In his new film Enemy at the Gates (opening Friday), The Talented Mr. Ripley's Jude Law stars as legendary Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev, a soldier whose skill at shooting German officers during World War II was the stuff of legend. Ironically, the actor — who never picked up a firearm in his life — admits the role proved to be a hands-on lesson in gun control.

"It scared me how easy it is [to shoot]," Law tells TV Guide Online. "Guns are very well designed to be terribly straight-forward. You pick them up, point them and squeeze."

To play the expert sharpshooter, Law spent two months training using live rounds. "I started at 100 meters and you just blow things apart," he explains. "Then they took me down under the trenches to get the feeling of having shots whizzing over my head, and I heard the sonic boom. It's terrifying!"

While Law may have been a combat novice, his co-star Ed Harris — who plays the German assassin sent to kill Zaitsev — was a veteran hired gun. "I shot a little bit when I was a kid, but not a lot," says the actor, currently up for an Oscar for Pollock. "I learned primarily through film roles, in Under Fire and Riders of the Purple Sage.

"I don't have any weapons myself," Harris adds. "I'm not opposed to people owning guns, but I do think that there should be some restrictions. Charlton Heston and the NRA are a much-too-powerful lobby."