Liam Cunningham Interview: THE VAULT
The Vault is on demand and in select theaters now!
The Vault has landed on demand and in select theaters. The heist film follows a crew of master thieves who plan to steal a legendary lost treasure buried in a vault underneath the Bank of Spain while the whole country watches the World Cup.
Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones, Hunger) co-stars in the film as Walter Moreland, the leader of this team of people trying to pull off the heist of a lifetime. I got the opportunity to speak with Liam about his role in the film and some of his past experiences. Here is the interview:
What made you want to join a movie like The Vault?
Oh, I think any actor worth his salt wants to do a heist movie. It’s like a bucket list. I did The Mummy movie years ago…with Brendan Fraser. I’ve got a werewolf movie, Dog Soldiers. It’s a wonderful movie with Neil Marshall who was involved with Game of Thrones. And I’ve done a vampire movie…we shot that in China, called Blood: The Last Vampire. And a heist movie — I love heist movies if they’re done properly, if you’ve got a proper ensemble, if you’ve got people beating the odds and taking on a project that looks desperately close to failure with a normal bunch of people. And those kinds of things are incredibly important.
I like to tick off boxes and this was a beautiful script when I read it. I told my family, “I just read a really cool heist movie,” and all my kids and my wife went, “HEIST MOVIE?!” It’s like a superhero thing. My daughter’s a huge Marvel and DC fan. You hear the words, “heist movie,” and you get people’s attention and this is…a great script and beautifully shot in a beautiful city with fantastic actors in a lovely ensemble piece and you know it rips along, the music is really cool in the movie. I was a punk in the late 70s, so to finish the movie on the Sex Pistols put the most enormous smile on my face.
I’m very proud of it. I got an advance copy of it a few weeks ago. I sat down on the couch, I hadn’t seen it before with my family, and they were shouting at the screen. In an ideal circumstance if we didn’t have a pandemic here, I’d be first in the queue with my box of popcorn to sit down and see this thing. I’d love to watch this movie with a crowd.
Yeah, it’s definitely one of those really interesting, exciting sort of experiences, especially just as all heist movies are. What was your process and your favorite part about bringing the character of Walter to life?
Well, what I liked about it was he’s kind of mysterious. You don’t know his background at all. He doesn’t really go into it. Even very early on when he kind of sort of tricks Thom into coming and sitting down and having a meeting with him, he meets him in a bar. And he sits down and he talks about this treasure that they’re gonna steal and he said, “Look, this is not about the money. I have money.” And you immediately go, “They’re not poor guys who are trying to enrich themselves.”
When we meet Walter at the beginning, he’s spending his money on a court case. He’s trying to do the right thing and go through the proper channels and get shafted by the authorities, by the politicians on the law. And I like people who don’t accept that when it’s wrong and he doesn’t and he goes to get what he found back. The mathematics are very simple with Walter. And he’s a treasure hunter. He’s not a criminal; he’s a treasure hunter. He spends his money and tries to get back and it’s not about the money. He just has that childlike quality about finding things. I would have imagined when he was very young, he would have bought one of the first metal detectors and been on the beach looking for things.
And he’s one of those people that is just addicted to finding things that are lost so it’s not to enrich himself. He’s got an honorable side to him. He’s not a cheater. He’s clever but not in a devious way. He’s a very bright man. I really liked him [laughs]. It’s sometimes easier to play people that you like, although don’t get me wrong, I love playing a baddie. That’s just a wonderful thing. It’s like psychiatry, getting all the badness out. But Walter, I really like. He’s a decent character who’s kind of interesting and kind of grown up and has concern for the people that work for them, concern for their wellbeing. Good guy.
I mean, he’s definitely one of my favorite characters in the movie, and I mean there are so many actors who look up to you and your career. What advice would you give to young actors who are just breaking into the industry?
I will give them the same advice that I give myself every time I read a script. Is it a good story? Is this something? I have this thing in my head that helps me decide whether to do a movie or a play or a TV: am I going to be able to face a couple who have either got a babysitter or a dog sitter and paid for a car, paid for tickets, paid for a pizza. It’s an expensive night to go and see a movie if you want to make a night of it, and it’s very important that when the lights go down, that couple has put their faith, having seen my name. And when they walk out of the cinema and I’m standing outside, I’m able to look them in the eye. That’s kind of one of the benchmarks that I have.
