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Gibson says new film has ‘mythic proportions’

‘Apocalypto’ stars unknown Mexican actors speaking in an ancient tongue
/ Source: The Associated Press

Mel Gibson says a fascination with ancient cultures and great civilizations is what led him to make his upcoming movie “Apocalypto,” starring unknown Mexican actors speaking in an ancient tongue.

“What I’m doing is making an action-adventure film of mythic proportions,” Gibson, sporting a plaid flannel shirt, jeans and a long salt-and pepper beard, told a news conference Friday.

The movie is scheduled to begin production Nov. 14 and will be shot almost entirely in the jungle of Mexico’s Veracruz state.

The film’s stars will be unrecognizable to most moviegoers, and they will speak in the Mayan tongue of Yucateco, Gibson said. It will be light on dialogue and heavy on images and action. It’s set 600 years ago, prior to the 16th-century Spanish conquest of Mexico and Central America.

The most anyone will see of the 49-year-old movie star “is my fingernail,” Gibson said. “If I was in it, it would wreck everything.”

In his first public explanation of the movie, both written and directed by Gibson, he said he decided to hold a news conference “to satisfy people’s curiosity a little bit” and knock down inaccurate speculation.

The movie is “a story about a man and his woman, his child and his father, his community,” adding that the man “is put in an incredibly heightened, stressful situation ... has to overcome tremendous obstacles. So it’s a universal story in that respect.”

Like his last film, the stunningly successful “The Passion of Christ,” Gibson will bankroll “Apocalypto” himself. Disney has signed on to release it in the United States.

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Gibson said that although he researched the writings of a Spanish missionary and the Mayan bible, the “Popol Vuh,” and visited Mayan sites in Guatemala and Mexico, the Mayan setting is merely the backdrop of the movie. he chose it because “it’s just fascinating to me. There’s still a lot of mystery about the culture.”

“I’m hoping by focusing on this civilization we can ... analyze ourselves,” he said, adding that the movie “is kind of an anthropological journey.”

The film’s title, “Apocalypto,” a Greek word for an unveiling or new beginning, “just expresses so well that I want to convey,” Gibson said. “I think it’s just a universal word. In order for something to begin, something has to end. All of those elements are involved. But it’s not a big doomsday picture or anything like that.”

Asked about future endeavors, Gibson replied, “I have many other projects planned. I might just try one in English.”