Netflix’s Munich: The Edge of War‘s talented cast members play many historically-inspired characters, but what do the real-life people look like? Based on the novel Munich by famed historical fiction author Robert Harris, Munich: The Edge of War draws on the taut setting of a pre-war Europe to create a commanding piece of cinema that is truly evocative of a galling period in human history. Director Christian Schwochow certainly plays up Munich: The Edge of War‘s true-story angle, bringing several of history’s most contentious leaders to the fore in his period film.
Munich: The Edge of War‘s story converges on the ill-fated Munich Conference, a two-day summit held at the Bavarian city in September 1938, in which British, French, and other European government leaders meet to discuss Adolf Hitler’s plans to dissect Czechoslovakia. The British delegation is led by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who is quickly drawn into a battle of political wills with the Nazi Party leader. Parallel to these world leaders’ machinations, British diplomat Hugh Legat is tasked by MI6 to smuggle home explosive secret documents set to reveal Hitler’s nefarious plans to control Europe by any means.
While there are several historical figures in Munich: The Edge of War that require little introduction, the film’s wider cast comprises a range of real and fictional characters designed to deliver Schwochow’s vision with maximum impact. House of Gucci‘s Jeremy Irons delivers a pitch-perfect portrayal as a Chamberlain desperate to avoid the horrors of war, while sheer fear plaudits must also go to August Diehl’s relentless Franz Sauer. Here’s a guide to the characters in Munich: The Edge of War and what they looked like in real life, as well as from where audiences might recognize the actors who play them.
Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain
The incomparable Jeremy Irons plays the then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who is painted as a highly sympathetic character determined to sacrifice his reputation for the good of Europe in Munich: The Edge of War. Yet Irons’ revisionist take on Chamberlain is a far cry from the Prime Minister’s true nature, with the real-life Chamberlain blindly and arrogantly pursuing his policy of appeasement at all costs despite Hitler’s clear lust for dominion from Britain to all of Nazi Germany’s neighboring countries. So great was the real Chamberlain’s humiliation after Hitler tore up the Munich Agreement, in fact, that his name is used as a warning against striking deals with dictatorships worldwide to this day. This diversion from the truth does little to diminish Jeremy Iron’s committed performance, however, whose stellar list of acting credits includes leading roles in The Merchant of Venice, The Man In The Iron Mask, and Steven Soderbergh’s mystery thriller Kafka.
George MacKay as Hugh Legat
Hugh Legat is a character created entirely by original author Robert Harris with no ties to existing historical figures. In Munich: The Edge of War, however, Legat acts as one of the film’s primary protagonists and is tasked with finding the smoking gun that will vilify Hitler and save Europe from a catastrophic negotiation error. British diplomat Legat is played by Wolf‘s George MacKay, who began his career as a child actor in 2003’s Peter Pan before maturing into major dramatic roles in other historical-based films such as 1917 and Defiance.
Jannis Niewöhner as Paul von Hartmann
While his partner in crime is purely fictional, the character of Paul von Hartmann contains far more historical substance. Von Hartmann is loosely based on the real-life anti-Nazi diplomat Adam von Trott, who conspired several times to take down the Nazi Party leader between 1938 and 1944. The real Hartmann (Trott) did indeed manage to meet with Chamberlain in 1939 and was also an integral part of the failed attempt to kill Hitler and then his cabinet in 1944 that cost Trott his life. In Munich: The Edge of War, Hartmann is played by Jannis Niewöhner, whose body of work in German cinema is extensive, although Munich: The Edge of War represents only Niewöhner’s second foray into Western cinema to date.
Ulrich Matthes as Adolf Hitler
Ulrich Matthes quite simply steals the show as the reviled Nazi party leader, playing up Hitler’s cunning nature and increasingly stark God complex in equal measure until the film’s climax. Although Munich: The Edge of War does little to change (nor should it) the historical perception of Hitler in the way it does Chamberlain, the film expertly plays on the fact that its audiences already know the outcome of the pair’s political maneuverings. Ulrich Matthes is best known for his role as Joseph Goebbels in the German historical film Downfall, with the actor seemingly relishing the chance to play another of the Nazi Party’s most infamous personnel.
Mark Lewis Jones as Sir Osmund Cleverly
In real life, Sir Osmund Somers Cleverly also served as the advisor to Neville Chamberlain between 1935 and 1939, although his advice historically appears far less sage. In Munich: The Edge of War, Mark Lewis Jones’ Cleverly astutely counsels the British Prime Minister, but historical records suggest he subscribed to the same level of blind appeasement that Chamberlain preached in the weeks following the Munich Agreement. Welsh actor Mark Lewis Jones is best known internationally for his roles as soldier Tecton in Troy and Captain Moden Canady in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Munich: The Edge of War’s Supporting Cast & Characters
Sandra Hüller as Helen Winter: Each of Munich: The Edge of War‘s supporting cast plays fictional characters with no known historical connections. The first of these is Helen Winter, who acts as Hartmann’s confidante and ally in his plot to undermine and later kill Hitler across the course of the film as he becomes more radicalized. Winter is played by Sandra Hüller, who is well known in German cinema, having taken on 30 separate movie roles since 1999.
Liv Lisa Fries as Lenya: Lenya represents the coming, off-screen storm in Munich: The Edge of War, voicing fears regarding the Nazi Party’s treatment of German Jewish citizens in 1938. A close friend of Legat and Hartmann, she serves as the extra rationale for Hartmann’s radicalization as he becomes consumed by his quest to defeat Hitler. Lenya is played by Liv Lisa Fries, best known as the female lead Charlotte Ritter in the German TV series Babylon Berlin.
August Diehl as Franz Sauer: The mysterious Sauer is a member of the Nazi’s SS enforcers, who quickly begins to stalk Hartmann and Legat’s covert operations. Sauer actor August Diehl is best known to Western audiences for his portrayal as Gestapo major Dieter Hellstrom in the brilliant Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
Jessica Brown Findlay as Pamela Legat: Best known for her work on Downton Abbey, Jessica Brown Findlay puts in a brief yet memorable appearance as Hugh Legat’s other half. MI6’s coercion forces Hugh to leave Pamela and trade a comfortable life for a dangerous mission, setting the clandestine subplots of Munich: The Edge of War in motion.
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