Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead hasn’t even come out yet and a spin-off film is already in the can. It’ll be called Army of Thieves and it’s directed by its star, Matthias Schweighöfer, who plays a safecracker named Dieter in both films. io9 spoke to Schweighöfer about getting to play in Zack Snyder’s zombie-infested heist film and how he landed the gig to expand the universe.
In Army of the Dead, a potential zombie apocalypse has been seemingly averted when all of the undead are trapped inside a walled-off Las Vegas. However, the casinos inside still have a lot of money in them, so Dave Bautista leads a group of mercenaries to infiltrate the zombie (and zombie tiger) infested Sin City and come out with hundreds of millions of dollars. Obviously, the zombies are a big problem but the bigger issue is the elaborate, uncrackable safe at the casino. That’s where Schweighöfer’s character, Dieter, comes in. Though all the other characters are complete badasses with huge machine guns, buzzsaws, and more, he’s there for one reason and one reason only. “I read the script before and but I wasn’t sure how the safecracker was skilled with guns or weapons,” Schweighöfer’s told io9 via Zoom. “And my first step into the wardrobe department and a prop master was like, ‘Okay, he knows how to handle a fork or a spoon, but for sure nothing else.’”
To be in a huge Zack Snyder blockbuster and not blow something up might have been a disappointment to some, but not Schweighöfer. “I was super happy that I was the only one who could do everything different than all the others,” he said. “It made him very special.” So special, in fact, that as production on the film began to wind down, Snyder and Netflix executives approached Schweighöfer with an idea. “They said, ‘You know, the Dieter character is so likable and combining [him] with the heist movie, and especially the safe—we would love to tell a story about that,” the actor explained.
In Army of the Dead, it’s clear that Dieter has a history with the particular safe inside the casino, named the Götterdämmerung. It’s his White Whale and he believes he’s the only person in the world who can possibly crack it. Why is not explicitly explained in this film but it will be explained in Schweighöfer’s spin-off. “Zack called me and said ‘Matthias, let’s meet up’ and we met,” Schweighöfer said of how the film came to be. “And he was talking about ‘What do you think about this and that idea, that story, because we have to write it.’ And then he said, ‘Do you want direct it and star in it and do we want to produce it together?’ And I said, ‘No. There’s no reason for me to do that.’”
Schweighöfer is a really funny guy. “I said, yes, of course,” he continues. “That was one of the best days of my life.”
While Schweighöfer can’t say much about what Army of Thieves is about, he did offer a few hints of how the universe ties together. “This is not a zombie movie, I can say, but maybe I heard maybe we have zombies in it,” he said. “But it’s not a zombie movie ... It’s a heist movie and it will be a huge, very entertaining heist movie with stuff we’ve never seen before, especially that we create our own world. So everyone should be really excited to see Dieter cracking some safes.”
Schweighöfer began acting in the late 1990s and directing in 2011. In that time he’s made several movies, as well as a TV series, but even with all that experience he still said he learned a lot from the man behind Justice League, 300, and Watchmen. “I learned that a great vision needs a lot of brave moves and a lot of trust in yourself and a great team,” Schweighöfer said. “Zack always told me ‘Matthias, dream big. Try to be always the best version of everything.’ So I really focused on that. Create your own universe. Be self-confident and trust yourself. Trust your guts. He’s like ‘Never lose being a wonderful human being ... a good dad and a good husband. But try to be a visionary.’ You have a vision because without a vision, there’s nothing.”
You’ll be able to see Snyder’s vision, Army of the Dead, in theaters this week and on Netflix next week. Schweighöfer’s vision, Army of Thieves, is still in post-production.
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