The producer explains why you don't need to watch Army of the Dead to enjoy its prequel, about a German guy cracking safes during an undead apocalypse.

The new crime movie Army of Thieves (out on Netflix Oct. 29) is a prequel to the recent zombie film Army of the Dead in which Matthias Schweighöfer stars as a safecracker attempting to pull off a series of heists in Europe as reports detail the start of an undead apocalypse in America.

"It's a heist movie with romantic, comedic, and action elements in it," says Schweighöfer, who also directed Army of Thieves. "It's a film about a character named Ludwig Dieter, a guy from Germany recruited by a mysterious woman who offers him the chance of his life to crack the biggest safes ever built."

So is it important to watch Army of the Dead before checking out Army of Thieves? Zack Snyder, who directed the zombie film and produced the prequel, says no.

"I don't think you need to have seen [Army of the Dead]," says the 300 and Zack Snyder's Justice League filmmaker. "It's going to be amazing, and fun for a lot of people who are going to see Army of Thieves before Army of the Dead. That, chronologically, would be the correct way to watch the movie, because it leads you to the next one. So it's an interesting path to go that way. But, of course, if you've seen Army of the Dead, Army of Thieves is a great companion [for you] to go back and fill in some of the details."

Below, Snyder and Schweighöfer talk more about Army of Thieves, their favorite heist movies, and the future of the Army of the Dead universe.

Army of Thieves
Matthias Schweighöfer as Dieter in 'Army of Thieves'
| Credit: Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Zack, it's an old Hollywood story: Somebody directs a big-budget zombie movie and then decides to make a heist film prequel to it. But could you talk about how this specific idea came about?

ZACK SNYDER: Yeah, that old, well-trodden concept: You make a giant zombie movie and then you spin it off to a romantic-comedy heist movie in Germany. It's just obvious! [Laughs] It literally came from Dieter in [Army of the Dead] telling us the story of the safes. Dieter was the mythological gatekeeper of the movie and it seemed obvious to me that, in order to find out what he was all about, we'd have to go on a journey with him back to his origins and find out what got him hooked on [safecracking]. Because when we find him, he's not a typical safecracker, he's not some character living in the dark shadows and cracking safes. He's just a guy who happens to be a genius at safecracking but also wants to crack the very specific safes that they are going to crack.

Matthias, how did you wind up being the director on this?

MATTHIAS SCHWEIGHÖFER: It's easy. Zack and I had a coffee together, and he just offered me to be the director of the film. I had a coffee and I spit all of my coffee out, and I said, "Yes, of course." So that's that!

SNYDER: I knew he had directed films in Germany and knew he knew this character better than anyone. It just seemed like a perfect fit.

So film schools should be running courses on how to get a coffee with Zack Snyder. Is what we're learning?

SNYDER: That's one of the ways into Hollywood. There's different paths. Having a coffee with me is one of them.

Matthias, what was the shoot like?

SCHWEIGHÖFER: It was pretty challenging to shoot a film in the middle of the pandemic. Prague was at that time the number-one hotspot of COVID. But [we] recognized, every day, "Hey, we have this tiny bubble and we're allowed to work. We have this fantastic script, and we're allowed to shoot this film, so let's make the best of it and create something really entertaining and funny and heartbreaking." To be honest, it was a fantastic time because we were allowed to do this while everything stopped.

Army of Thieves
Matthias Schweighöfer as Dieter in 'Army of Thieves'
| Credit: Stanislav Honzik/ Netflix

Nathalie Emmanuel is at the center of a couple of action sequences. What were they like to direct?

SCHWEIGHÖFER: In the script we had these fantastic scenes, and Nathalie was so fast and so good, and we wanted her to look awesome. It was cool, because Nathalie was the first one [who was] like, "Oh yeah, I can kick and box and this and that." She was so into that, and she was so energized and enthusiastic, that it was just fantastic to watch her every day while prepping these scenes. On the day of shooting, she nailed it. It was amazing.

This is very much a heist movie. I assume you're fans of the genre. Could you talk about a couple of your favorites?

SNYDER: Yeah. I like Heat, of course, and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. The original Italian Job.

SCHWEIGHÖFER: The original Italian Job and the new one. And I watched a lot of the Steven Soderbergh and Ocean's Eleven stuff because of the actors, the team, how all the different characters worked together. But usually I try to look at something totally different. I focused on South Korean stuff, by the way — a film called I Am a Hero.

Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder
| Credit: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Zack, you've done a zombie movie in this universe and you've done a heist movie. Are there any other genres you'd like to tackle? A comedy? A musical?

SNYDER: There are. A musical? That's interesting. But I think you'll see in the next movie, if we get to make the sequel to Army of the Dead, what genres we go after in that one.

Can you tease that any more?

SNYDER: Well, I think the name of the movie would be Planet of the Dead, so you can sort of get a sense of where we'd go.

Matthias, have we seen the end of Dieter?

SCHWEIGHÖFER: You know, that's a question my producer can respond to perfectly!

SNYDER: Well, we never see him die on camera [in Army of the Dead]! In a genre film, unless you see a person die on camera, well, you know what I mean.

Matthias, what do you have coming up next?

SCHWEIGHÖFER: I just did a film in London for Netflix called The Swimmers, and I play a coach. After that, I'm excited to see what will be. The future is open.

What about you, Zack? It's Rebel Moon next for you, correct?

SNYDER: Rebel Moon, yeah. We hope to start shooting in May. We're just prepping, and it's a gigantic, insane sci-fi movie we're putting together.

Army of Thieves invades Netflix on Oct. 29. Watch the trailer for it above.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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