He-Man Film ‘Masters of the Universe’ Director Short-List Includes ‘Lego Movie’ Editor (Exclusive)

He-Man Film 'Masters of the Universe' Director Short-List Includes 'Lego Movie' Editor (Exclusive)

Harald Zwart, Chris McKay and Mike Cahill (“Another Earth”) are in contention to direct the movie for Sony and Escape Artists

As Sony Pictures and Escape Artists scramble to get their He-Man movie “Masters of the Universe” off the ground, three directors have emerged as frontrunners for the high-profile job, including Mike Cahill, Chris McKay and Harald Zwart, an individual familiar with the project has told TheWrap.

Jon M. Chu was previously attached to direct the film, which is based on the classic 1980s animated TV series. No deals are in place and a studio insider cautions that other directors are still in the mix.

Of the three mentioned above, Zwart makes the most sense for the gig, as he directed Sony's reboot of “The Karate Kid,” which grossed an impressive $359 million worldwide. A studio favorite who previously directed Sony's “Pink Panther 2,” Zwart also has experience making big-budget, VFX-heavy movies, having directed “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” for Screen Gems, which is owned by Sony.

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Cahill would be an intriguing choice, as he's made his mark in Hollywood with low-budget, sci-fi-themed dramas such as “Another Earth” and “I Origins,” both of which were bought by Fox Searchlight out of Sundance. “Masters of the Universe” would represent a major leap for Cahill in terms of scope and budget, though he has proved he can create snazzy visuals with minimal funds.

McKay, believe it or not, has the most momentum despite the fact that he has yet to direct a studio movie. McKay served as the editor of “The Lego Movie,” as well as its animation supervisor/co-director. He is also one of the key creative forces behind Adult Swim's hit series “Robot Chicken.”

Last month, a blog reported that the “Masters of the Universe” gig was between Joe Cornish, Rian Johnson, Andy Muschietti, “The Croods” directors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, and “The Lego Movie” directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Those names, which popped up on tracking boards across Hollywood, proved to be inaccurate.

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Terry Rossio (“The Lone Ranger”) wrote the most recent draft of “Masters of the Universe,” which is being produced by Escape Artists principals Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch. Set on Eternia, the story follows a blond warrior named Prince Adam who turns into the heroic He-Man and battles a villain named Skeletor out to conquer Castle Grayskull.

Mattel is also involved with the movie, as its execs Julia Pistor and David Voss will executive produce on behalf of the company. Sony execs Hannah Minghella and DeVon Franklin will oversee the project for the studio, which is expected to make a decision next month.

CAA reps Zwart and WME reps Cahill, while McKay is repped by UTA and Mosaic.