1987’s Masters of the Universe is an awesome movie – and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. The film’s mix of sci-fi, sorcery and ’80s hair styles makes it a cult classic that deserves to be remembered with some of the decade’s finest films.
If you’ve stumbled across this post then chances are you’re a fan too. Want to know more about Masters of the Universe?
Of course you do!
Here are 30 facts about the film!
Facts about 1987’s Masters of the Universe
1) Masters of the Universe was written by David Odell and was directed by Gary Goddard. To date, Masters of the Universe is the only movie directed by Goddard, who is perhaps best known for his work creating large-scale amusement attractions including Terminator 2/3D: Battle Across Time and Jurassic Park: The Ride, as well as TV shows Skeleton Warriors and Captain Power.
2) The film was produced by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan – the producing duo behind such films as Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984), Invasion U.S.A (1985) and er… Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987).
3) Swedish actor, Dolph Lundgren played the part of He-Man in Masters of the Universe. Lundgren is known for roles which have included Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (1985) & Creed II (2018), Frank Castle/The Punisher in the Punisher (1989) and Gunner Jensen in The Expendables series (2010 – 2014).
4) Dolph Lundgren realised the significance of playing a character such as He-Man. Speaking in the book The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Lundgren said: “I felt a lot of pressure having to play an American hero after playing an evil Soviet fighter in Rocky IV. It was unusual in those days to play a toy. Now it’s in vogue and many Academy Award-winning actors are standing in line to join the comic book frenzy. Back in the eighties it was considered a possible career ender.”
5) Actor Frank Langella took on the role of He-Man’s mortal enemy, Skeletor – a role which Langella regards as one of his all-time favourite parts. Speaking to IFC in 2012, Langella said: “I played him because my son was four years old and walked around with a sword yelling ‘I (have) the power!’ and he loved, loved, loved Skeletor.” He added: “I couldn’t wait to play him.”
6) Courteney Cox was cast in the lead role of Julie Winston in Masters of the Universe – marking her cinematic debut. Seven years later, Cox would go on to play Monica Gellar in one of the most famous sitcoms in TV history – Friends. Christina Pickles, who played the role of the Sorceress would play Monica’s mother, Judy Gellar in the same show.
7) Robert Duncan McNeill played the role of Kevin Corrigan in Masters of the Universe. McNeill is perhaps best known as Lieutenant Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager.
8) Teela actress, Chelsea Field, is married to American actor, Scott Bakula.
9) Character actor, Jon Cypher played the role of Man-At-Arms. Before retiring from acting in 2004, Cypher had built up a portfolio of work that included roles on such hit TV shows as Hill Street Blues, Murder She Wrote, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Jag, Walker Texas Ranger and Law & Order, amongst others.
10) The role of Detective Lubic was played by actor James Tolkan. Tolkan is known to movie fans for his appearance in all three Back to the Future movies (1985-1990).
11) Masters of the Universe was originally intended to be a Warner Bros picture, but Warner Bros stopped the project early into pre-production. When production re-started, the film was in the hands of Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan of Cannon Films. Now that Cannon Films is no longer around, Warner Bros. Pictures currently has the rights to the movie.
12) Originally the entire film was to be set on Eternia, with no scenes on Earth whatsoever. Speaking in the book, The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, director Gary Goddard, said: “The original script took place solely on Earth – and this was the script that I was given. Due to budgetary issues – the film was to be done for $15,000,000 or less – the idea was to bring the Eternians to present-day Earth. I liked the fish-out-of-water approach, but I thought we had to ground it in some part in Eternia. I devised a way to have the opening and closing in Eternia, with the rest of the movie located on present-day Earth, and that’s how we bookended the movie.”
13) Karg, Blade, Gwildor and Saurod were characters created specifically for Masters of the Universe. The characters were not part of the mythology prior to the movie. He-Man, Skeletor, Teela, Man-At-Arms, Beast Man, Evil-Lyn and the Sorceress all appeared in the original cartoon and toy line.
