"Gibson said the story would be told through the eyes of a Mayan man, his
family and village, and would touch on universal themes about
"civilizations and what undermines them"


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After turning "The Passion of the Christ" into box office gold last year,
Gibson is in Mexico to shoot his latest film: an action movie shot entirely
in an ancient Mayan tongue.

The star turned independent director was in the eastern state of Veracruz
this week where he is to film "Apocalypto," a thriller set in an ancient
Mayan settlement and shot in the Yucatec dialect.

"It's set before the Conquest, so there are no European faces, and we are
using mostly indigenous people and actors from Mexico City," Gibson,
sporting a long beard, said at a news conference in the port city of Veracruz.

"There's still a lot of mystery to the Mayan culture, but when all is said
and done, it's just the backdrop to what I'm doing -- creating an action
adventure of mythic proportions," he said, blinking before a bank of flash
lights.

Gibson achieved fame with lucrative movies like the epic "Revolution," the
sci-fi thriller "Signs" and the "Lethal Weapon" series and has become one
of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, commanding a fee of $25 million a
film.

A devout Roman Catholic, he had the greatest hit of his career with last
year's "The Passion of the Christ," which became the most successful
independent film ever made despite its impenetrable Latin and Aramaic
dialogue and stomach churning flogging sequences.

The 49-year-old star is making "Apocalypto" through his Los Angeles-based
Icon production company with an undisclosed budget. It will be distributed
by Disney, although the shooting script remains under wraps. Filming starts
in November.

MAYAN VILLAGE

The runaway success of "The Passion of the Christ," which grossed more than
$600 million worldwide, has given Gibson the financial freedom and industry
clout to pursue projects like "Apocalypto."

"Above all, film is a business ...Independence is a really cool thing as
you can be a bit more bold, and take a few more chances with what you do,"
he said.

Gibson said the story would be told through the eyes of a Mayan man, his
family and village, and would touch on universal themes about
"civilizations and what undermines them," but he declined to go into
details about the plot.

He said Mayan myths from the Popol Vuh sacred texts formed part of his
research for the film, which also drew on input from indigenous groups and
Spanish mission texts from the 1700s and Mayan language translators.

"A lot of it I just made up, and when I checked it out with historians and
archeologists, it wasn't that far wrong," he said.

After visiting Guatemala, the Yucatan Peninsula and Costa Rica to scope out
locations, he settled on unspoiled jungle in Veracruz to frame the story.

Residents in the rain-swept streets of Veracruz, near where Spanish
conquistador Hernan Cortes first made landfall in 1519, gave their support
to the project.

"It's just great that he's making a film about Mayan culture," marimba
player Manuel Guerrera said as he prepared to play with a local street band
in the city's colonial square.

"It's a neglected part of our heritage, and it makes us feel really proud,"
he added.

Gibson's popularity in Mexico has been boosted by his recent donation of $1
million to the victims of hurricanes that hit southern Mexico, including
heavily Mayan areas.