Edit
The Abyss (1989) Poster

(1989)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Trademark (4)  | Spoilers (13)
Real oxygenated fluorocarbon fluid was used in the rat fluid breathing scene. Dr. Johannes Kylstra and Dr. Peter Bennett of Duke University pioneered this technique and consulted on the film, giving detailed instructions on how to prepare the fluid. The only reason for cutting to the actors' faces was to avoid showing the rats defecating from momentary panic as they began breathing the fluid.
396 of 398 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Ed Harris reportedly punched James Cameron in the face after he kept filming while he was nearly drowning.
575 of 581 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Ed Harris has publicly refused to speak about his experiences working on the film, saying "I'm not talking about The Abyss and I never will". The only register with Harris speaking about his experiences doing the movie is in the documentary Under Pressure: Making 'The Abyss' (1993). Similarly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio said "The Abyss was a lot of things. Fun to make was not one of them."
450 of 457 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Very few scenes involved stunt people. When Bud drags Lindsey back to the rig, that's really Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio holding her breath. When the rig is being flooded and characters are running from water, drowning behind closed doors, and dodging exploding parts of the rig, those are all actors, not stunt people.
309 of 313 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
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". Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio reportedly suffered a physical and emotional breakdown because she was pushed so hard on the set, and Ed Harris had to pull over his car at one time while driving home, because he burst into spontaneous crying.
391 of 397 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Director James Cameron was determined to actually film major portions of the movie underwater, as he felt that the conventional way to shoot such scenes (slow-motion filming on a set filled with smoke, or in the ocean with stunt divers) looked unconvincing. While searching for a suitable tank for filming during pre-production, he was advised of a half-completed nuclear reactor facility in Gaffney, South Carolina that was intended to be used as a movie studio. When Cameron was given a tour of the location, the unfinished turbine pits were suggested to serve as the tank for principle photography. However, when he saw the facility's nuclear reactor housing (a 55-foot tall bowl, 240 feet in diameter) he decided that this structure was ideal, as it could accommodate huge sets and its walls would not be visible on screen. The reactor, designated 'A tank', thus became the largest underwater set in the world at 7.5 million gallons, and the turbine pit was used as 'B tank' for miniature special effects filming.
207 of 209 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron declared this the worst production he was ever involved with, a sentiment shared by many of the cast members. The difficulties of filming around and under water put a great strain on both cast and crew, further complicated by Cameron's notorious perfectionism. Many of them have been quoted as saying that they would never do a sequel or movie like 'The Abyss' again. For Cameron, a director known to often collaborate with the same cast and crew members, this movie had suspiciously few people who worked with him again, including almost the entire cast (save for Michael Biehn), composer Alan Silvestri and director of photography Mikael Salomon.
192 of 194 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron nearly drowned during production while he was weighed down at the bottom of the giant water tank during filming. His assistant director had failed to warn him to refill his oxygen, and realizing that he was running out of air, Cameron asked for help from underwater DP Al Giddings. However, Giddings couldn't hear him (he was near-deaf from an old diving-bell accident), and with no one else nearby, Cameron quickly released his helmet, harness and weights, and started to swim with great speed to the surface, exhaling all the way in order to prevent lung damage from decompression. One of the safety divers held him down and gave him a regulator, which was broken and only produced water. Cameron tried to release himself, but the diver, thinking that Cameron was simply having a panic attack, held him even tighter. Cameron only survived because he punched the diver in the face, and reached the surface before he passed out. The AD and the diver were fired the same day.
202 of 205 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The water in the two tanks was chlorinated heavily, to prevent microbes growing in it. This caused skin burns, as well as many of the actors' hair to become green and even white. Due to this, the crew had to apply Vaseline to their hair and skin for protection while filming for several hours underwater.
196 of 199 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Michael Biehn claimed that he was in South Carolina for five months and only acted for three to four weeks. He remembered one day being ten meters underwater and "suddenly the lights went out. It was so black I couldn't see my hand. I couldn't surface. I realized I might not get out of there."
