In between his sci-fi epics Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron wrote and directed The Abyss, a film that’s just as epic–if not as fondly remembered. Still, on the anniversary of the film’s release, it’s worth looking back on this fantastic, claustrophobic story of undiscovered life underwater.
If it’s been a while, or if you’ve never experienced the aquatic saga for yourself, give the trailer and synopsis for The Abyss a spin below.
Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on Earth.
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. (Source)
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.” (Source)
The water in the two tanks [used for filming] was chlorinated heavily, to prevent microbes from 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. (Source)