By Henry Cabot Beck
Updated April 12, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Most people don’t know Mel Gibson’s We Were Soldiers is something of a prequel to 1987’s Lethal Weapon—not even the films’ creators. But in Soldiers, Gibson plays Lieut. Col. Hal Moore, commander of U.S. troops at the 1965 Vietnam War battle of the Ia Drang Valley—in which Weapon costar Danny Glover’s Murtaugh fought. Weapon scribe Shane Black chose the conflict because he wanted the character to have survived ”the nastiest hand-to-hand combat” of the war. Says Soldiers director Randall Wallace: ”I wasn’t aware of the connection…but I’m not surprised [Black] picked the Ia Drang campaign to reference as a bloody and powerful battle.” Wallace says that like most Americans he didn’t know much about the battle when Weapon hit theaters—and that he’s honored by ”the privilege of getting to help tell this story.”

Lethal Weapon (1987)

  • Movie
  • R
  • 110 minutes
  • Richard Donner