151 of 153 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Cast members had to become certified divers before filming began. The Deepcore crew started training together in the Caribbean one month before filming, in order to create a sense of camaraderie. Ed Harris was not among them, as he was still filming another movie, so he got his certificate while training in a lake nearby. The actors playing the SEALs received a separate, military training. At the end of the shoot, Harris was the most accomplished diver (near-professional level) despite not having trained a single day in the actual ocean.
261 of 267 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron's brother, Mike Cameron, plays a dead crewman inside the sunken submarine. To accomplish this he had to hold his breath under 25 feet of water while also allowing a crab to crawl out of his mouth. The shot took five takes, and Mike had to crush the crab twice because Jim took too long to set the lights.
269 of 276 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
One of the first films to make proper use of CGI technology, which were done by George Lucas's special effects company Industrial Light and Magic (ILM). The animated water effects would be put to use in James Cameron's next film Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), to create the liquid Terminator, the T-1000.
176 of 180 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The scene with the water tentacle coming up through the moon pool was written so that it could be removed without interfering with the story, because no one knew how the effect would come out. The actors were interacting with a length of heater hose being held up by the crewmen. When the effects were completed, though, they exceeded everyone's expectations and wildest hopes, paving the way for increased use of computer-generated special effects in films.
200 of 206 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The crew frequently spent enough time underwater to force them to undergo decompression before surfacing. James Cameron would often watch dailies through a glass window, while decompressing and hanging upside down to relieve the stress on his shoulders from the weight of the helmet.
149 of 153 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Fluid breathing is a reality. Five rats were used for five different takes, all of whom survived and were given antibiotic shots by a vet. The rat that actually appeared in the film died of natural causes a few weeks before the film opened. According to James Cameron, the scene with the rat had to be edited out of the UK movie version because "the Royal Veterinarian felt that it was painful for the rat". James Cameron repeatedly assures that the rats used for this take didn't suffer any harm.
245 of 254 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The sequence in which Catfish fires a submachine gun into the moon pool at a departing Lt. Coffey was filmed using live ammunition. The underwater camera was locked down and unmanned, and extreme safety precautions were in effect.
143 of 147 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Ed Harris had such a traumatic experience making the film that he refused to go into detail about it for years. One of the few things he said about it was "Asking me how I was treated on The Abyss is like asking a soldier how he was treated in Vietnam."
161 of 166 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The water tank for filming was filled to a depth of 40 feet, but there was still too much light from the surface, so a giant tarpaulin and billions of tiny black plastic beads were floated on the surface. This had the advantage of being dense enough to completely block out the light, yet fluid enough for divers to break through in case of emergency. One of the downsides was that cast and crew kept pulling the small beads from their hair and folds for months. During a violent storm, the tarpaulin was destroyed, thus shifting production to night time.
126 of 130 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Forty percent of all live-action principal photography was actually shot underwater.
96 of 100 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Since the "Benthic Explorer" model ship was so large and filmed on open seas, the production company was required to register it with the Coast Guard.
82 of 85 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The idea for the film came to James Cameron when he attended a science lecture about deep sea diving and liquid breathing in high school. He wrote a short story about a group of scientists in a laboratory at the bottom of the ocean on the edge of the Cayman trench. When signs of life come from the trench, the scientist dive in one at a time, never to return or being heard of again; when the last remaining scientist follows them to find out what happened, he ends up in a depth-induced psychosis. Since a film about a group of scientists didn't seem commercial to him, he changed it to a group of blue collar workers instead, and changed the story around them. Ironically Ghostbusters II (1989), a film about scientists was one of the most successful films of its year, while The Abyss (1989), while not a box office flop, was considered to be commercially disappointing.
141 of 149 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The masks were specially designed to show the actors' faces, and had microphones fitted so that dialogue spoken at the time by the actors could be used in the film. Because they were designed to cleanly capture dialogue underwater, noises created by the diving equipment were either isolated or filtered out. James Cameron felt the (superior) quality of the sound seemed artificial, and the noises made by the regulators in the helmets were added during sound post-production.
