Mel Gibson receives award from Latino business organization

Actor Mel Gibson, whose drunken driving arrest and anti-Semitic remarks ignited a scandal four months ago, was honored by a Latino business organization for his upcoming film "Apocalypto."

Enthusiastic applause greeted the actor/director on Thursday as he walked onstage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to receive the Latino Business Association's Chairman's Visionary Award.

Gibson mostly stared at the floor as he answered questions from LBA Chairman Rick Sarmiento about the film, a subtitled epic filmed in Mexico chronicling the decline of the Mayan civilization.

No mention was made regarding Gibson's recent troubles with the law.

Sarmiento said the scandal surrounding the actor did not affect the 30-year-old Los Angeles-based group's decision to choose him for its second Chairman's Visionary Award.

After watching a screening of "Apocalypto," Sarmiento said that he and the LBA board unanimously decided to grant the honor to Gibson.

"Hearing him tell the story about using Latino actors, it was a no-brainer," Sarmiento told The Associated Press.

Reporters were kept a few hundred feet (meters) away from the 50-year-old Oscar winner and were not allowed to question him.

"It's not really a Hollywood production. It's a film made by Mexico, in a way," Gibson told the audience, citing the movie's crew of Latino makeup artists, set designers, and a cast of unknown actors.

He said that casting unknowns was "tantamount to being at the Super Bowl and getting your quarterback from the audience." Gibson originally traveled to Mexico City alone to search for potential actors. He cast one man in the movie after spotting him in a juice bar.

Gibson said that his film, scheduled for release by Disney Dec. 8., is a "badge of honor for the Latino community."

At one point, the actor called himself a "gringo," slang for a non-Latino foreigner.

"I have the gringo gut. I was crawling around on my hands and knees some days," he said of eating food in Mexico. His comment was met with trails of laughter, reports AP.

Gibson, whose 1995 drama "Braveheart" snagged an Oscar for best picture, made headlines after publicly apologizing for anti-Jewish comments made to police in Malibu when he was arrested in late July for driving under the influence.

In August, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge in a deal that included alcohol rehabilitation, probation and fines.

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