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Matthias Schweighöfer on Heart of Stone, Oppenheimer, and being Netflix’s sneaky MVP

Matthias Schweighöfer loves being funny. He’ll be the first one to tell you that. After starring in German films for the majority of his career, Schweighöfer got to be funny for American audiences in Army of the Dead as the witty safecracker, Ludwig Dieter. Schweighöfer then wrote, directed, and starred in the prequel spin-off, Army of Thieves. Schweighöfer’s ability to steal scenes with his comedic timing and charming delivery was on display in both films.

Now, Schweighöfer provides more of his signature comedy in Netflix’s Heart of Stone, an action thriller starring Gal Gadot about a secret agent’s mission to protect a powerful AI from opposing forces trying to steal the weapon. Schweighöfer plays Jack of Hearts, the “eyes and ears” for Gadot’s Rachel Stone. In an interview with Digital Trends, Schweighöfer discusses his role in Heart of Stone, working with Christopher Nolan on Oppenheimer, and how he’s become the sneaky MVP of Netflix.

Gal Gadot stands against a mirror in Heart of Stone.
Robert Viglasky / Netflix © 2023.

This interview was conducted in June 2023 before the SAG-AFTRA strike. It has been edited for length and clarity. 

Digital Trends: You’re becoming a sneaky MVP for Netflix, from the Army of the Dead universe to The Swimmers, Heart of Stone, and even Family Leave coming up. When is it time for you to get your own section now on Netflix?

Matthias Schweighöfer: This would be really funny, to be honest. I mean, I’m super thankful everything started with Zack Snyder, and now here we are. It’s so cool to explore this whole international world and to have a chat. You know what I love? Sneaky MVP is such a great title.

I will never forget the first time at Jimmy Fallon. On the show, he said, “Hey Matthias, this is really funny. You’re really funny.” I love being funny, so it’s cool that even out there in the world, people think it’s funny because usually, you would not go “Hey, you know who are really funny people? The Germans are really funny people.” [laughs] You would never say that, so I’m super, super honored. Sneaky MVP. Fuck, yeah! Sorry. Amazing.

That’s the headline I’m using. Sneaky MVP.

Schweighöfer: It’s great.

What can you credit your comedic timing to? In Heart of Stone, your character always has a good one-liner for Gal Gadot.

Schweighöfer: You know, I grew up when the wall came down. I grew up with the typical ’90s movies. It was all about Jim Carrey. Will Smith. Michael Bay movies. James Cameron movies. The ’90s. Fresh Prince. Dumb and Dumber, that was a Bible to me. Eddie Murphy. I learned a lot, even just watching these people.

Matthias Schweighöfer stands up in Heart of Stone.
Robert Viglasky / Netflix © 2023.

With this character, he’s the brains of the operation, calling all the shots behind the scenes. What was the initial pitch for the character?

Schweighöfer: Yeah, the initial pitch for this character was to be the ears and eyes for Gal Gadot’s character, Rachel Stone. When I read the script for the first time, I was really interested in him. “Hey, what could we really do?” Then I understood … I have to learn all these choreographies because I have to operate a whole computer.

How does that look like? On the first day of shooting, we had a week of prep just to work on the language to translate the choreographies into the language and movements to action, blah-blah-blah. So I thought that’s pretty cool because that’s my goal in this character. He is in love with a computer.

I like how you put it that way with the choreography. You don’t realize how much moving and turning in circles you’re actually doing in such a small, confined space.

Schweighöfer: Yeah, I thought if I would be a master in doing something, that’s it. Qigong master, Tai chi, kung fu. And this is just me masterly operating.

“The conductor.”

Schweighöfer: The conductor! Yeah, that’s a great title. The conductor. Ladies and gentlemen, Matthias Schweighöfer is the conductor.

Coming soon to an orchestra near you.

Schweighöfer: [laughs] Yeah.

Heart of Stone | Gal Gadot | Official Trailer | Netflix

We talked about you being the brains of the operation. I was wondering if you have any favorites, who are like your character in other films. Things that come to mind are Q in James Bond or Simon Pegg in Mission: Impossible.

Schweighöfer: Yes. Simon Pegg in Mission: Impossible. You named it. Q In James Bond or even Gollum [in] Lord of the Rings. [laughs] What else do we have by the way? Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are very special.

Old school.

Schweighöfer: Yeah. I love these characters like Jack of Hearts because you have so much space to explore your fantasy, to give this character a heart. People or the audience can fall in love because you can connect to someone. You always know these people.

You have these big action stars, and you love them because. I don’t know if I have a big action star in my neighborhood, but I know all these crazy people and you can connect to them. “Oh, my God, I just met this guy somewhere in the supermarket.” That’s why I love to play these characters.

Speaking of characters, you’re also a few weeks out from Oppenheimer. If you could sum it up, what was the biggest takeaway working on a film of that scale?

Schweighöfer: I mean working with Christopher Nolan and Hoyte van Hoytema, his DP, that was really amazing. At the end of my work, Chris hugged me. It was really nice. It was so much fun working with him and Cillian and making these scenes and being part of the film … he’s one of the filmmakers I really, really admire. It was great after working with Zack, who is like my mentor. Then working with Chris, I really have to, what is it called?

Pinch yourself.

Schweighöfer: Yeah. It’s crazy. As you just said, I realized AI is becoming like this crazy, new, scary thing. This movie is about creating this bomb. It’s like really topical at the moment. It’s really good to watch these films.

I know. I’m scared of it, too. One day, you’ll be talking to a robot instead of a real person for this interview.

Schweighöfer: But I think you will always feel it. I think that’s the only difference. The feel and the heart.

A group of professionals sit around a table.
Robert Viglasky / Netflix © 2023

I couldn’t agree more. What I also find fascinating about your career is the directing, producing, and writing aspects of different projects you’ve worked on. When you’re just acting on a project, do you start to view things as a director? How would a writer approach this part? How would a producer approach this part? Can you turn off those parts of your brain and focus on the acting?

Schweighöfer: On every set, for me, it’s really interesting to see how they are making the schedule. … Why is it so big? Why are they using this crane, this camera, these lenses? Every time it’s me, like a five-year-old, on a big black playground exploring all these different attractions. That’s what I love about my job because sometimes when I’m directing, I don’t have the time to breathe or to be fully open-minded.

But just acting, for example, Oppenheimer, to watch Hoyte van Hoytema doing his thing as a cameraman was amazing. I really learned a lot, and the same here working with Tom Harper, how orchestrated this huge movie, and Gal, being so proud to be this fantastic female lead and this strong woman. I learned a lot.

Heart of Stone is now streaming on Netflix.

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