91 of 95 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
During the segment where the mini-subs are exploring the sunken nuclear sub the actors can be seen inside the model mini-subs. This was achieved by putting a tiny screen and projector inside the models, projecting movies of the actors.
103 of 108 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Director James Cameron contacted Orson Scott Card before filming began with the possibility of producing a book based on the film. Card initially told his agent that he doesn't do "novelizations", but when she told him that the director was James Cameron, he agreed to consider it. The script arrived, and Card signed on after receiving assurances from Cameron that he would be free to develop his "novel" the way he wanted to. After a meeting with Cameron, Card immediately wrote the first three chapters, which dealt with events concerning Bud and Lindsay Brigman that occurred before the events in the film. Cameron gave these chapters to Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, who used it to develop their characters.
123 of 130 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The studio pushed hard for an Academy Award nomination for Michael Biehn as best supporting actor, but was unsuccessful.
121 of 128 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The striped wire scene (blue with white stripe and black with yellow stripe) was filmed with two black and white wires to ensure that they looked identical under the colored lighting.
118 of 126 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The production was plagued by adversities and setbacks. There were engineering delays that slowed down production on the water tank, and when the tank was finally filled, thunderstorms and pipe ruptures complicated things. The tank was so huge that it had its own weather, and the water was often too murky to film. Local goats sometimes invaded the set, destroying equipment and urinating over the floors. Delays caused shooting days to last an average of 15 to 18 hours, which caused exhaustion and agitation among cast and crew, who had a tough time dealing with James Cameron's relentless pace and dictatorial behavior. The constant cold and submersion caused many to come down with ear and sinus infections, there were many near-drowning accidents on set, and finally, filming was delayed one day due to a bomb threat.
28 of 28 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Orson Scott Card described working with James Cameron as "Hell on wheels". He claimed that Cameron was nice to him because he could afford to walk away, while he was miserable and unkind to everyone else. He also stated that "unless he changes his way of working with people, I hope he never directs anything of mine".
63 of 66 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Captain Kidd Brewer Jr. was already a professional diver prior to filming, and had also appeared in Cameron's Piranha II: The Spawning (1981). He committed suicide the following year of the movie's release (some sources incorrectly inform that he died on a diving accident). The Special Edition is dedicated to his memory.
82 of 87 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Extended scenes with the aliens communicating with Bud near the end were cut from the theatrical release because they would have made the film almost three hours long. Back in 1989, such a long running time was considered a big commercial risk, especially for a film with lots of action scenes and special effects, decreasing the likelihood that it would be profitable. Contrary to what may be thought, the decision to shorten the climax was made by James Cameron himself and was not imposed by the studio. Cameron stated that reactions to the extended scenes during test screenings had been mixed, so he felt that deleting them was the best way to get the film to the 135-minute running time that he had contractually promised to deliver. Studio officials were actually horrified by the decision to truncate the ending and questioned Cameron whether it was the right decision, but in the end, he had final cut. The scenes were eventually restored in 1993 for the Special Edition.
100 of 107 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
When Cat punches Coffey in the face, a single solid white frame is spliced in at the moment of impact. This film trick accurately conveys the flash a person sees when they get hit in the head. It was also used in Aliens (1986) whenever gunshots were fired, in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) when Sarah clocks Douglas in the face with the mop handle, and in True Lies (1994) when Helen punches Harry in the face.
90 of 96 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The first feature film to have used an early version of Adobe Photoshop.
115 of 124 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
For financial reasons, the "Deepcore" set was never dismantled. It stood in the abandoned (and drained) South Carolina nuclear power plant, where the film was shot. 20th Century Fox had posted signs around the set informing potential photographers that Fox still owned the set (and the designs) and that any photographs or video shooting of the set was prohibited by copyright law. Their official copyright information was on the Deepcore rig itself. A favorite destination for "urban explorers", the sets and facility were eventually demolished in 2007 during a reconstruction project.
