Mel Gibson's bloody Mayan epic Apocalypto has topped the US box office after its first weekend of opening.

The news signals a dramatic turnaround for the actor and producer, who earlier this year sparked fierce criticism for anti-Jewish comments that he made after being arrested for drink driving.

Chuck Viane, head of distributor Disney, said: "The movie obviously succeeds on its own level. I think people probably are a bit on the surprised side around town that it's number one.

"Two months ago, nobody would have bet on that."

Apocalypto is set in an obscure Mayan civilisation and told through a Mayan language.

It has drawn $14.2 million (£7.3 million) so far in US cinemas, but it has also received criticism for its excessive gore and the portrayal of the Mayan tribes.

Cameron Diaz and Jude Law's latest romcom, The Holiday, is currently at number two in the US box office after taking $13.5 million (£6.9 million) while former number one Happy Feet continues its popularity at number three.

11/12/2006 16:11:28