With The Vault, I’m more than happy to stand outside the cinema and as the people come out, what do you think? Because I think they’d be really pleased. I definitely think they won’t say to me, “We wasted our money there.” And I think that’s kind of the baseline when I’m doing something, and after that, that’s in terms of the whole script, and then after that, in terms of the character, you know, is he an interesting character? If he was removed from the script, would the story be hugely affected? I mean, very basic stuff. And I look at it like that and then after that, is there anything I can bring to that? Bring to the story that the writer or director hasn’t seen? Like, can I be an addition to the production? And then, down the line, you’re looking at other things: who else is in it? What’s the budget? All the business kind of stuff. And are we going to have the money to be able to tell this story properly? I kind of use the same basis for saying yes to projects over the years.
My advice to actors is pretty simple. If people have the generosity to pay you for playing dress up, for putting on clothes and costumes, and something so childish as that. So we all played dress-up when we were younger and you got to work pretty damn hard to make sure that people continue to pay you handsomely for playing dress-up so your obligation on that side is to work at all the errors that God sent. Give it everything you can because actors are in a very luxurious position of having big pay for their talent. To tell stories, I mean it’s a delicious way of earning a living. And you gotta honor that with damn hard work.
Yeah, definitely, I mean I can only imagine how amazing it feels to like appear in something, and then people just love your work, and I feel like in your career, you’ve done amazing things, and it’s been really, really cool. Now, out of everything you’ve played in your career, what is your favorite role that you’ve played?
Ooh, they’re my children! How can I choose? There’s loads of them but I think probably, I could think quite possibly on my headstone, it’s probably going to read Liam “Game of Thrones” Cunningham. I mean, Davos was a friend of mine for nine, nearly ten years. It’s the longest I’ve ever been involved in any sort of project. I usually avoid anything long-term because I don’t know where the character is going to go. With a movie, you can see the arc of the character from beginning to end because it’s one script, whereas we got our script obviously every year.
So year-to-year, you had no idea what was coming so you put your faith in people that you respect, that you admire their creativity and you hope they do the right thing, but it is an act of faith. So to be involved in that character, where it went, and what it did for me, I’m eternally grateful. I have nothing but happy memories and some very cold toes from working on Game of Thrones. I adore the time that I was involved in that.
But each time you do a job, all of the rest don’t matter. It’s literally, you get the blinkers on, and kind of go, how can I do justice to the character that I’ve been handed? And how can I make sure he fits in with everything else that’s going to happen in the film? There’s essential responsibility in treating each job very much individually. I never take a job saying, “I will do this because it will lead to something else on the next one.” That’s shirking your responsibilities. The only job that matters is the one you want to do or are doing.
That’s wonderful, and I mean, this is a heist movie, so I got to ask, have you ever stolen anything in real life?
Oh, I did plenty of practice on Game of Thrones. [laughs]
[laughs] Did you steal stuff from set?
Man, how long have you got? I have a load of stuff that I’ve “liberated” as I like to say. I’ve handed all the stuff over to my daughter. In her bedroom, she’s got her wall of awesome, so she has all sorts of stuff there; the Stags that I carved for Shireen, including the burnt one that I find. I’ve got that, I’ve got a full-size Dothraki sword. What else? I have the bones that were hanging around my neck in season two where Davos keeps his fingers that were chopped off by Stannis. I have lots of arrows. I’ve said it before. I was going to show up with a U-Haul truck on the last season but they caught me at the gate.
I’ve had some lovely stuff from other shows. And it’ll never be sold or anything like that. Maybe after I’ve gone but it’s lovely to have those little mementos of a wonderful time that I had on Game of Thrones. There’s a couple of bits and pieces, usually costume pieces from other shows I’ve done, like a bracelet or a ring. You know, I keep them in a drawer and I kind of pull them out and it sort of brings back memories, like photographs. I don’t take it for eBay, I take it because at my age, my memory is like a Swiss cheese, so to have a little reminder of things that remind me of a job I worked on, it always puts a little smile on my face.
Well, it was wonderful talking with you. Have a great day.