85 of 91 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Despite the fact that the water tank was heated with gas burners, many cast and crew members got so cold during filming that plastic hot tubs were set up outside the tank to keep them warm during breaks.
24 of 24 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The mini-subs in the wide shots were actually models suspended on wires in a smoky environment and filmed in slow motion.
62 of 66 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The American Humane Association rated this film "unacceptable" because of the rat that was submerged in oxygenated liquid in one scene. It wasn't an effect. The rat really was "subjected to the anxiety of being submerged in this liquid, where it panics and struggles and is then pulled out by its tail as it expels the liquid from its lungs."
144 of 159 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Filmed on a $70 million budget, making it one of the most expensive films made at the time.
84 of 91 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The first movie released under the THX Laserdisc Program.
66 of 71 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Steven Spielberg studied the effects sequences in this film, as well as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) to prepare for Jurassic Park (1993). The effects for all four productions were done by George Lucas's effects company, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).
71 of 77 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The scene with the water tentacle was one of the first to be filmed. This was done so as to give the effects team the maximum amount of time available to develop the CGI over the course of filming the rest of the movie.
80 of 88 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
To heat the water in the unfinished nuclear power plant, James Cameron brought in several tanker trucks of natural gas, and attached them directly to burners.
50 of 54 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
According to the studio, the rumor that a real rat drowned during the making of the film is false. Five rats were used to film the drowning sequence and they all lived. However, James Cameron later admitted that four rats had indeed gone through the procedure without problems; the fifth, however, suffered a cardiac arrest. Fortunately, Cameron was able to revive it through careful chest compressions, and later kept it as a pet. It died of old age more than a year later.
82 of 92 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
This was the first movie to shop out special effects over multiple companies (seven in total). This has become commonplace in Hollywood as a way to spread the burden of work, allowing each company to be used to its strengths, and preventing one company to get flooded in work, which can cause costly delays.
16 of 16 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
On the first day of filming, the main water tank sprang a leak, requiring dam-repair experts to fix it.
24 of 25 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The company mentioned in the film is named Benthic Petroleum. In oceanographic terms, the word "benthic" means on or in the ocean bottom.
44 of 49 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Insert shots were filmed after principal photography at Harbor Star Stage in Long Beach, California. Additional miniature shots were filmed in the 1932 Olympic swim stadium in LA. The close-up shot near the end of the movie where Bud ignites a flare under water was also filmed after principal photography, in Gale Anne Hurd's pool.
26 of 28 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Kathleen Quinlan, Jessica Lange, Debra Winger and Barbara Hershey were considered to play Lindsey Brigman. According to James Cameron, he almost cast Jamie Lee Curtis, but Kathryn Bigelow (his future wife) had already cast her in Blue Steel (1990). Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was finally chosen on the strength of her performances in Scarface (1983) and The Color of Money (1986). Cameron would cast Curtis in True Lies (1994) a few years later.
46 of 52 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Since it is supposed to be pitch-black at the bottom of the sea, all the lighting had to come from the Deepcore rig and the submersibles. A special 1,200 Watt light source was specifically created for the film, which has since been used in many other movies, as well as NASA.
18 of 19 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
To create the alien water tentacle, James Cameron initially considered cel animation or a tentacle sculpted in clay and then animated via stop-motion techniques with water reflections projected onto it. While looking for a company to create the effect, Phil Tippett suggested that Cameron contact Industrial Light & Magic, which had just taken its first steps into computer-generated (CG) images with Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). Visual effects artist Dennis Muren, who had been setting up a CG division within ILM, worked on the effect for nine months, with the idea to resort to claymation in case the CG effect did not work. Fortunately, the finished effect proved even better than expected, because there was no more time to try another technique.
22 of 24 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
As of 2019 this is the only narrative film directed by James Cameron not to debut at Number 1 at the United States Box Office.
21 of 23 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
There are no opening credits save the title of the film.
60 of 72 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron's two choices for Bud Brigman were Ed Harris and Jeff Bridges.
