Masters of the Universe was one of three big-budget 1987 movies that sunk Cannon Pictures (the other two were Over the Top and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace). It was supposed to be their version of Star Wars, boasting a significant budget (for Cannon) and high production values. It was based on the toys and cartoon series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe by Mattel, but the film had a very rocky road to the big screen. While it’s now considered a camp classic, thanks mainly to the involvement of Dolph Lundgren, at the time, many thought that his performance helped tank the movie. He almost ended up being dubbed in the final cut.
Indeed, in the documentary Toy Masters (excerpted by THR), Mattel executives found Lundgren’s accent unintelligible, and director Gary Goddard wanted him dubbed. “We actually did bring in a few actors to loop test, to show the studio, and one of them was flawless,” Goddard says. He couldn’t loop Lundgren as, by his contract, he was allowed three attempts at looping the dialogue himself, and eventually, producer Menahem Golan decided to stick with Lundgren.
While some like to poke fun at Lundgren’s line readings in the film, it’s hard to imagine another actor’s voice coming out of his mouth. Lundgren’s accent isn’t even that thick, and he’s far from the only action star of the era with an accent. One thing Goddard and the Mattel executives don’t acknowledge is how whenever a prominent actor winds up being dubbed, the movie almost always ends up as a disaster. This happened twice in 1980, with Harvey Keitel dubbed for Saturn 3 and Sam J. Jones dubbed for Flash Gordon, and again in 1981 when Klinton Spilsbury was dubbed as the lead in The Legend of the Lone Ranger. In 1984, Andie MacDowell was dubbed by Glenn Close for Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, and sure enough, it set her career back years. In the end, Lundgren’s voice suited the role fine, and he went on to an excellent career as a B-action star in classics like Red Scorpion and more.
Do you think Dolph should have been dubbed for Masters of the Universe? Let us know in the comments.