‘He-Man’ Director Short-List – Who Will Helm ‘Masters of the Universe’?

Published 1 year ago by

Masters of the Universe Movie Directors He Man Director Short List   Who Will Helm Masters of the Universe?

[Update: Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) may also be on the short list. Scroll down for details.]

Following the success of other toy brand-turned-blockbuster movie franchises, it’s no surprise that Sony Pictures’ Masters of the Universe film continues to move steadily onward – in spite of several major production setbacks. Back in November, the project took its latest hit – as G.I. Joe series director, Jon M. Chu, exited the film. The split was reported in the trades but, since then, Chu has explained that he left the film due to scheduling conflicts with G.I. Joe 3 not because of any ill will between the director and the studio.

At the time of Chu’s departure, Sony took the transition as an opportunity to revisit the script in preparation for a new helmer – bringing in writer Terry Rossio to rewrite the screenplay. For now, it’s unclear how much of the script Rossio is changing, not to mention how much leeway the studio is willing to give their next director – a director that could be announced in the near future.

A new report from The Wrap suggests that Sony has narrowed their search for a new director down to a handful of candidates and are currently taking with Harald Zwart (The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), Chris McKay (Robot Chicken), and Mike Cahill (Another Earth), along with other unspecified possibilities, about the job.

 He Man Director Short List   Who Will Helm Masters of the Universe?

The news comes only a few short months after Schmoes Know suggested that Andrés Muschietti (Mama), Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), Rian Johnson (Looper), Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie), as well as Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders (The Croods) were all in the running to helm the He-Man movie. Given that the new short list mentions “other directors are still in the mix” (in addition to Zwart, McKay, and Cahill), it’s possible that select directors from the previous list could have been (or still are) in talks for the project – though The Wrap suggests the prior short list isn’t accurate.

That said, the new list is slightly more realistic – given that Masters of the Universe is not a flagship property for the studio (at least not yet). There’s obviously a lot of potential in the source material (and dollars to be made in multimedia branding) but an equal number of hurdles to clear before the property has a clear path to the big screen. As a result, up and comers like Cahill and McKay are smart choices for a director short list – since they’ll come to the table with interesting ideas (and plenty of passion) while still being agreeable to work within the guidelines that Sony and Mattel will likely have established.

He Man and the Masters of the Universe Dark Horse Comics series He Man Director Short List   Who Will Helm Masters of the Universe?

McKay shares an interesting connection with the prior short list (since he was the editor on Lord and Miller’s LEGO Movie). Some readers might be eager to make something of the connection and wonder if Schmoes Know got their facts wrong or Lord and Miller recommended McCay to Sony in their talks but, given that the original short list could be nothing but hearsay, the LEGO Movie parallel is probably nothing more than coincidence. Still, McKay is an intriguing (albeit unconventional) choice – one that likely knows Masters of the Universe better than most directors (given that select characters regularly appear on Robot Chicken). If McKay is given the job, Sony might be looking to find a bankable balance between humor and heroics in the big screen adaptation – which would be a departure from Chu’s promise of a serious (not campy) adaptation.

For fans, Cahill is another solid pick – a sharp director that could help ensure the film maintains a grounded tone despite its fantastical elements (another promise Chu made). However, out of the three names mentioned, Cahill has the least experience with big budget movies in the studio system. That’s not a deal breaker, as Sony could surround their pick with capable industry veterans to help support the director.

he man1 570x320 He Man Director Short List   Who Will Helm Masters of the Universe?

The least encouraging of the picks, Zwart has been attached to a number of eye-rolling properties that underwhelmed critics and don’t show the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that will be necessary for a quality Masters of the Universe adaptation. This isn’t to say that Zwart can’t surprise us but with director credits on The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesThe Karate Kid remake, and The Pink Panther 2, it’s hard to imagine the filmmaker delivering a rich and epic character story that fans as well as casual moviegoers can both enjoy.