49 of 58 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
When Lt. Coffey retrieves the keys from the captain's corpse, the name Kretschmer is visible on the name tag on the front of his overalls. This is a reference to the real-world Otto Kretschmer, the highest-scoring submarine ace of World War II.
40 of 47 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
During the TV news report of the US and Russian ships colliding, the accompanying pictures are actually those taken of ships from the British Task Force hit during the Falkland Islands campaign.
32 of 37 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The idea for the film came to James Cameron when, at age 17 and in high school, he attended a science lecture about deep sea diving by a man, Francis J. Falejczyk, who was the first human to breathe fluid through his lungs in experiments conducted by Dr. Johannes A. Kylstra. He subsequently wrote a short story that focused on a group of scientists in a laboratory at the bottom of the ocean, near the Cayman Trench. The basic idea did not change, but many of the details evolved over the years. While making Aliens (1986), Cameron saw a National Geographic film about remote operated vehicles operating deep in the North Atlantic Ocean. These images reminded him of his short story, and after going scuba diving with Gale Anne Hurd during their honeymoon near the Cayman Trench, he knew he wanted to make this his next movie. He quickly realized that scientists running experiments were not that appealing to an audience, so he changed it to a group of blue-collar workers drilling for oil on the bottom of the sea. In real life, Cameron eventually became an explorer in residence with the National Geographic Society as a deep sea diver (this film and Titanic resulted in producing documentaries for National Geographic).
28 of 32 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The pseudopod scene originally ended with a brief shot of Hippy (Todd Graff) coming out of the toilet, the irony being that the firmest believer in an extra-terrestrial presence was the only one not to witness the first encounter with one. However, the shot was edited out the movie.
19 of 21 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
A Facebook page existed for "Benthic Petroleum", the fictional company which owns and operates the drilling rig, and featured an image of a promo for the company. The blurb on the poster footer reads "At Benthic Petroleum we drill deeper into the unknown than anyone else in the business. Why? That's where our future lies waiting, at the bottom of the deepest trenches. In the abyss."
63 of 79 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The studio was considering Mel Gibson, Dennis Quaid, William Hurt, Harrison Ford, Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze for the role of Virgil 'Bud' Brigman. James Cameron suggested Ed Harris, but the studio was concerned about his lack of experience as leading man, as well as his receding hairline (something that Cameron felt added to his everyman appeal). Harris convinced the studio with a screentest where he wore a motorcycle helmet as a diving helmet.
32 of 38 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The film is reversed in Coffey's first close-up after the pseudopod scene. This makes his expressions creepier in a subliminal way.
44 of 54 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The original theatrical version was forced to cut the pre-credits quote "...when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you" by Friedrich Nietzsche because Criminal Law (1988) used it, and they didn't want to seem like imitators. The quote was restored in the director's cut.
40 of 49 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The building of the sets within the huge water tank ran substantially behind schedule due to all kinds of engineering problems, so the crew started with the dry scenes and miniature special effects first. A month later, the sets still weren't done. The original plan was to slowly fill the tank with water from a nearby lake, while heating and filtering it over a period of five days as soon as the sets were finished. However, with all the delays, they decided to start filling the tank already while the construction crew was still working. At one point, they had to stand on skiffs and work day and night in order to finish up.
8 of 8 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
In the original storyline, when Lindsey is talking to Bud during his descent, she explains why she is always so hard on people. Lindsey grew up in a family with five older brothers, and she had to fight for everything, even to be noticed.
49 of 64 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
According to a behind the scenes interview with special fx crew member Steve Johnson, the angelic alien creatures and their bio-luminescent bodies are based off a deep sea jellyfish that "lights up like Vegas".
7 of 7 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
A Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray release of this film (as well as True Lies (1994)) has been announced for years, but despite many articles suggesting that this version is underway, the movie is still not available in high definition as of 2020. Initially, director James Cameron stated that all the work was done, and claimed that the studio was holding the release back (probably to coincide with the release of Cameron's Avatar 2 (2022)). However, Fox denied this, and in 2019, Cameron admitted that the project is still on his 'to-do list'. The delay comes from the fact that the transfers are awaiting his final touch and approval, and he has simply been too busy with other projects to commit to this.
