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INTERVIEW: ‘Army of the Dead’s Matthias Schweighöfer Talks Safecracking, Zack Snyder, and Prequels

Schweighöfer will star in and direct the prequel film 'Army of Thieves'.


Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead features an international cast of characters that come together to pull off an elaborate casino heist in post-apocalyptic zombie Las Vegas. And like its inspiration Ocean’s Eleven, the film takes the time to establish every character’s quirks and skill sets. Quirkiest among them is Ludwig Dieter, an awkward yet enthusiastic German safecracker who possess very few zombie killing skills of his own. Only Dieter can crack the casino’s complex bank vault, making his survival a high priority for the rest of the team.

Dieter is played by Matthias Schweighöfer, a German actor-director who is known for his films Soloalbum, Off Beat, and What a Man and the Amazon television series You Are Wanted. He made his English language debut in the Tom Cruise drama Valkyrie. Schweighöfer will also star in, direct, and produce Army of Thieves, a prequel film which sees Dieter as a small town bank teller recruited by a crew of Interpol’s most wanted criminals. The film also stars Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) and Guz Khan (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

We talked to Schweighöfer about working with Zack Snyder, zombies, and what the future holds for Dieter.

The Mary Sue: How did you prepare for your role in the film as an expert safecracker?

Matthias Schweighöfer: I think, you know, the first day, when I had costume tests and dress rehearsal, first of all, I immediately understood the range and the universe of Dieter, because, you know, his whole look is so funny. And then I found a small hat, and when I saw that little hat, I thought, “Okay, this, this will be the nerdiest version of Dieter.” We have to, we must create this crazy Dieter man. So with that, I stopped prepping and focused on safe cracking. I explored, you know, how fast can I be with my hands, and thought about the hearing and the senses. That’s how I prepped and on my English, you know, that was, I had to speak English every day and try my best to sound very German!

TMS: I really enjoyed your relationship with Omari Hardwick in the film. I feel like there’s a buddy comedy in there between Dieter and Vanderohe. What was it like working with Omari, and how did you guys form that bond working together?

MS: Oh, he was such a great colleague and such a great guy because he was, you know, he was so welcoming and so open for every idea. We, you know, I had, or he had, he always had great ideas and it was always allowed. Zach [Snyder] always allowed us to really build a stage where we could act on, you know, and I was so thankful for that because Omari was such a nice guy, and it was always like every day we, we found some crazy stuff we wanted to do or to improv with, so that was cool. So yeah, I’m really happy that we have this “bromance” in the film. I love that it was about heart and love and survival. I love that.


(Omari Hardwick and Matthias Schweighöfer. image: Clay Enos/Netflix)

TMS: At what point in the process was the prequel, Army of Thieves, conceived?

MS: At the end of filming Army of the Dead, we were talking about maybe an idea of doing this, but nothing was clear. Then two months later, I get the call from Zack and he said, “you know, would you want to do this prequel? Because it’s getting real”, and I said, “Yes, what a question! I would love to do this, oh my God.” And I screamed so loud, like, cause I love Zack so much. And it was really like a dream coming true.

TMS: So how did Zack’s directing inform your own directing? What did you learn from your experience working together?

MS: That’s the question I most love because I can, I can say a lot of stuff. I can tell you to be honest, because I really, I was always a huge Zack Snyder fan that’s for sure. From the start of me watching American movies, Zack Snyder was always part of the culture and always part of my life. So every time when I was in Berlin and we were prepping some movies and we had a second unit, I always told the second unit guys to watch Man of Steel. So the first time when I met Zack, I told him that story.

So I learned to really focus and trust my vision, because Zach told me, you know, “trust your vision, have a vision, dream big, and be self confident and a good human being. And, uh, and, um, I, yeah, I learned so much about lenses and about sequences, framing, and shots. I love Zach, I mean, I’m so happy for this opportunity. And I really, really learned a lot, you know, dream big and trust us.

Army of the Dead premieres in theaters and on Netflix May 21.

(image: Clay Enos/Netflix)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.