James Cameron Says He Narrowly Avoided Death While Filming THE ABYSS... By Punching A Diver In The Face

James Cameron Says He Narrowly Avoided Death While Filming THE ABYSS... By Punching A Diver In The Face

James Cameron has revealed that he almost died while filming The Abyss, and only narrowly managed to survive by punching a safety diver in the face!

By MarkCassidy - Sep 28, 2023 11:09 AM EST
Filed Under: Movies
Source: Via Variety

The elusive two-hour and 51-minute Special Edition of James Cameron's 1989 deep-sea sci-fi flick The Abyss screened at Beyond Fest on Wednesday, and the legendary director was on hand for a Q&A to share the most James Cameron story that ever James Cameroned!

Filmed in an abandoned nuclear power plant in Gaffney, S.C., the movie required its cast to undergo extensive training to allow them to perform their characters’ activities underwater. Cameron explained that he had a team on hand to supervise the actors to ensure their safety, before happening to mention that he almost died during the production!

“We had the ‘angels,’ which were the safety divers that were right there, and each one was assigned to one or two of the actors and just kept them in sight the whole time. [But] they weren’t watching me.”

Cameron was already an experienced diver at this stage, but he was at the mercy of some faulty equipment.

“We were working 30 feet down. For me to be able to move the camera around on the bottom I wore heavy weights around my feet, no fins, a heavy weight belt around my waist. When the tank gets low, you get a warning that you’re about to run out of air,” he said. “Well, this thing had a piston servo regulator in it, so it was one breath… and then nothing."

Cameron said he attempted to get [underwater director of photography] Al Giddings' attention on the p.a., but to no avail, and the safety diver arriving on the scene and sticking an unchecked modulator in his mouth certainly didn't help matters.

“At that point it was almost check-out point and the safety divers are taught to hold you down so you don’t embolize and let your lungs overexpand going up. But I knew what I was doing. And he wouldn’t let me go, and I had no way to tell him the regulator wasn’t working. So I punched him in the face and swam to the surface and therefore survived.”

We could make the obligatory "this probably wasn't the first or last time Cameron punched a crew member" joke here, but shall refrain.

If you haven't seen The Abyss, it's well worth a watch, especially if you can seek out the extended edition.

"Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on Earth."

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