13 of 15 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Most reporters seen on television in the extended edition of the movie are or have become James Cameron regulars. The man called Bill Tyler seen reporting from one of the ships is William Wisher, Cameron's long-time friend and co-screenwriter who made several cameo appearances in his movies. Anchorman Joe Farago also appeared as anchorman in The Terminator (1984). The reporter seen in the finale of the Special Edition (Tom Isbell) also appears in the finale of True Lies (1994).
27 of 35 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
For the film's underwater tracking shots, director James Cameron and his brother Mike Cameron invented a novel underwater camera vehicle called the SeaWasp, which allowed camera men to move the camera independent from the vehicle's glide path.
9 of 10 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron described his creative process as "what I'm good at is working with actors to create scenes and then editing their performances to get the absolute best vibrating version of that scene and then share that with the audience. It's an amazing process to go through. Sometimes you think it's not going to work when you get started and then the characters come to life."
16 of 20 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
One of the first American films to be shot in Super 35 format, and filmed in a custom variant known as "Abyss Format". Clairmont Camera had ground glasses made for the cameras that displayed five separate framelines, 1.66, 1.33 (inside 1.66), 1.85, 2.20, and 2.39, with the latter two gradually shifted upwards to the top of 1.85 so they maintained headroom. . This allowed prints to be made in the two common "flat" 35mm formats, in anamorphic 35mm, and in 70mm.
5 of 5 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Chris Elliott originally auditioned for the role of Alan 'Hippy' Carnes, but didn't get the part. He was eventually cast as Bendix instead.
26 of 36 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
A single white flashframe was edited into "the Hammer" punch delivered by Catfish. Cameron used the same trick to enhance the pipe bomb explosions in The Terminator (1984).
31 of 44 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Bud and Lindsey's rocky relationship may have been an unconscious mirror of the divorce that James Cameron was going through at the time with producer Gale Anne Hurd. After finishing Aliens (1986), Hurd had gone off to produce Alien Nation (1988) while Cameron was preparing for The Abyss. By the time the film was green-lit, they had grown apart and had already split amicably, but Cameron still decided that he didn't want to do the movie without Hurd producing. While the divorce was being finalized, Cameron was dating director Kathryn Bigelow during weekend breaks on The Abyss. They married shortly after completion of the film.
44 of 66 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The sub called "Flatbed" in the movie was built around a real submarine called "Deep Rover" which was designed by the Canadian company Nuytco Research.
23 of 32 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron's first film to be rated PG-13 in America
28 of 41 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Many scenes of Ed Harris wearing the deep-suit. To achieve the effect of him breathing oxygenated fluid, they would fill the helmet with pink water. This included all underwater scenes, where he is holding his breathe under water, in a suit filled with water.
7 of 8 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The first and only time Alan Silvestri has composed the musical score for a James Cameron film.
36 of 55 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The role of Commodore DeMarco was originally meant for Lance Henriksen, but he couldn't appear due to a scheduling conflict.
25 of 37 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Although ballistic missile submarines have been named after states since the USS OHIO, there never was a ballistic missile submarine USS MONTANA.
20 of 29 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
A scene at the beginning showing the crew rounding up at the moon pool had to be re-shot because the Flatbed submersible was parked in the pool. Flatbed was supposed to be out in the water pulling the rig during that particular scene.
22 of 33 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
This was James Camerons first experience with filming in the Super 35 format. He would later use this format for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), and Titanic (1997).
8 of 10 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Special effects supervisor John Bruno tried to get director James Cameron to hold his Oscar for Best Special Effects after the award ceremony, due to all the anguish the director had to endure on the set. Cameron reportedly refused.
8 of 10 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Al Giddings was hired to do the underwater photography on the strength of his work on The Deep (1977).
6 of 7 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Aside from Michael Biehn (and Captain Kidd Brewer Jr. who had briefly appeared in Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)), there are none of the usual regulars who work with James Cameron in The Abyss (1989). E.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, etc. Henriksen was briefly considered for a part but was unavailable.
