Dolph Lundgren reflects on He-Man stint as ‘Masters of the Universe’ turns 35: ‘It was weird playing a toy’

There have been so many G.I. Joe, Transformers, Power Rangers, Lego and Toy Story movies that most actors probably don’t give it a second a thought these days. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling seem to be having the time of their lives playing Barbie and Ken as we speak.

But Dolph Lundgren admitted it.

“It was weird playing a toy,” he told us during a 2014 Role Recall interview while looking back at his stint as He-Man in 1987’s Masters of the Universe, the adventure film based on the Mattel action figure line that opened in theaters 35 years ago Sunday (watch Part 1 above, with Masters starting at 3:04).

The Swedish-born karate champ/Fulbright Scholar made his film debut with a bit role in the 1985 James Bond actioner A View to Kill but became a full-blown movie star thanks to his role as iconic boxing antagonist Ivan Drago in Rocky IV that same year. Masters, however, wasn’t necessarily a massive get for the hulking actor.

“In those days comic strip characters were not looked at as big movie franchises. They were like little offshoots that people did, you know? So people weren’t quite as excited by it as they are now, with The Avengers and — well, there’s a new superhero picture opening up every week, I’m losing count here. But in those days it was like, ‘I’m gonna play this toy? I mean, OK.’”

Dolph Lundgren in 1987’s Masters of the Universe. (Photo: Cannon Films/Courtesy Everett Collection)

In expectedly ‘80s Weird Science-esque fashion, the film wages a high-stakes battle between the Eternian hero Prince Adam and his archnemesis Skeletor (Frank Langella) with the help of… a pair of California teenagers (Courteney Cox and Robert Duncan McNeil).

He-Man hardly wears any clothes to battle, of course, so neither did Lundgren.

“There wasn’t much of a costume. It was just two leather straps and some kind of mini leather diaper or something,” he described. “I remember I had to fly on this disk through Whittier, just south of L.A. And we did 58 nights in a row on this frickin’ disk. You know, I’m there in the middle of the winter with no clothes on. It was tough.

“But it was also hard for me because I was playing kind of a hero now, and I’d played the bad guy. And I felt a lot of pressure. You know, just as this young Swedish kid. Internally, I was a bit lost at that time. Because I’d gotten famous for Rocky IV.”

While the Gary Goddard-directed film still holds a special place in the hearts of many an ‘80s/He-Man fan today, it was a pretty immediate bust at the box office, only pulling in $17.3 million. The Masters franchise was over as soon as it began. Lundgren might not have minded.

But everything that’s old is new again.

Masters was rebooted as an animated series produced by Kevin Smith on Netflix last year, and the first live-action He-Man movie since Lundgren’s star vehicle is scheduled to go into production in 2023 with Kyle Allen (West Side Story) starring as the new Most Powerful Man in the Universe.

Watch Part 2 of our Role Recall interview with Dolph Lundgren:

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