James Cameron reveals he almost DIED while making his 1989 deep-sea adventure The Abyss… but he survived by PUNCHING a diver in the face
Director James Cameron revealed the harrowing story of how he almost died while filming his 1989 deep-sea adventure The Abyss.
The 69-year-old filmmaker took part in a question and answer session following a restored director’s cut version of his film at Regency Village Westwood on Wednesday evening as part of the genre festival Beyond Fest.
In his early 30s during production, the filmmaker was already an experienced diver, although he revealed how an equipment malfunction almost cost him his life.
The film was shot in Gafney, South Carolina, and filming took place in an abandoned power plant.
Actors like Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and others had to undergo underwater diving training.
Harrowing: Director James Cameron revealed the harrowing story of how he almost died while filming his 1989 deep-sea adventure The Abyss
Underwater: Actors like Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and others had to undergo underwater diving training
He explained that they had “angel divers” who were assigned to watch the actors and make sure everything was okay, although he explained, “they weren’t watching me.”
‘We worked at a depth of 9 meters. To move the camera on the bottom, I wore heavy weights on my feet, no fins, and a heavy weight belt around my waist,” Cameron said, adding that his equipment began to fail.
‘If the tank becomes empty, you will get a warning that you are about to run out of air. Well, this thing had a piston-servo controller in it, so it was one breath… and then nothing,” Cameron explained, adding that the rest of the crew was “setting up lights” and no one was looking at him.
The director explained that he was trying to get the attention of underwater director of photography Al Giddings over the PA system, but Al couldn’t hear him.
“Al had been in a diving accident and he blew out both his eardrums, so he was deaf as a deaf, and I’m wasting my last breath on an underwater PA system that says ‘Al… Al…’ and he works away with his back to me,” Cameron told the BeyondFest crowd on Wednesday.
The director added that he was 30 feet underwater and was able to take off his gear and swim to the surface… when the angel divers spotted him.
‘The safety diver is about ten feet from the surface and puts a regulator in my mouth that he hasn’t checked. “It had been banging against the bottom of the tank for three weeks and had a tear in the diaphragm, so I rinsed gently and took a deep breath…water,” he said, as the crowd gasped.
“At that point it was almost the checkpoint and the safety divers teach you to hold on so that you don’t get embolization and your lungs don’t expand too much when you go up,” he explained, although in this case it almost cost him his life .
Actors: He explained that they had ‘angel divers’ who were tasked with watching the actors and making sure everything was okay, although he explained ‘they weren’t looking at me’
Underwater: ‘We worked at a depth of 10 meters. To move the camera on the bottom, I wore heavy weights on my feet, no fins, and a heavy belt around my waist,” Cameron said, adding that his equipment began to fail.
James arrives: “Al had been in a diving accident and he blew out both eardrums, so he was deaf as a post, and I was wasting my last breath on an underwater PA system that said ‘Al… Al…’ says and he’s working with his back to me,” Cameron told the BeyondFest audience on Wednesday
Not a hit: The Abyss was one of Cameron’s few films that wasn’t a huge box office hit, earning $90 million worldwide on a reported budget of $45 million, though it earned an Oscar for Best Visual Effects
‘But I knew what I was doing. And he wouldn’t let me go, and I couldn’t tell him the controller wasn’t working. So I punched him in the face and swam to the surface, which is how I survived,” Cameron said as the crowd laughed and applauded.
The Abyss was one of Cameron’s few films that was not a huge box office success, grossing $90 million worldwide on a reported budget of $45 million, although it did earn an Oscar for best visual effects.
While it wasn’t a huge hit in theaters, it gained a devoted fan base over the years, leading to Wednesday’s sold-out Beyond Fest screening.
Cameron also revealed during the Q&A that he has completed work on a highly anticipated 4K restoration that was announced last year.
“All the mastering is done and I think it will wear off pretty quickly – a few months or something like that,” Cameron said.