29 of 46 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
In-movie monitor time stamps show at one point January 1987. It's an unintentional hint to a date because a device needed a restart and began with 01/01/87.
20 of 31 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Bud states that a crescent wrench would fix the leak in the sub, and in an obvious irony, this very same tool is prominently shown just moments earlier, sitting inside the wire-mesh equipment-bin on Coffey's escaping sub as Bud is removing the rope from the bin; a clever "you actually did have a perfect wrench within easy reach just a few minutes ago, Bud --- too bad you didn't grab that, too, when you had it right by your hand" visual quip.
30 of 50 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The company that Bud and his crew work for --- Benthic Petroleum --- is a sort of "double play on words": not only is the word "benthic" a fancy word for "deep down in the ocean" and thus is fitting for the overall theme of the movie and the underwater drilling rig DeepCore, but the company name is also a pun on the real-life fossil-fuels refinery-giant "BP", which originally began as the British Petroleum Company.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The opening of 'The Abyss' has a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche which goes "....when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you". There are variations on the actual quote, one such variation being:
  • He who fights monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.


Another such variation being:
  • Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
8 of 11 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
One of only two James Cameron films not to be scored by James Horner or Brad Fiedel. (Alan Silvestri did the score for this film.)
25 of 46 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Deep Star Six (1989) was the first release of several underwater-monster-themed feature films released during 1989-90, including The Abyss (1989), Leviathan (1989), The Evil Below (1989), and Lords of the Deep (1989), and 'The Rift' (aka 'Endless Descent', 1990). With the exception of 'The Abyss', none of these films were box office hits.
6 of 9 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The original theatrical version starts with the quote "...when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you" by a German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Coincidentally, the hurricane in the movie is called Frederick, which is the English form of the German name Friedrich.
2 of 2 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The logo for Benthic Petroleum is nearly identical to that of Berkey Photo, which (at the time) manufactured lighting equipment commonly used in films and theater.
9 of 18 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Michael Biehn also played a Navy Seal in the movies Navy Seals (1990) and The Rock (1996).
13 of 32 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
One of six underwater-themed sci-fi monster movies released around 1989/90. Others include: The Abyss (1989), Leviathan (1989), DeepStar Six (1989), The Evil Below (1989), The Rift (1990), and Lords of the Deep (1989).
6 of 12 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The film takes place in 1994.
2 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
John Bedford Lloyd and Ed Harris later appeared in Nixon (1995) - though they don't share scenes in that movie.
5 of 19 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink

Director Trademark 

James Cameron: [nukes] the movie plays at the height of the cold war, the nuclear threat is a theme running throughout the movie. There are also actual nuclear weapons seen in the movie.
28 of 43 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron: [Biehn's hand] Michael Biehn's character gets bitten on the arm by another character - see The Terminator (1984) and Aliens (1986).
21 of 46 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron: [feet] when the soldiers arrive at the supply ship and jump out of the helicopters. See also Aliens (1986).
19 of 45 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
James Cameron: [title fade] at the beginning of the movie, the blue "Y" from the opening credits extends and then fades to the underwater scenery with the submarine.
15 of 34 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

During underwater filming, Ed Harris almost drowned a few times. One time was while filming the scene where he had to swim without a suit at the bottom of the submerged set, and the safety diver took very long to hand him a breathing regulator. However, the closest call came during the descent into the Abyss. Harris was wearing a helmet filled with liquid, and had to hold his breath while he was towed along a set. When he ran out of air, he gave the signal for oxygen, but his safety diver got hung up on a cable and could not get to him. Another crew member gave Harris a regulator, but it was upside down and caused him to suck in water. Underwater cinematographer Al Giddings saw what happened, ripped the upside down regulator, and gave him his own in the correct orientation. Later that evening, Ed broke down and cried.
