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James Cameron recalls how he nearly DIED on the set of The Abyss
Photo: © ANP

James Cameron recalls how he nearly DIED on the set of The Abyss

James Cameron recalls how he nearly DIED on the set of The Abyss
Photo: © ANP

James Cameron has recalled how he nearly died during filming of The Abyss.

The 1989 sci-fi epic tells the story of an ocean search and recovery team who work with oil platform workers to recover a sunken American submarine in the Caribbean. Once the crew gets deep underwater, they encounter something unexpected...

It starred Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Leo Burmester, Todd Graff, John Bedford Lloyd, Kimberly Scott and Chris Elliott.

Cameron was and remains an experienced underwater diver and so regularly found himself deep in the filming pool with weights on his legs and a camera.

Safety divers, called 'Angels', were recruited to keep an eye on the actors during these scenes - but they didn't have their eyes on Cameron!

“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. they weren’t watching me," he said at a special remastered screening of The Abyss at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles this week.

“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. Well, this thing had a piston servo regulator in it, so it was one breath… and then nothing. Everybody’s setting lights and nobody’s watching me. I’m trying to get Al Giddings attention on the p.a. but Al had been involved in a diving accident and he blew out both eardrums so he was deaf as a post, and I’m wasting my last breath of air on an underwater p.a. system going ‘Al… Al…’ and he’s working away with his back to me.

The Abyss
3.55 (1673)

The Abyss (1989)

During the Cold War, a US nuclear submarine is attacked and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The Navy enlists the help of several people working on a nearby oil rig to locate the submarine. As the crew tries to complete the mission, they run into some problems and discover that they may not be alone...

Directed by: James Cameron
Stars: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn

“The safety diver gets to be about ten feet from the surface and he sticks a regulator in my mouth that he didn’t check. It had been banging around the bottom of the tank for three weeks and had a rip through the diaphragm — so I purged carefully and took a deep breath… of water. And then I purged it again, and I took another deep breath… of water.

“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.”

Movie studios are grateful for that punch as Cameron went on to become one of the most bankable directors of all time.

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