If there’s one thing that James Cameron is widely known for besides his spectacular big-screen masterpieces, it’s his dictatorship personality toward his film’s cast and crew during the shoot. While on the one hand, he has made some remarkable pieces that have earned him global acclamation, on the other hand, he has also pushed boundaries to film them and almost gotten his actors killed as well!
But this one time, while shooting his $90 million 1989 sci-fi/adventure blockbuster The Abyss, the director faced on-set mutiny from his crew after his alleged cruel methods drew his two lead stars to nervous breakdowns during filming.
James Cameron Drove Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio And Ed Harris To A Nervous Breakdown
Released in 1989, The Abyss crew faced a similar fate as all the others before and after them. During the movie shoot, they were driven to crazy edges by the filmmaker, so much so that the leads along with the rest of the cast were literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown!
Sharing the tragic experience faced by him and his co-star Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Virgil Bud Brigman portrayer Ed Harris said,
“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. And Mary Elizabeth stood up and said, ‘We are not animals!’ and walked off the set. They were going to let me just keep slapping her around!”
Yet, this on-set mutiny risen by his cruel directing methods wasn’t all, as James Cameron himself nearly lost his life while filming the $90 million movie.
James Cameron Himself Nearly Died While Shooting The Abyss (1989)
Since the movie The Abyss is based on the story of a Navy SEAL team that was sent underwater to salvage a nuclear submarine, most of it was shot in an artificial yet massive underwater set in an abandoned nuclear power plant situated in South Carolina.
During the shoot, there was a moment when James Cameron was at the bottom of the set and the AD who monitored his oxygen levels disappeared somewhere. Knowing he had to get air as soon as possible, he stripped off his entire underwater safety gear and tried to rise to the surface.
Watching him, a safety diver reached out a spare breathing regulator to him attempting to help, but the regulator turned out to be faulty, and instead of sucking in air, the director ended up sucking in a lot of water. Struggling to get free under the diver’s hold who assumed he was distressed, Cameron punched his helper in the face until the latter realized his fault and helped the filmmaker to safety.
But it seems that all of the cast and crew along with the filmmaker’s hard work paid off, for the movie grossed a whopping $90 million on its budget of a mere $45 million along with debuting in second place at the domestic box office, which is a huge success considering the time and era.
You can stream The Abyss on Disney+.