Mel Gibson has revealed the secret to staging his much-admired battle scenes in Braveheart to mark the build-up to the 20th anniversary of the 1995 historical classic.

The actor directed the film, in which he portrayed 13th century Scot William Wallace who led his native Scotland to war against the English.

The movie became an instant classic and picked up five Oscars, including a Best Director gong for Gibson, who now admits the secret to the success of the film lies in his meticulous battle scene planning.

He tells Empire magazine, "The thing I wanted out of the battle sequences was clarity. I've seen a lot of these battle movies and they just turn into mush.

"I broke it down to archers and horses and hand-to-hand and who had the high ground and the low ground, everybody was clearly delineated, even though it was often the same bunch of people playing different parts.

"We had the guys from the Irish Army, and one day they were all dressed like Scots and the next day they'd be English. I think there's a scene where somebody actually kills himself!"

And asked if there were were any serious injuries on the set, Gibson admits the person who came closest to death was himself: "There was a horse that nearly killed me. He had a good trick where he did this whole rear-up thing, but he'd also fall backwards, which is a problem if you've fallen off first and you're behind him.

"He did that to me. My stunt double ran in and pulled me out of the way just as the horse fell."