As these stories show, making Mel Gibson’s sprawling Mayan adventure film was an epic journey in its own right.
1. Mel Gibson Made a Very Fast Cameo
The first teaser trailer for Apocalypto, made before principal photography of the movie itself, includes a hidden single-frame image of a heavily bearded Gibson standing next to a group of Mayan actors with a cigarette in his mouth.
2. Apocalypto Also Found Waldo
Gibson wasn’t the only brief cameo. The director humorously—and morbidly—inserted a single frame of a man dressed as Waldo from Where’s Waldo into the scene where Jaguar Paw stumbles into a pile of dead bodies after the ritual sacrifice scene.
3. Gibson Was a Stickler for Authentic Language
All of the dialogue is in the Yucatec Maya language.
4. Gibson Got Expert Help
Though the film exercises some dramatic license, Gibson hired Dr. Richard D. Hansen, Assistant Professor at Idaho State University and a specialist on Mayan culture, as a consultant to ensure a level of historical accuracy.
5. Finding the Perfect Jungle Was Tough
The filmmakers originally looked into shooting in Guatemala and Costa Rica, but those countries’ jungles were too dense for a movie production. Instead, all filming took place in Mexico. The jungle scenes were shot just outside of the city of Catemaco and the pyramid city set was built in Veracruz.
6. The Actors Had Homework
Gibson wanted to cast non-actors for each role, which meant the casting process eventually stretched across three continents. Many of the actors then had to learn Yucatec Maya for the film.
7. Some Members of the Cast Were Very Inexperienced When It Came to Film
Maria Isidra Hoil, who played the diseased Oracle Girl, had never seen a movie before she was cast.
8. The Actor Who Played Jaguar Paw Isn’t Mayan
Rudy Youngblood is a Native American of Cree, Comanche, and Yaqui descent.