James Cameron is famous for his blockbuster films like ‘Avatar,’ ‘Terminator,’ and ‘Titanic.’ Yet, die-hard fans also recall his 1989 movie ‘The Abyss,’ starring Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ed Harris. Although the film did well in theaters, there were issues during filming, which caused Mastrantonio to leave the set.
During one scene, the heartbeat of Mastrantonio’s character stops for almost five minutes. Harris’s character can’t accept it, gives her two slaps, and brings her back to life. While discussing this part with Entertainment Weekly in 2016, 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.”
Recalling Mastrantonio’s reaction, he continued:
“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!… It was very difficult, but it was worth it; I met some great people. ‘The Abyss’ is a really great movie up until the last 10 minutes, which was the big disappointment.”
The actor also shared his feelings towards Cameron, explaining:
“I like Jim. He’s an incredibly talented, intelligent guy. In subsequence years after filming, it was always good to see him.”
‘The Abyss’ is about a Navy SEAL team assigned to rescue a sunken nuclear submarine under mysterious circumstances while dealing with Soviet threats. As they face flooding, conflicts, and the cold, they realize there’s a deeper, hidden secret beneath the ocean’s surface.
Forty percent of the movie was filmed underwater, requiring extensive preparation. The cast and crew trained in the Cayman Islands for a week before filming began. Special equipment was created for communication and underwater filming.
The cast worked extremely long hours, about 70 hours a week for six months. Mastrantonio had a tough time and had both physical and emotional problems on set. Harris even broke down in tears while driving home due to the stress. Plus, too much exposure to chlorine caused skin burns and turned their hair white.