Their might be some kinks to work out but Masters of the Universe could become a major asset for the studio. Like Michael Bay’s Transformers series, the licensing potential alone should motivate Sony to take their time and find a filmmaker that can update the cartoon series for modern moviegoers. Whether or not a version of Masters of the Universe that appeals to casual film lovers and sells a lot of toys will also be favorable to longtime fans of the animated show is another story.

UPDATE: Variety reporter Justin Kroll confirmed that he’s also hearing Cahill’s name mentioned – along with Kick-Ass 2 director Jeff Wadlow. Wadlow is currently writing Fox’s X-Force movie and it’s unclear whether or not he actually has room in his schedule to tackle a project as big as Masters of the Universe. Still, if he is truly in the running, he could be a smart choice for the job.


More: 80s & 90s Cartoons that Could be Great Blockbuster Movies


The Masters of the Universe reboot does not yet have a release date.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Masters of the Universe, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Source: The Wrap & Justin Kroll

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. The 80s revival continues! WOOHOO !
    Next bring back M.A.S.K , Silverhawks , Defenders of the earth and COPS.

    • Thundar the Barbarian would be better than He-Man, who has the rights to Thundar?

      • My god YESSSSS! Thundarr the Barbarian was the shiiiiiiiit.

    • Rocklords and Go-bots also.


      Yes I am joking.

  2. Damn. I was really hoping that Rian Johnson would get the gig. I’m not too keen on this new list of directors.

    • Have you seen Another Earth?

      It’s a slow burner but it’s really good.

      Or did you assume it was last year’s Will Smith flop After Earth, about something entirely different?

      • I actually like Mike Cahill to work his magic on this project. I liked Another Earth and thought, although slow, it was nicely done with a great ending. Of course I would prefer Rian Johnson but Mike Cahill would be my second choice

  3. Poking fun at the source material is fine to an extent, but I would prefer a He-Man worth taking seriously as an exciting adventure series more in line with THOR than say… G.I. Joe being a toy based product first and foremost. G.I. Joe was utter corn, lets give Masters of the Universe a long term respectable franchise that it most heartily deserves.

  4. Im still mad Chu had to drop out bcuz he was going in the right direction with Masters I wanted to see.Joe Cornish seemed to be another good choice I wouldn’t have a problem with but the rest of these rumored directors the more recent ones don’t seem to have the experience to make the type of film long time fans wanna see.And yes I wanna see a Lord of the Ring style MOTU or at least the last 300 movie to get me anywhere excited to where I was as a kid.I hope this doesn’t turn into some G.I. Joe or Transformers crap that we’ve seen and be one of the best franchises of all time.

  5. He-Man, Skeletor, man-At-Arms, etc…..really? Well, heck, I remember the cartoon. I fthey do a live-action movie of this, I’ll actually give it a watch! Just wish they would get moving on the once-proposed but never acted-upon Johnny Quest live-actio movie! Hmmm, wonder if they could do The Herculoids?

  6. Hopefully the stories will be better, or at least not have so much idiotic jokes.

  7. How has Macross/Robotech not been developed in some form? If I were a Sony studio exec I would get the rights to Robotech and develop that as a tentpole franchise. He-Man could never compete with a film version of Robotech. The SDF-1 crashing into Earth. The Zentradi. C’mon.

    • If done correctly, the space battles in a film version of Robotech could be unlike anything yet. Those could be amazing.

      He-man, meh.

    • I’d buy tickets just to go listen to the theme song!

    • I would love to see a Macross Saga movie. If they did all of the Robotech stories, it would be easily a trilogy.

      • Trilogy, hell it could be nine movies.

  8. That new list of directors is terrible! Makes me think that the studio is getting ready to deliver a bad movie no matter what.

    If a guy like Rian Johnson got behind this though I would have tons of hope.

  9. Triclops, Trap Jaws, and Merman where some of my favorite characters.

  10. I would like to see this movie as an ‘R’ rated ‘dark’ film.
    Make Skeletor and his minions cruel and ugly and truly dangerous. Make ‘He-Man’ in the vein of Conan, but with additional powers and knowledge, throw in a smokin’ hot Teela and Goddess, add some nudity and BAM! awesome movie. Most of the people who watched this TV show have been adults for some time now, and I think a kiddie version would fall flat.

