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Why Walter From The Vault Looks So Familiar

Audiences who are sick of waiting around for "Ocean's 14" to come out — but are in dire need of something to scratch that heist movie itch — have a new rag-tag team of sympathetic thieves to get behind in Jaume Balagueró's "The Vault," now available to stream on Netflix. 

The film follows an unlikely crew of schemers who rely on the engineering genius of savant student Thom (Freddie Highmore) to help them break into a 100-year-old safe in the Bank of Spain to recover a treasure. In a film littered with faces as familiar as its heisty tropes (including Sam Riley and Famke Janssen), it's the gang's art dealer leader whom viewers will most instantly recognize. 

That's because the actor behind said art dealer (Walter) has a career that spans nearly three decades, and is dotted with unforgettable performances to match his unforgettable accent. If you're still not sure who's behind this gentleman criminal, here's a hint: It's a Liam (no, not that one) known for bringing his talents to more than a few film and television roles.

A knight to remember

If you pay close attention to 1995's somewhat odd rendition of the King Arthur story, "First Knight," you'll note that Arthur's (Sean Connery) right hand man, Sir Agravain, bears more than a slight resemblance to Walter from "The Vault." Makes sense, as both characters are played by the undeniably charismatic actor, Liam Cunningham. While Cunningham's face may not have been the most recognizable to the film's contemporary audiences, in 2021 it's all but impossible to miss. Although "First Knight" helped propel Cunningham's career, it was by no means his first role. 

Though the actor starred in a number of short films (including "Public Toilet," "Heaven Only Knows," and "The Sea"), it was his role as Prince Rama in 1995's "A Little Princess" that first brought him to the attention of a wider audience. The film — set against the backdrop of WWI and based on the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel of the same name — garnered critical acclaim and two Oscar nominations. At times inspiring and heartbreaking, it allowed Cunningham (as the young, Cinderella-esque protagonist's father) to flex and showcase the acting chops for which the world would come, in time, to know him. 

Liam Cunningham has had a storied career in TV

Cunningham's career has oscillated between both the big and the small screen. Since a massively popular television show would ultimately provide the actor with his most memorable role to date, it's worth taking a trip down the now-renowned star's history with television success.

Cunningham first filed into audiences' living rooms in 1995 in his role as Chris on BBC One's oil rig-based series, "Roughnecks." His performance earned him a number of follow-up roles in television movies, such as 1998's "Falling for a Dancer," 1999's "Shooting the Past" and "RKO 281," and the 2000 thriller, "A Likeness in Stone." Cunningham then went on to add a number of mini-series to his TV credentials, including the Starz docudrama, "Attila," SVT1's adaptation of Åke Edwardsson's stories, "Superintendent Winter," and History's popular "Titanic: Blood and Steel." Finally, in 2003 and 2004, he added roles in mini-series "Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness," and "Messiah: The Promise," to his résumé, all while simultaneously landing roles in film.

Cunningham — who was once recommended for the role of the Eighth Doctor on "Doctor Who" — ultimately ended up nabbing a cameo on the show as Captain Zhukov. Most recently, he transformed into the all-too-relevant infectious disease expert Dr. Wade Carter on National Geographic's "The Hot Zone," before landing the role of Livius on "Domina." 

Of course, lest we forget, Cunningham's graced the silver screen as well — frequently to both audience and critical acclaim.

Liam Cunningham won over critics in The Wind that Shakes the Barley

In the decade between 1995 and 2005, Cunningham continued to divide his time between television series and a range of feature films — most notably, Neil Jordan's 2005 adaptation of Patrick McCabe's novel, "Breakfast on Pluto." The film won Cillian Murphy a Best Actor award at the Irish Film and Television Awards, and though "the other Liam" had a larger role in it, Cunningham's was no less memorable. What's more, this wouldn't be the last time he teamed up with Murphy, and their reunion could well be called his breakthrough role.

Ken Loach's 2006 drama about the Irish War for Independence, "The Wind that Shakes the Barley," stars Murphy as one of the film's two main brothers, and Cunningham in the supporting role of their fellow Irishman Dan. It was a pivotal moment im Cunningham's career, and the acclaimed film — which won Loach the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival — earned Murphy and "The Vault" star a Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor award, respectively, at the 2007 Irish Film and Television Awards (via IMDb). From there, Cunningham went on to star in the highest grossing Irish film to date, John Michael McDonagh's 2011 hit, "The Guard," before squeezing in the lesser-known but critically-acclaimed "The Silence of Joan" (or, "Jeanne captive") in which he stars alongside "Tenet" star, Clémence Poésy.

Cunningham continued to land roles in blockbuster films, including "Clash of the Titans" (once again, alongside Liam Neeson), Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," (starring "Loki" heartthrob, Tom Hiddleston) and the 2012 Denzel Washington thriller, "Safe House." And yet, although the prolific actor's career included, by 2012, a number of memorable movie roles, it was his ultimate return to Knighthood for which "The Vault" viewers will know him best.

He gave a layered performance as Ser Davos on Game of Thrones

In the veritable mountain of memorable movies Cunningham has under his belt, there's one performance in particular that made him instantly recognizable to audiences all over the world. Whether you remember him as Ser Davos or, simply, "The Onion Knight," if you were a fan (or hater) of HBO's infamous adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" ("Game of Thrones"), one thing's for certain: you definitely remember him. 

As Davos, Cunningham embodied one of the show's few wholly good and chivalrous characters. He may have been a smuggler (though not, as he's quick to point out, a thief), but he's loyal to a fault, oozing with honor and sincerity, and admirably humble, compassionate, and wise. Though he wasn't "a learned man," he delivered some of the show's best bits of thematic insight, including (but not limited to) "I think mothers and fathers made up the Gods because they wanted their children to sleep through the night."

Cunningham's charismatic and endearing Onion Knight lent credence to Stannis' (Stephen Dillane) initial play for the iron throne (and might have been the only interesting thing about Stannis) and his antagonistic relationship with Melisandre (Carice van Houten) served as proxy for the audience's equally contentious response to her actions and motives. As Davos, "The Vault" actor became a fan favorite, and the fact that he survived all eight seasons of a show that had no qualms about "killing its darlings" is just one of the many reasons his North Dublin accent and puppy dog eyes have become so familiar to viewers.