Why Zack Snyder Chose Matthias Schweighöfer To Direct Army Of Thieves

Planning a cinematic universe is kind of like planning a series of cunning heists. With the right blueprint, and the proper team to execute it, you too can embark on daring adventures of safecracking glory, just like the team in Netflix’s original film Army of Thieves. For Army of the Dead co-writer/director Zack Snyder, there was a special combination of gifts that actor Matthias Schweighöfer possessed on the set of his undead epic centerpiece. So when it came time to select a director for the Ludwig Dieter-centric prequel Army of Thieves, Snyder already knew Schweighöfer was the right man for the job. 

As we began our interview on one of the days Army of Thieves was running its press tour, I was ready to tackle any topic from that film and its thematic successor. Game for anything, both Matthias Schweighöfer and Zack Snyder were ready to spill some hints and secrets as to what made fortifying this cinematic universe work. When it came to deciding to give Mr. Schweighöfer the keys to the kingdom on Army of Thieves, Mr. Snyder attributed the following observations as key factors in his decision: 

Well, you know what it was, for me, just seeing him every day, doing the work and being amazing on set, really just kind of crushing. Not only that part, but also the work ethic and being funny. We were a big ensemble cast, and he was always the first one there, knew his lines, knew everything. Like really listening to the blocking and everything. And I was just like, ‘This guy is working hard. He knows what's up.’ It just made sense to me to say, ‘Ok, you know this character better than anyone. You should run this show.’

To be totally honest, Army of Thieves is an idea that looked fantastic on paper, or in early promo photos, while absolutely requiring the right talent to get the job done. Ludwig Dieter, while being a favorite of Netflix viewers and Zack Snyder alike, is a character that could be easily misused in the wrong hands. As an accomplished actor and director in the German entertainment industry, Matthias Schweighöfer had the skills to make Army of Thieves a reality on either side of the camera. 

It also helped that Army of Thieves was basically tailor made for Matthias Schweighöfer, and his character, from square one. Both Zack and Deborah Snyder were impressed with Schweighöfer’s audition tapes for Army of the Dead, landing him the role of Ludwig Dieter after an extensive search by the producers. But as filming on Army of the Dead progressed, Zack Snyder not only noticed Matthias’ dedication on set, his performance as Dieter convinced him that he was the right character to start branching out his burgeoning cinematic universe with. As noted in the press notes for Army of Thieves, Zack Snyder explains just why Dieter’s new adventure seemed to have ditched the zombie action that made Army of the Dead so special: 

We knew we wanted to make a prequel, and when we were shooting Army of the Dead, I had been watching Matthias every day and thought, 'Holy shit, this guy’s amazing.' And then I had this idea that maybe we could do something like The Italian Job, kind of a romantic comedy, something genre-busting.

Almost instantaneously, Matthias Schweighöfer’s Dieter was a fan favorite in Army of the Dead. A mix of awkward quirks, earned bravado and loyalty to his friends, all it took was his signature scream to seal the deal with fans. And you’ll get to hear plenty more variations on Dieter’s howling, as well as learn more about where he was before he took a trip into the zombie apocalypse. The best part is that even if you weren’t sold on the comparatively nihilistic worldview of Army of the Dead, the story told in Army of Thieves is lighter and more in line with the sort of heist comedy Zack Snyder and Matthias Schweighöfer sought to invoke.

Putting his skills to the test, in what’s arguably his largest scale project yet, Matthias Schweighöfer lands Army of Thieves as a particularly large feather in his cap. Satisfying the building fanbase’s want for more Dieter, his Army of the Dead prequel already has some ambitious ties to that film’s sequel, Planet of the Dead. For a character who could have been presumed dead after the events in Las Vegas painted his alleged demise, the future is looking very bright for the smart and super safecracker we now know as Ludwig Dieter.

If you’re ready to join the Army of Thieves, warm up your instruments and hit your Netflix queue on October 29th (opens in new tab). While you’re at it, you can also check out Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, which is also available for streaming in that same digital library. But if you want to see what’s coming to a theater near you, prepare for a night out with our 2021 release schedule. Much like in Army of Thieves, the presence of hordes of undead flesh eaters is optional.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.