New Zealand director Andrew Niccol bought 3000 Kalashnikov automatic rifles for his latest movie, Lord of War, because it was cheaper than using props.

"In a way, my film is a how-to about becoming an arms dealer," Niccol told the New York Daily News. "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."

He could not afford to destroy them because he had a small budget, but he said: "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'."

Nicolas Cage stars in Lord of War - which opens on Friday in the United States - as an international dealer in illegal arms being chased by an Interpol agent, played by Ethan Hawke.

But Niccol said the movie was less about controlling guns and more about how guns control people.

"I hope the United States takes note that the murder rate is lower where gun availability is lower."