By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated February 11, 2002 01:40 AM

In “Braveheart,” he wore a kilt. In “Mad Max,” survivor’s tatters. Now, reports PEOPLE, Mel Gibson is donning army fatigues for his new Vietnam-vintage drama, “We Were Soldiers.” Speaking to reporters about the film in New York this past weekend, Gibson, 46, said, “Emotionally this was very close for me, because I remember living through the era. I was, thank God, 16 when it was all over, so my clock didn’t run down. But I remember reading about the war and watching it on TV.” In the movie, Gibson plays Lt. Colonel Hal Moore, who led his soldiers into the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965. (It was one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history, with Moore’s 400 American soldiers surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese.) To prepare for the role, Gibson, along with cast members, spent two weeks at Fort Benning in Georgia training with the U.S. Army’s elite corps, the Rangers. The actors stayed at the Bachelor’s Officers Quarters, where the Rangers hauled them out of bed at 5 a.m. every day. “We ran, trained with weapons, jumped out of helicopters, and crawled under barb wire with live rounds over our heads,” said Gibson. Still, he pointed out, real boot camp is much harder, and he thinks he and his fellow actors got off easy. “We got to sleep and eat, and we were there for two weeks, not 60 days.” Not to mention the fact that they never got shipped off to war.