14) Characters that appeared in an early draft of the script but who were cut from later drafts included Arachno – a man with the eyes and poison mandibles of a giant spider – and Mantoid – a cyborg with infrared vision. Both characters were set to be henchmen of Skeletor.
15) Due to the restricted budget, He-Man’s friend Orko – a character from the original cartoon – was cut from the movie as he was deemed too costly to recreate for the big screen. The character Gwildor, as played by actor Billy Barty, was used in his place.
16) Skeletor’s Air Centurions were designed by legendary concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie. Speaking in the book, The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, director Gary Goddard, said: “Ralph really excelled on the Air Centurions and captured a great feeling in his early pencil sketches.”
17) Early concept drawings featured classic He-Man vehicles the Talon Fighter, the Wind Raider and the Attak Trak. None of the vehicles appeared in the finished film.
18) The exterior of Castle Grayskull can be seen only once in the movie. In the film, the exterior of Castle Grayskull is represented by a matte painting – an image painted onto glass and added into live-action footage.
19) The first scenes shot in the movie focused on He-Man’s arrival on Earth.
20) Many fans of Masters of the Universe will recall the memorable death of Skeletor’s henchman, Saurod. Although the scene is a genuine shock moment in the story, it was also something which the filmmakers had second thoughts about after the movie was completed. Speaking in the book, The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, concept artist William Stout, said: “The performance of (actor) Pons Maar as Saurod was so incredible that we regretted killing him off so early in the movie.”
21) One of the most distinctive aspects of Evil-Lyn’s costume was her piercing blue eyes. But here’s the thing, those eyes were not contact lenses. Actress Meg Foster, who played the role of Evil-Lyn, really has piercing blue eyes. As the saying goes, ‘if it ain’t broke…’.
22) The work of respected comic book artist, Jack Kirby played a big influence on Masters of the Universe, as did comic books in general. Speaking in The Art of He-Man, concept artist William Stout, said: “Gary Goddard and I share a passion for comic books. We didn’t look down on them when we were making Masters, which was unusual for that time. It also helped our communication. When Gary asked for something “a little more Kirby”, I knew what he was talking about. I didn’t have to ask who “Kirby” was; I knew he was talking about Jack and what that meant.”
23) The Cosmic Key – the device that Skeletor searches for throughout the movie – was originally called the Matter Key. According to the director’s commentary on the Masters of the Universe DVD, director Gary Goddard said the Key was quite “a complex piece of machinery.”
24) Scenes featuring fast food restaurant, Robby’s Ribs ‘n’ Chicken, were shot on the site where four years later, African American taxi driver, Rodney King was arrested and beaten by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
25) A great deal of the movie was shot at night to stop the fantastical characters (He-Man in particular) looking ridiculous in broad daylight.
26) Due to Cannon Films’ ongoing financial problems, the final battle between He-Man and Skeletor had to be completed in a day. As a result, the battle didn’t have an ending, so director Gary Goddard came back to the scene two months after filming had completed to ensure there was a fitting conclusion. Goddard contributed part of his salary in order to finish the scene.
27) Bill Conti composed the music for Masters of the Universe. Amongst a long list of credits, Conti is best known for his work on the Rocky films.
28) Legendary poster artist, Drew Struzan produced the poster for Masters of the Universe. Masters of the Universe artist, Earl Norem also produced a poster for the movie.
29) Released in August 1987, Masters of the Universe was not a commercial success. It was also not a critical success, with some critics perhaps missing the point of the movie entirely. In his review of Masters of the Universe, the LA Times’ film critic, Michael Wilmington, said: “Masters of the Universe is a misfiring, underdone epic that takes its inspiration not from life or literature, but from a toy line and the cartoon series it inspired.” Hmm… isn’t that the point of a movie based on a toy line and a cartoon series?
30) Despite the commercial failure of Masters of the Universe, a sequel was in the pipeline (albeit on a tighter budget), however, the financial problems of Cannon Films put an end to the project. Costumes and sets that were created for the Masters sequel were later re-used for the low-budget Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, Cyborg (1989).
This post originally appeared on the Honcho-SFX blog.