He-Man returns to big screen

Warner Bros. and producer Joel Silver are working with Mattel to turn "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" into a live-action film.

Justin Marks is set to write the script. Silver will produce.

Deal, which is contingent on Mattel formally approving an outline for the project, is another example of Hollywood overhauling a 1980s-era pop-culture touchstone in the hopes of seeding a tentpole pic. The sale comes just a few weeks before the July preem of DreamWorks' Michael Bay-directed "Transformers," which began as an '80s animated series and toy line.

He-Man was born as a Mattel action figure, and the toymaker created an animated series in hopes of selling dolls. The series became a cult favorite, but the brand was hardly helped by its first bigscreen incarnation, the campy 1987 flop "Masters of the Universe" that starred Dolph Lundgren as the title character and Frank Langella as his nemesis Skeletor.

The toymaker, which now licenses "He-Man" for high-end merchandise sold to hardcore collectors, has been wary of going Hollywood again. An attempt by Fox 2000 to make another movie, this time with director John Woo, ended in futility as the toymaker didn't spark to the screen plans.

For Mattel, the stakes are potentially high as success could mean an entire relaunch of a toy line.

The franchise has been reimagined by the producer and the writers and pitched to Mattel as a classic good vs. evil battle, using the kind of visual effects strategy employed in "300." A warrior is touted as the last hope of a magical land called Eternia, which is being ravaged by technology and the evil Skeletor.

Many of the characters in the Middle Earth-like universe will be informed by the mythology created in the four different cartoon series done since the 1980s.

The story was hatched by Marks and Neil Ellice, the latter of whom will co-produce. Silver Pictures, which is turning the Japanese animated series "Speed Racer" into a live-action film to be directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, sparked to the potential. Silver Pictures exec Navid McIlhargey brought it in and will be involved in a producing capacity.

The viability of the "He-Man" universe is evidenced by the traffic that has occurred since rumors of a screen resurrection hit the Internet. Contrary to Web rumor, the lead role has not yet been cast.

WMA-repped Marks is writing a number of scripts, including "One Free Murder," for producer Kevin Misher. But he's found a niche reimagining branded properties. He's turning the animated series "Voltron" into a live-action film for producer Mark Gordon; he's developing a screen version of the vidgame "Street Fighter" for Hyde Park; and he's scripting a feature for Warners based on DC Comics character the Green Arrow.
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