8 Insanely Dangerous Film Shoots That Nearly Killed Their Stars
4. The Actors Almost Drowned (For Real) - The Abyss
James Cameron has a reputation as a demanding filmmaker and over the years many stories have emerged about his clashes with actors, crews and even movie studios. The Abyss, his science fiction fantasy from 1989, is probably his most famous troubled shoot. And a quick look at the conditions it was made under makes it easy to see why. Most of The Abyss takes place underwater, and the film was shot in a massive tank. This was naturally trying on the actors and crew as they spent hours in a dark tank as shots took a long time to set up. They had to relieve themselves in their wetsuits, and they also had to deal with decompression when they finally came up. Excessive amounts of chlorine was pumped into the tank to keep it clean, which would strip off exposed hair or turn it white. In some cases it even lead to burns on exposed skin. Cameron himself almost drowned when his tank ran out of oxygen, and he had to break frantically for the surface. The actors had a particularly tough time. Mary Elisabeth Mantrantonio had a near mental breakdown, and Ed Harris nearly drowned more than once. In one scene he had to swim without a suit, and when he gave the signal that he was out of air, the safety diver was too slow to reach him. Panicked, another actor tried to give him some of his oxygen. But the regulator was upside down, and Harris inhaled mouthfuls of water instead. Finally a cameraman came and saved his life. He yelled at Cameron frequently during the shoot, and it was so emotionally stressful the he once broke down weeping in his car driving home. To this day he refuses to talk about The Abyss.