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Gibson’s latest film has drawn debate about its dark, violent content as well as head-scratching about its box office and awards season prospects.

As a filmmaker with picture and director Oscars on his mantle, Gibson normally would be an automatic contender. But there’s been nothing normal about either Gibson’s public profile or personal oeuvre.

How did Gibson come to focus — make that, obsess — on the fall of the Mayan empire as the next directorial effort to follow his boffo “The Passion of the Christ”?

“There’s a conceit amongst us ‘newly arrived’ that history began with us, but the truth is history was going on for thousands of years; we just don’t have written records of it for the most part,” says Gibson “I wanted to imagine what happened before the boats arrived and end with the boats arriving. To go the other way, almost the way Rod Serling would, who’s a writer I really admire. Also, to make a story like this compelling, you need a society at the point that it’s crumbling, in turmoil, filled with corruption. That’s a far more interesting petri dish for a story to develop in.”