    • Honestly, I’m afraid that any version will fall flat. How many people are excited to see a He-Man movie? Thundercats would be more popular, more difficult but more popular. Never discount the built in furry audience. lol.

      Robotech/Macross. Sony could make billions of that franchise.

      • Robotech is such a sprawling story and so convoluted that it needs to be adapted. No way could it ever be a straight adaptation. But if someone unlocked that story and it had a big budget, damn.

        It is also great because it is a global story.

  11. I guess I am in the minority since I’m glad Rain Johnson is not involved in the project. I would prefer that he sticks to his own original projects. I also think this project would need a director who can write fantasy dialogue while making it sound more natural (kind of like what Kenneth Branagh did with Thor). Johnson’s projects tend to have more down to earth dialogue.

  12. I’m a huge fan and have been following news of this for years, so here is a copy of a previous post I made, with some minor tweaks, and I hope somebody listens…

    Here, Mr. Unknown Director, is your recipe for a blockbuster MOTU movie:

    Take 1/6 Beastmaster
    Add 1/6 Avatar
    Mix in 1/6 300
    Add 1/6 Thor
    Stir in 1/6 John Carter
    and top with 1/6 Original Star Wars.
    Mix ‘em up and sprinkle with your own little touches, and everyone will be happy.
    -Thor showed you how to handle the dialog, the outfits, and what Zodac could be (the cosmic gatekeeper guy)
    -Avatar gives you a good guide on designing Eternia
    -When I was awake for John Carter, it showed some good visuals of primitive/technology mixed and some good monsters
    -300 is a really cool visual style that could have some influence on this movie,
    -Beastmaster laid out the basic, raw gritty world of He-Man as a barbarian (who happens to have a pet eagle and tiger)
    -Hellboy showed you how to make crazy looking characters walk around and look like they belonged
    -Obviously, Lord of the Rings is a great model for the layout of battle scenes, use of CGI, and weapon and costume design
    -Use the Star Wars model of stuff for kids, stuff for geeks, stuff for action fans, comedy relief, cute and cuddly characters, and bad-ass dudes who can get a little violent- Darth Vader air-choked people but no kids were traumatized for life by it

    -Skip the origin stories except He-Man and Battle Cat, and maybe Skeletor. We didn’t have a clue who the heck Boba Fett was or where Han Solo was from but we loved them.

    I suggest a young He-Man finds a green tiger cub being attacked by some familiar purple panthers and he rescues it somehow. The cub nuzzles him and they are friends forever. That’s all the communication you need from Battle-Cat. He’s a little whiny because he’s scared so He-Man jokingly calls him “Cringer”. No magical transformation into Battle Cat. He just grows up. And gets mean. And hates purple panthers.

    -It’s OK for characters to have masks/heavy makeup in movies. Darth Vader and Bane never showed much facial expression. Venom did. Lesson learned.

    -No Channing Tatum, Chris Hemsworth, Dolph Lundgren or anybody else who has played a superhero before.

    -However, get Chris Pine in the gym NOW to start beefing up for his born-to-play role as He-Man

    -Very limited famous faces. Absolutely, positively, no Rock. Or Samuel L. Jackson. Or Channing Tatum. (it bears repeating)

    -Find Alfredo Alcala and let him be your art director.

    -He-Man is a barbarian. He’s pretty much a blonde Conan. (rent Beastmaster- add muscle.)

    -He-Man’s dad in flashbacks is Triple H. (Also a barbarian, not King Randor)

    -Sci-fi and primitive CAN live together on one screen. Star Wars did it many years ago, Predator did it, and John Carter did a decent job of it as well.

    -IF you are smart, creative, and an original thinker, you will find a way to make these characters work on screen and be true to the source material. The original movie Skeletor did a decent job. Putting an iron cross on He-Man and curly thingies around Teela’s boobs would be just lovely. Trap-Jaw if done right, could beat out Boba Fett as coolest bounty hunter ever. All the other characters, just give them some of their original signature. They’re weird, they’re colorful, they have weird names. So what. Figure it out.