528 of 532 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The resuscitation scene was very demanding for the actors, due to the display of emotion involved and because Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was repeatedly getting her chest pounded on (gently, but still) while soaking wet and half naked. She had also been given eye-drops to dilate her pupils, which prevented her from seeing well. The first take of the scene went well but James Cameron wanted to do a retake, because the arm of Ed Harris had been blocking Mastrantonio's face. The second take went even better, but the camera had run out of film in the meanwhile. Upon hearing this, Mastrantonio stormed off the set yelling "We are not animals!" and wouldn't come back until hours later to finish the scene, after some goading by Cameron, Harris and Gale Anne Hurd. In the meanwhile, close-up shots of Harris were filmed while he was yelling at and slapping a sandbag.
175 of 177 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
In the end shot where the alien ship surfaces, it's supposed to be spring or summer. However, the film was being shot towards the beginning of winter, so the actors put ice cubes in their mouths so they wouldn't breathe out mist.
123 of 124 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
It was Michael Biehn who, after reading an early script, suggested to James Cameron to let his character Coffey suffer from HPNS (high-pressure nervous syndrome), as an explanation for Coffey's increasingly irrational behavior. He also grew a mustache to add to the menacing nature of his character.
48 of 48 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Although liquid breathing was done for real during the rat submersion scene, the technique was still too experimental to be used on Ed Harris during the film's climax. His head was actually submerged in a colored (non-breathable) fluid, so he had to hold his breath during each take, and the helmet had to be emptied quickly whenever he ran out of breath. He also had to wear special contact lenses to be able to see through the liquid. Even so, the chlorine burned his eyes and severely blurred his vision.
33 of 33 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The final shot of the movie is of Bud and Lindsey embracing each other, but they aren't played by Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. The shot was filmed with two extras after principal photography was completed.
115 of 122 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Ed Harris and Michael Biehn also appear together in The Rock (1996). Biehn also played a Navy SEAL in that film, but their parts are reversed, with Harris playing the antagonist, and Biehn being one of the 'good guys'.
59 of 69 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Originally, after Bud has been rescued by the NTIs, they deem humanity a threat, and send enormous tidal waves to every coast on the planet in order to wipe out mankind (although Bud's sacrifice makes them finally change their mind). The effect was initially realized as a plastic wave by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) that had not been finished when the film was screened for a test audience, so they only saw drawings of the scene. The scene got polarizing reactions (people listed it either as their favorite or least favorite), and James Cameron himself felt that it almost belonged in a different movie. Since the movie was too long anyway, the scene was deleted from the theatrical version. However, years later, Cameron regretted the decision, so he went back to ILM (who had created the water tentacle scene as well as the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)) to finish the wave with computer-generated special effects, and re-instated the scene into the 1992 Special Edition. The lesson he learned from this was to "never, ever preview a movie with unfinished effects".
18 of 20 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
During the beach tidal wave scene, a man can be seen being pantsed in the bottom left part of the screen.
19 of 22 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
Despite being the film's antagonist, Michael Biehn's character gets killed with just under an hour of the movie still to go (relates to special edition version)
27 of 35 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The press kit sent out was a beautiful box made of sturdy material with the title on the cover, inside it contains the stills of the the entire cast plus the deleted scenes of the wall of water hovering over the worlds great cities, if the beings weren't regarded they would have destroyed mankind as if the great flood occurred.
32 of 43 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
In the ending of the special edition, the NTIs show Bud videos of humanity's destructive behavior on a screen on their ship from news sources. One of the clips shown is the Bay Lop execution video, one of the most infamous pieces of footage from the Vietnam War. The victim was a 36-year-old Vietcong officer who was arrested during the Tet Offensive and brought to a South-Vietnamese officer, who wasted no time in 'dispensing justice', and executed him on the spot.
16 of 22 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink
The aliens in the movie are a reversal of the aliens in James Cameron's previous movie, Aliens (1986). While the latter had no eyes and a giant mouth, the aliens from The Abyss have giant eyes but no mouth.
17 of 24 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook   |  Twitter   |  Permalink

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page


Recently Viewed