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The Vault's Liam Cunningham Dishes On Why He's Drawn To Heist Films - Exclusive

Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham has a history of playing unsavory characters. On HBO's fantasy series, he played Davos Seaworth, a former smuggler. In The Guard, the highest-grossing Irish independent film of all time, he appeared as drug dealer Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. He's teamed up with villains like Merlin's Morgana, gone rogue as MI6 officer Alec Wade in Safe House, and organized a deadly hunt as the mastermind in The Tournament.

And now, he's led a heist, too. In The Vault, Cunningham stars as Walter Moreland, a treasure hunter who decides to take back his latest find after it's confiscated by the Spanish government. Just one problem: The treasure is stored in the ultra-secure vault in the Bank of Spain, forcing Walter to recruit a team of talented amateurs to break in and steal it back.

It isn't Cunningham's first heist film. In 2011, Cunningham produced the short film Pitch Black Heist, in which he co-starred with Michael Fassbender. The short, stylish little thriller, which was written and directed by John Maclean, won a BAFTA award for Best Short Film, and earned critical acclaim at festivals around the world.

So, yeah, Cunningham considers himself a fan of the genre, and tells Looper that he's particularly drawn to the characters who pop up in heist stories. "In those kinds of things, you have, generally speaking, quite normal people in extraordinary situations, where disaster looms around every corner," Cunningham says. "But they're in the middle of it because they've made the decision to do it, to put themselves in danger."

Cunningham finds that flavor of reckless abandon appealing. "I kind of like those ballsy characters. You know they're going to be fun to go out and have a drink with," he says. "They like fun and they're adrenaline junkies. They're kind of interesting people."

The Vault star Liam Cunningham reveals his favorite heist movie

True to form, The Vault is full of characters like those. In addition to Cunningham, Freddie Highmore appears in The Heist as Thom Laybrick, a brilliant young engineer. Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey plays Lorraine, a deceptive jack-of-all-trades. Sam Riley pops up as the team's heavy, while Luis Tosar and Axel Stein round out the crew.

And while The Vault sets itself apart from the pack with its World Cup-based shenanigans and European flair, it's absolutely part of a longer heist movie tradition. Cunningham knows it, too. "There are movies like this, obviously the original Ocean's films with Danny Ocean — I don't think I've seen any of the George Clooney ones. I've seen bits and pieces, but I don't think I've ever seen a full one — and I do kind of like them," he admits.

His favorite, though, doesn't star Clooney or Frank Sinatra. "The one that sticks in my mind is one that we had years and years ago with Robert Redford and George Seagal, God rest him, who's just passed away," Cunningham says. "I think we called it, over in Europe, How to Steal A Diamond in Four Easy Lessons, but I think it was also called The Hot Rock."

In The Hot Rock, Redford and Seagal play brothers-in-law who are hired to steal a diamond, only to have their plans go awry every time they try, forcing them to commit the crime again and again. Like The Vault, The Hot Rock puts its characters front and center. It's a light, breezy, good time — and if you like it, The Vault should be right up your alley.

The Vault is screening in theaters, and is available to rent via video-on-demand.