Cameron's Near-Death Experience: A Life Saved with a Punch
Recently, James Cameron made an appearance at the Beyond Fest in Los Angeles. After the rare two-hour and 51-minute special edition screening of "The Abyss," he shared some unforgettable memories from the shoot.
The entire movie was filmed at an abandoned nuclear power plant in Gaffney, South Carolina. Actors were required to undergo actual underwater training and perform their roles beneath the water's surface. While describing how his team supervised the actors to ensure their safety, Cameron casually mentioned a near-death experience he had during filming. "We had 'angels,' they were safety divers right there with each actor, assigned to one or two actors, keeping them in sight. [But] they didn't have their eye on me."
"We were working at 30 feet deep. To be able to move the camera underwater, I had heavy weights on my feet, no fins, and a heavy belt around my waist." Despite Cameron being an experienced diver, the equipment he was using failed him, not just once.
"When the air in the tank is running out, you get a warning, telling you that the air is about to run out," he explained. "Well, this thing had a piston servo regulator inside it, so it's just one breath... and then nothing. Everyone was busy setting up lights, and no one noticed me. I tried to contact the underwater director, Al Giddings, via radio, but Al had experienced a diving accident before, with both eardrums ruptured, so he couldn't hear a thing, and I wasted my last breath underwater yelling 'Al... Al...' while he had his back turned, working."
Cameron said he managed to remove his diving gear, but soon encountered another obstacle: those "angels," who initially thought they were helping him, later tried to rescue him. "The safety diver was about 100 feet away from the surface, and he jammed an unchecked regulator in my mouth. But this regulator had been knocked around at the bottom of a locker for three weeks, so the diaphragm had torn – so I cautiously vented and took a deep breath... it was water. Then I vented again and took another deep breath... it was still water."
"It was almost a life-or-death situation. Safety divers are trained to hold you down, to prevent you from getting the bends from surfacing too quickly, causing your lungs to over-expand. But I knew what I had to do. He wouldn't let me go, and I had no way to tell him the regulator was bad. So, I unexpectedly gave him a punch and swam to the surface, saving my life."
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