Actor Mel Gibson, who turned a Latin script on the crucifixion of Christ into box office gold last year, is in Mexico to shoot his latest film: an action movie shot entirely in an ancient Mayan tongue.
The star turned independent director is in the eastern state of Veracruz to film Apocalypto, a thriller set in an ancient Mayan settlement and shot in the Yucatec dialect. [Cool, Quechua, the "energy language", as Eskimos have a "snow language"?]
"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.
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.
[I could do without the religious porn, thank you very much, Mel!] Filming starts in November.
The runaway success of The Passion of the Christ, which grossed more than $US600 million ($A788.33 million) worldwide, has given Gibson the financial freedom and industry clout to pursue projects like Apocalypto ['grossed' amounting to the operative word!] ;-P
"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 "civilisations 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 archaeologists, 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 $US1 million ($A1.31 million) to the victims of hurricanes that hit southern Mexico, including heavily Mayan areas.