GOLDSBY, Okla. (AP) – Mel Gibson’s effort to find an indigenous cast for his new movie “Apocalypto,” which depicts the end of the Mayan civilization, is drawing praise from American Indian leaders.

Gibson wanted an indigenous cast for the project, so the filmmakers found people from the Yucatan, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Xalapa, Veracruz and other spots. Two of the cast members are from the United States, three are from Canada and the rest hail from Central America.

“It is very important to note that Mr. Gibson has gone to great lengths to cast indigenous people in this film,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said. “This not only helps make the film more realistic, it serves as an inspiration to Native American actors who aspire to perform relevant roles in the film industry.”

Gibson screened the movie Friday for a sold-out audience at Chickasaw Nation’s Riverwind Casino. Tickets were $55, proceeds going to American Indian health organizations and charities.

Rudy Youngblood, who makes his acting debut as Jaguar Paw, and Raoul Trujillo, who portrays Zero Wolf, arrived in sports utility vehicles and stood on Riverwind’s version of the red carpet – a black carpet that led into the theater – to pose for photographers.

Youngblood, a powwow dancer, singer and artist, told reporters he was just there to enjoy the movie, which opens in theaters Dec. 8.

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