“I’m not talking about The Abyss”: 4-Time Oscar Nominated Actor Reportedly Punched James Cameron after Near-Fatal Accident in $90M Masterpiece

Harris and the cast had an unpleasant experience filming the movie, with Elizabeth Mastrantonio experiencing a breakdown.

“I’m not talking about The Abyss”: 4-Time Oscar Nominated Actor Reportedly Punched James Cameron after Near-Fatal Accident in $90M Masterpiece


  • James Cameron has a deep affinity for water and has incorporated it into many of his projects, such as exploring the ocean floor and recreating the sinking of the Titanic.
  • His obsession with water has led to challenging shoots, with up to 40% of the film "The Abyss" taking place underwater.
  • During the filming of "The Abyss," renowned actor Ed Harris reportedly punched Cameron after the director continued filming despite Harris getting into trouble in the water.
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It is safe to say that James Cameron has a deep affinity for water. The Canadian filmmaker is an expert at anything H20-related, whether creating his submersibles to explore the ocean floor, erecting enormous tanks to recreate the Titanic sinking, or convincing his actors to train for Avatar: The Way of Water. 


This obsession with water has resulted in some challenging shoots, with up to 40% of his 1989 masterpiece, The Abyss, taking place underwater. His actors became agitated as a result of the harsh working conditions on a film set. Cameron’s experience dealing with a mutiny on the set of a $90 million film is a prime example of that. Yes, renowned actor Ed Harris—a four-time Oscar nominee—reportedly punched the Titanic director after he continued filming The Abyss, even when the actor got into trouble in the water.

James Cameron's The Abyss (1989)
James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989)

Also Read: James Cameron Threw Up When Disaster Struck While Filming $2.2B Titanic After His Entire Crew Got High on Hallucinogenic Drugs


Ed Harris Punched James Cameron On The Set Of The Abyss?

It seemed like many people had forgotten about The Abyss‘s existence not long after its 1989 release. Ed Harris, who played the lead, may have had some of the motivation behind his years-long refusal to discuss the James Cameron film. IMDb has reported that he has publicly refrained from discussing his experiences while working in the film, which also starred Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn. 

“I’m not talking about The Abyss, and I never will.” 

Still, a few stories about Harris’s experience filming the picture have come to light, and it is evident that he and the cast had a very unpleasant time. According to Syfy Wire, Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s stress on set caused her to have a physical and emotional breakdown. Also, she discussed her experiences in the documentary Under Pressure: Making The Abyss, saying: 

The Abyss was a lot of things. Fun to make was not one of them.”

James Cameron's The Abyss (1989)
James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989)

Several articles and social media posts claim that Harris once punched Cameron in the face when the actor nearly drowned and the director continued to film. The majority of those articles seem to reference the claim made on The Abyss‘s IMDb trivia page that the punch actually happened.


Harris finally spoke out about The Abyss in a 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly. According to him, there was mistreatment of the cast during the film’s production:

“We were guinea pigs, in a way, Jim wasn’t quite sure how this was all gonna go down… [in the drowning scene I was] screaming at her to come back and wake up, and I was slapping her across the face and I see that they’ve run out of film in the camera — there’s a light on the camera — and nobody had said anything.”

Also Read: “Because Schwarzenegger talks like a machine”: James Cameron Credits Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Thick Austrian Accent for Saving Terminator

James Cameron’s The Abyss Returns To Theaters In 4k Remaster

James Cameron's 'The Abyss' is back to theaters with 4K Remaster
James Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’ is back in theaters with 4K Remaster

The Abyss, James Cameron’s “first ocean film”, will return to theaters on December 6, 2023. The director personally completed the 4K transfer for the upcoming The Abyss: Special Edition, which features additional content and “surprises” not found in the original. He took to X (earlier Twitter) on November 13 to announce the film’s return to theaters. He elaborated:


In the video shared, the director stated:

“If you haven’t seen the film before, this is the way to experience it and if you have, you’ll be seeing the film I actually set out to make — with some big surprises not seen in the originally released version. I hope you’ll take advantage of seeing The Abyss, my first ocean film, back in theaters.”

James Cameron's The Abyss (1989)
Still from James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989)

With mostly favorable reviews at the box office, The Abyss made slightly less than $90 million worldwide. But as Cameron’s popularity grew over time, the movie attracted a sizable audience of its own. Moreover, it received four Academy Award nominations and took home the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

The Abyss: Special Edition will be available in theaters starting on December 6. 


Also Read: “It’s what I do… I trailblaze”: James Cameron’s Avatar Developed Bleeding Edge 3D Tech to Revolutionize CGI, Dwayne Johnson Used it to Bounce Berries of His ‘Jiggly Man B**b’


Written by Siddhika Prajapati

Articles Published: 1382

Between everyday normalities and supernatural abnormalities, Siddhika Prajapati finds the story in everything. Literature Honors Graduate and Post-Graduated in Journalism (from Delhi University), her undying need to deduce the extraordinary out of simplicity makes her a vibrant storyteller.

Serving as a Senior Entertainment Writer at Fandom Wire and having written over 1300 pieces, Siddhika has also worked with multiple clients and projects over the years, including Indian Express, India Today, and Outlook Group.

Who knows, maybe your next favorite persona on the screen will be crafted by her.