You know the saying that Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did, but backward and in heels? Well, in his acting debut, the Apocalypto star, 25, had to anchor Mel Gibson's chase movie in a loincloth and speak in an ancient Mayan dialect. Here, we get to know the man on the run.
He's just a country boy from Texas. The high school track and boxing star grew up in Belton, a ''blinking light'' town an hour north of Austin, working from the time he was in junior high to help raise his two younger sisters. ''By trade, I'm a brick and rock layer, I do paint- and bodywork, I'm a carpenter and a landscaper. I always felt that there was something more meant for me than this life in a small town. Acting is what I want to pursue. But don't get me wrong, I still love to do that kind of work.''
His wardrobe won't change to suit Hollywood. Youngblood, who's part Comanche and part Cree, moved to L.A. in 2005, fresh off a tour dancing in the Native American-themed Spirit The Seventh Fire. Soon after, ''I heard about the Apocalypto audition and showed up in my Wranglers and lucky boots. All the guys were GQ'd up, so I started thinking, Should I have dressed nicer? But I'll probably wear the same thing to the premiere.''
Youngblood dreams small and travels light. ''I thought I was just trying out for the part of some extra, the guy in the background eating a piece of chicken. I met with Mel three times. After the third round, he called me around eight at night and said, 'You got the lead!' The next morning I flew to Mexico City with a bag full of dirty laundry and stayed there for a year.''
When in pain, he keeps on running. ''During the shoot, I tore three ligaments in each foot. I ripped my quad muscle, separated my shoulder, popped out my collarbone, and I ran for months with a two-and-a-half-inch thorn in the bottom of my foot. But I'm from Texas and nobody's going to be my mama.''