Is Hans Wagner Based on a Real Person? 'Army of Thieves' Fans Are Curious

Leila Kozma - Author

Nov. 3 2021, Published 12:57 p.m. ET

Matthias Schweighöfer as Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert in 'Army of Thieves'
Source: Netflix

Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for Netflix's Army of Thieves.

Zack Snyder's latest masterpiece on Netflix, Army of Thieves, doubles as an origin story of sorts, exploring Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert's fast-paced transition from a bank teller to a lockpicker extraordinaire.

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Having been approached by an internationally wanted jewelry thief, Gwendoline (Nathalie Emmanuel), he joins a team of criminal masterminds eager to pop open a few fabled safes invented by a certain Hans Wagner. So, who is Hans? What's his deal with Richard Wagner?

Matthias Schweighöfer as Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert in 'Army of Thieves'
Source: Netflix
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Is Hans Wagner a real man? Did Richard Wagner have an illegitimate son who doubled as a safe maker?

Army of Thieves takes a more intimate look at Sebastian's attempts at honing his skills, working his magic on quality safes like Rheingold, Valkyrie, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. The names will likely ring a bell to Wagner-heads. Everyone else, bear with me.

In the movie, the safes were created by Hans Wagner, a visionary who describes himself as composer Richard Wagner's illegitimate son. He named the safes after the musical dramas constituting the Ring cycle, which, in turn, are based on Norse legends, like Siegfried (which is the name of Wagner's real-life son), a dragon-slayer who ran into some trouble with his wife, Kriemhild, in Nibelungenlied. (Comic book lovers are better off consulting the 1989 adaptation by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.)

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Matthias Schweighöfer as Sebastian Schlencht-Wöhnert in 'Army of Thieves'
Source: Netflix

More likely than not, Hans Wagner's character in 'Army of Thieves' isn't based on a real-life person.

As Army of Thieves shows, Hans lodged his body inside the last safe he ever created after losing his wife and son. His employees dropped the safe into the ocean, which thus became his tomb.

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While the real-life composer did have an intriguing personal life — with a few affairs here and there — it's unlikely he would have had an illegitimate son with a thing for creating safes with a mythological twist.

The safes in 'Army of Thieves' are named after Wagner's Ring.

Wagner's Ring comprises four distinct pieces of music, "Rhinegold," "Valkyrie," "Siegfried," and "Götterdämmerung." Most performance series kicks off with the "Rhinegold," which is the shortest.

They reach their climax with "Götterdämmerung," which goes on for about five-six hours. The four music dramas are usually played over the course of a few days, promising an immersive, more than 15-hour-long experience. (Take that, Star Wars fanatics.)

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Source: YouTube

Army of Thieves is loosely structured around Sebastian's experiences with opening three safes: Rhinegold, Valkyrie, and Siegfried. (Götterdämmerung makes a cameo in Army of the Dead.)

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Sebastian starts the party by tracking down the relatively rookie-friendly safe, the Rhinegold, inside a Parisian credit union. Next up is the more beastly Valkyrie. Located in Prague, it poses unexpected challenges for the whole of the team.

After two tries, the safe shuts forever, adding some more pressure to a situation already fraught with it. This adventure ends in frantic scurrying.

The third safe, Siegfried, is the worst of them all. Located in front of a St. Moritz casino, Sebastian must do his best to work out the trick and open it before it's too late. As some argue, the music drama can be used to map Sebastian's evolution.

As such, it would be intriguing to see if Gwendoline appears in Planet of the Dead, which could corroborate the fan theories that she is the Brünnhilde to Sebastian's Siegfried.

Army of Thieves is available on Netflix now.

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