Why ‘Lord Of War’ Starring Nicolas Cage Bought 3,000 Real Guns Instead Of Props

“It was cheaper to buy real guns and resell later than buying props”

There are numerous firearms in the movie Lord of War was released in 2005. And we’re talking about a lot of guns. The underappreciated criminal thriller follows Yuri Orlov (Nicolas Cage), an illegal arms dealer who sells high-powered rifles, machine guns, and other weapons to war-torn countries from the 1980s to the early 2000s, and it is partially based on true events and real-life arms traffickers and smugglers. You’re going to need a lot of guns if you’re filming a movie about a guy who sells a lot of guns.

However, the guns you see in movies are frequently only props. Fakes. Obviously, there are exceptions in the movie industry, but it’s common knowledge that the guns you see in the movies aren’t usually the actual deal. Those weapons, on the other hand, were not created by movie magic in Lord of War. Andrew Niccol, a writer and director, instead went out and purchased 3000 Kalashnikov automatic guns.

But here’s the kicker: these high-powered firearms weren’t purchased just to make the film more authentic or realistic. Instead, the makers of Lord of War determined that buying genuine weaponry rather than replicas would be more cost effective in the long run. Yes, it’s true.

Andrew Niccol, the screenwriter of The Truman Show and the director of In Time, Gattaca, The Host (2013), detailed how it was easier to obtain real guns and sell them back after production in an interview with The New York Daily News (via The New Zealand Herald). Niccol also learned that profiting from guns wasn’t as simple as his protagonist made it out to be.

In a way, my film is a how-to about becoming an arms dealer. During the making of it, I needed guns in the Czech Republic, and it was cheaper to use real guns than replicas. I bought 3000 Kalashnikovs and then sold them back at a loss. I wouldn’t make a very good arms dealer.

Meanwhile, Andrew Niccol did not appear to be enthusiastic about reselling the weapons. Despite this, he was unable to destroy them due to the low budget of his film. Not all of them, at least. As the writer-director indicated, he was able to get rid of a few weapons.

In South Africa, we did cut some guns in half to stop them from getting into circulation. The fact that it was so easy to buy guns was disturbing. We also got some tanks, and the guy said, ‘I need them back by December because I’m selling them to Libya.’

Furthermore, while Lord of War does feature a variety of guns and is a lively and interesting picture about crime and armament, it is not necessarily a celebration of gun culture. Or, at the very least, it doesn’t appear that Andrew Niccol is a fan of the illegal arms trade, which could explain why he destroyed some of the Lord of War guns.

Lord of War, which also stars Ethan Hawke, Bridget Moynahan, and Jared Leto, received mixed reviews when it was released in 2005. The criminal drama, on the other hand, has received tremendous praise from audiences in the years since its premiere, with a 7.6 IMDb rating. Though it isn’t perfect, the film is a thoughtful and engaging analysis of the gun trade, particularly in the years leading up to and following 9/11, and it is well worth seeing if you haven’t already.