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Trivia / The Abyss

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  • Box Office Bomb: Budget, $70 million ($142 million adjusted). Box office, $54,461,047 (domestic; $120,736,800 adjusted), $35,539,051 (worldwide; $72,185,379 adjusted). The ONLY bomb James Cameron has directed. Despite this the movie managed to do well with critics and currently boasts 89% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • California Doubling: A set in South Carolina and a cave in Missouri covered for the Caribbean Sea.
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  • Cast the Expert: Captain Kidd Brewer Jr, who plays Lew, was a trained scuba diver already.
  • Creator Backlash: Both Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio have refused to talk too much about the film, due to how much of a nightmare it was to shoot. James Cameron himself declared it the worst production he'd ever been involved in.
  • Creator Breakdown:
    • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio suffered both a physical and emotional breakdown because of how hard the shoot was. Ed Harris also had to abruptly pull his car over one night - because he had burst into spontaneous crying.
    • James Cameron was divorcing Gale Anne Hurd at the time.
  • Dueling Movies: Against DeepStar Six and Leviathan (1989). Don't forget the Roger Corman contribution, Lords Of The Deep!
  • Dyeing for Your Art: The cast had to become certified divers before shooting began (as in being put through a course usually reserved for diving INSTRUCTORS). Shooting underwater extensively also required that they also undergo decompression before leaving the set. Ed Harris also sustained injuries on-set significant enough that he nearly had to turn down roles after shooting had wrapped. Not to mention that certain members of the crew, who literally spent close to the entire day underwater, for months, during the shoot, actually had their hair bleached white by the chlorine in the water. Michael Biehn grew a big moustache for the role of Coffey, to make him look creepier.
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  • Enforced Method Acting: One such scene led to Ed Harris decking Cameron after he almost drowned for real. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio got her own bit of that, too, with the resuscitation scene. Cameron kept demanding retakes, meaning she was repeatedly getting her chest pounded on (gently, but still) while soaking wet and half naked. She stormed off the set and wouldn't come back until Cameron agreed to wrap it already. And lest you think this was her being a prima donna, she stormed off specifically because they had actually run out of film stock shooting the many re-takes, and Cameron still wasn't happy.
  • Executive Meddling: Subverted. The extra scenes with the aliens from the Special Edition were cut for time - but it was Cameron himself who chose to do so. The studio actually wanted the scenes left in, but Cameron had final say.
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  • Fatal Method Acting: A near miss. Ed Harris nearly drowned - and Cameron kept rolling. It's the only time an actor has actually punched him.
  • Production Nickname: During the rigorous and problematic shoot, the cast and crew began calling the film by various derogatory names such as "Son of Abyss", "The Abuse" and "Life's Abyss And Then You Dive".
  • Production Posse: Averted. Aside from Michael Biehn, none of James Cameron's regulars at the time were used. Lance Henriksen was intended but unavailable. However a few minor roles were filled by actors who would work with Cameron again - William Wisher Jr (Bill Tyler), Joe Fargo (the anchorman) and Tom Isbelle (the reporter seen in the Special Edition's finale).
  • Real-Life Relative: James Cameron's brother, Mike Cameron, plays a dead crewman inside the sunken submarine. To accomplish this he had to hold his breath under 15 feet of water while also allowing a crab to crawl out of his mouth.
  • Reality Subtext: Bud and Lindsay's rocky relationship, since James Cameron was in the process of divorcing Gale Ann Hurd.
  • Referenced by...: In StarCraft after Kerrigan's Face–Heel Turn, she boastfully declares herself "Queen Bitch of the Universe.''
  • Troubled Production:
    • The film had 40% of live-action photography take place underwater. It was filmed in two specially constructed tanks in an abandoned nuclear plant near Gaffney, South Carolinanote , requiring experimental technology and equipment to allow the underwater scenes to be filmed right. Over six months of 6-day, 70-hour work weeks ensued, and the production had to be delayed when on the first day the main water tank sprung a leak, requiring dam-repair experts to fix it. And later, the crew were forced to only film at night after a lightning storm tore up the tarpaulin covering the main tank.
    • It's significant that Cameron himself declared this the worst production he was ever involved in. It's the only production where he had to spend most of his time hanging upside down in decompression tanks from filming underwater — he even said he had to review the footage in this position. He also almost drowned Ed Harris through Enforced Method Acting, which resulted in the one and only time an actor has ever actually punched him. Cameron himself nearly drowned during production, too, when his diving suit malfunctioned while he was weighed down at the bottom of the giant water tank during filming.
  • Typecasting: Michael Biehn, as an intense military type. While two of his famous roles were heroic characters, he found himself playing villains in everything else. So it's against type in terms of his previous work with Cameron - but within type otherwise.
  • What Could Have Been:


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