    -The names are pretty easy to handle. The recent Batman and Superman movies showed you how. Maybe some kid calls the skunk people “stinkors” and the spider people “webstors”. No big deal.

    -DO NOT listen to ANYONE who tells you that the fans will be upset if you don’t put in Adam or Orko. I was a fan of MOTU from the time when all they had was Man-at-Arms on the shelf, until the freaking Stone people and Sy-Klone or whoever he was showed up. I watched the cartoons daily. I loved them. Leave them be. The fans will complain about Orko on blogs and such, but they will forget their anger as they realize what a kick-ass, serious and believable take on MOTU they have just seen. And then they will go back again. Two words= Jar-Jar Binks. (3 words?)

    -Castle Grayskull has a skull for a facade. Everyone carries maces, halberds, swords, laser guns, and whips. No one needs a feel-good story about friendship. We got plenty of that from Sam and Frodo.

    -No cheesy humor or one-liners or goofy comedians as sidekicks. Anyone remember Dungeons and Dragons? Didn’t think so. Braveheart and the Marvel movies are fine models. Let them be your humor guide.

    -Lots of characters already in MOTU. Do not make up any of your own. Don’t do it. You don’t have to give everybody a huge role, again take a cue from Star Wars and just let some of them stand around looking tough.

    -Jessica Biel is the only actress you need to audition for Teela.

    -Again, No Cringer transformations, and..
    -NO talking Battle Cat! However,….
    -EXACT replicas of Battle Cat’s armor. One of the coolest things ever about MOTU, IMHO.

    -Good luck figuring out Stratos. Does he need wings strapped to his arms, does he need a jetpack, who knows? Just give him some cool goggles and an Amish beard and it will work out fine.

    -No mustache on Man-at-Arms. The toy looked way tougher, kinda like Randy Couture.

    -Please, for the love of God, no herky-jerky cameras and impossible-to-follow action scenes.

    -Please do include an epic underwater battle with Mer-Man

    -Don’t get yourself too worked up with Queen Marleena, King Randor, the Snake Men, etc. Just stick to the basics. They can come later if this turns out to be worthy of a sequel.

    -I shouldn’t have to say that there doesn’t need to be any She-Ra. But a nice little nod would be maybe to have some cute little blonde girl kick the young boy He-Man’s butt one day and yell “RA!” or something like that. Fans would wet themselves.

    -And finally, make Snake Mountain a vast, horrifying place similar to Mordor. Make Castle Grayskull this huge epic, fortress the size of Minas Tirith, but mysterious, abandoned, maybe filled with ghosts like the ghost dudes in LOTR. Wasn’t there a ghosty scare-glow guy later on in MOTU? The Power Sword gives you mastery and control of all that. There you go.

    So, there it is, I’ve laid it all out for you, now you just need to follow the recipe and become the next (insert famous director here)

    (don’t think I’m holding my breath for any of this, it’s just my vision of my perfect MOTU movie, but unfortunately I’m sure it will suck)

    Recent addition: Please don’t let anybody who had anything to do with The Lone Ranger get anywhere near this movie! Must I have all my childhood crapped upon?

  13. There have been more than enough remakes of 80’s shows, movies and comics, Some of them good, some mediocre ande some just shouldn’t have been made.

    That being said. If they can find good director and cast, I’d be all for a MotU movie. Damn, that was my childhood and the series gives more than enough to make a good movie out of it!

    Wouldn’t now who I would cast as He-Man tbh, Channing Tatum isn’t a bad bet and Leonardo DiCaprio could pull it off as well, but I’d definitly see Gary Oldman as Man-at-arms and Jennifer Laurence as Teela. As for Skeletor: I could actually see Jim Carey pulling off that role or maybe Bradley Cooper.

  14. I hope they ditch that “magic vs technology” plot they’ve been batting around. The cool thing about He-Man was the mix of both. Where else do you see a sword wielding barbarian flying a spaceship? At least get the premise right.

  15. Charlie Day better be case as Orko.

    Seriously. He’s perfect.