting directors. After all, how many actors can look credible and have alien glamour at the same time? Ellen Wong earned some positive critical notice for her badass woman performance in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and since has earned more of the same for her work on television, most notably in The Carrie Diaries. A trained martial artist, her athletic ability balances out her considerable beauty, and makes her a fine choice to lead the Etherian resistance as Glimmer.
4. Orko (voice) – Warwick Davis
Besides He-Man and Skeletor, if one Masters of the Universe character has achieved iconic status, it has to be Orko, the flying alien wizard. Clad in all red with his signature “O” on his chest, Orko hovers about making mischief thanks to his own poor command of his magical powers, and his childlike curiosity. He ended up stranded on Eternia by accident; on his own world, Orko was actually a powerful sorcerer. Though he yearns to get back to Trolla, his home planet, King Randor’s acceptance of the Trollan wizard helped Orko find a home in the royal court of Eternia. His lifelong friendship with Prince Adam also makes him privy to Adam’s secret identity as He-Man.
Our pick: Fans lamented in 1987 when budgetary limitations demanded that Orko be left out of the live-action Masters of the Universe. A big-screen outing should not make the same mistake again. While the filmmakers would no doubt employ puppetry or CGI to bring Orko to life, the actor supplying his voice would be the real source of his characterization. Noting his small size, actor Warwick Davis would make a natural choice for the part. Davis’ distinct voice would give Orko the whimsical innocence essential to the character, and Davis could also don the costume for close up shots to help develop Orko’s mannerisms.
3. King Hiss – Billy Zane
While not as well known as Hordak or Skeletor, King Hiss was also considered one of He-Man’s arch rivals. Mattel developed the character late in the Masters of the Universe fever as an intended villain for another spin off show. Called Legends of Greyskull, it would have served as a prequel about the Elders who built Castle Greyskull and their war against a race of evil Snake Men who built Skeletor’s home of Snake Mountain. King Hiss had extreme powers, one of which gave him the ability to shed his own skin and turn into a mass of cobras. A character like King Hiss would add interesting visuals and effects to a He-Man film, and hint at a larger story, possibly for spin-off films or sequels.
Our pick: King Hiss should have a reptilian look, even in his human form. A pair of dark, beady eyes would help convey his sinister intentions and the evils just beneath the surface. Actor Billy Zane has a fine career as a character actor, but seldom scores leading roles these days. King Hiss would offer Zane a great opportunity to show off his gifts to a wider audience.
2. Trap Jaw – Demetrius Grosse
The space pirate Trap Jaw still has a following as a favorite of one of Skeletor’s many minions, though bringing him to the screen would almost assure an Oscar win for the makeup team who dared to take him on (assuming they’re successful, of course). With a cybernetic jaw and a mechanical arm that can repurpose itself as a blaster, a hook or a clamp, Trap Jaw on the big screen could completely arrest viewers with his distinctive look. Not to mention, the character would also make for some inventive fight scenes opposite He-Man and the heroes of Masters of the Universe.
Our pick: Actor Demetrius Grosse just snagged a plumb role in Straight Outta Compton last year, and the time has come for him to have a great follow up. Appearing in a big-budget action/sci-fi epic would provide him more exposure, and his sci-fi television credits would help Masters of the Universe tap into an existing fanbase. Grosse, who’s onscreen work also includes Banshee, Heroes and the upcoming Westworld has the physical form to play a space pirate, and the dramatic range to not look ridiculous while doing it!
1. King Randor – Stellan Skarsgard
If there’s a thankless role anywhere in Masters of the Universe, the benevolent King Randor has to be it. An aging ruler, he once saved Eternia from the onslaught of the Horde attacks, and has since spent time mourning the loss of his daughter and raising his son to be a cunning warrior king himself. When He-Man does appear on the scene, he all but robs Randor of his glory, saving the universe while the king holds up in his palace. No doubt a fine writer could provide Randor with a few more dramatic notes to play, and with some good action to give him a better function in the plot. Still, Randor should seem like a king, and have the proper poise to match.
Our pick: Hell, if Alexander Sarsgard is playing He-Man, why not cast his real-life dad as his on-screen sire? Stellan Sarsgard has a long history of giving great character performances in indie films like Dancer in the Dark and in big-screen sci-fi fare like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Thor. He and his son would surely have fine chemistry on screen, and the real world dynamic would help add layers to their performances…not to mention give the marketing team a new angle with which to sell the movie!
Have your own ideas as far as casting? Did we miss your favorite character? Let us know in the comments!