James Cameron Recounts Near-Death Experience While Filming ‘The Abyss’

James Cameron almost died doing what he loved earlier in his career. The renowned filmmaker recounted a near-death experience in 1989 while on the set of his movie, “The Abyss,” where he almost drowned. 

Cameron recalled losing breath and realizing that his equipment had failed. The professional diver narrated this during a Q&A session. 

James Cameron Almost Died On The Set Of  ‘The Abyss’

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Renowned director and filmmaker James Cameron revealed during a Q&A session how he almost died on the set of his 1989 sci-fi film “The Abyss.” The star was at “Beyond Fest,” where a direct film cut film was displayed at the Regency Village on Wednesday. During the session, he recalled realizing underwater that his diving equipment had failed.

While there were “Angel divers” meant to watch the diving actors and ensure they were safe, they didn’t notice the failure soon enough. Cameron said of the divers, “They weren’t watching me.” The “Titanic” director said that they were over 30 feet below the surface, and he wore heavier equipment than usual.

Cameron said, “For me to be able to move the camera around on the bo, bottom I wore heavy weights around my feet, no fins, heavy weighted belt around my waist.” The director explained that the tank would usually give “a warning” if air ran out. However, he took his last breath, and there was nothing left in it, and when Cameron tried to get the attention of other crew members, they couldn’t hear him.

Cameron recalled that he tried to call his fellow director, Al Giddings, to no avail. He explained that Giddings was previously involved in a “diving accident” and was “deaf as a post.” However, he found his way to swim to remove his gear.

“Al had been involved in a diving accident, accident and he blew out both ea drums, so he was deaf as a post, and I’m wasting my last breath of air on an underwater p.a. system going ‘Al… Al…’ and he’s working away with his back to me,” the director recalled.

James Cameron Punched A Safety Diver To Save Himself

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After almost reaching the top, some “Angel divers” noticed the “Avatar” director but still weren’t sure what happened. They then tried to put the failed regulator in his mouth for support. Cameron explained, “The safety diver gets to be about ten feet from the surface, and he sticks a regulator in my mouth that he didn’t check.”

Cameron added that he almost passed out when the safety diver stopped him from reaching the surface while executing a safety measure. 

“At that point it was almost check out point, and the safety divers are taught to hold you down so you don’t embolize and let your lungs over-expand going up.”

Cameron became even more confused as he couldn’t explain what was happening in the river. 

“But I knew what I was doing. And he wouldn’t let me go, and I had no way to tell him the regulator wasn’t working.” The director then hit the diver in the face to break free and swim to the surface. 

Cameron added, “So I punched him in the face and swam to the surface and therefore survived.” 

‘The Abyss’ Was Very Successful


“The Abyss” was a moderate success after doubling its $45 million budget with $90 million at the box office. Thewonlanded an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1990 after being nominated in different categories.

“The Abyss” also earned a Saturn Award for Best Director the next year and has since gained a cult following of movie lovers. 

During the “Beyond Fest” display, the movie quickly sold out as many viewers revisited their original experiences with the film upon its first release in 1989.

James Cameron Is Working On 4k Restoration Of ‘The Abyss’

James Cameron Recounts Scary Near-Death Experience While Filming His 1989 Movie 'The Abyss'

Cameron announced while answering questions on his upcoming projects that the 4k Restoration of “The Abyss” was ready. 

“I think it drops pretty soon — a couple of months or something like that.” He recalled announcing the project in 2022 and that it would be available for physical and streaming access.

The director revealed that decisions on the project were “out of his hands.” However, “all of the mastering is done.” The Restoration will have “a lot of added materials in it.” Cameron noted, per Variety, “I didn’t just want to look at the old HD transfer. I wanted to do it right.”

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