James Cameron may not have been alive to give the world Titanic after nearly drowning during a shoot for another movie almost a decade prior.
As per Variety, the renowned 69-year-old filmmaker recalled the terrifying experience on Wednesday while speaking at the ongoing Beyond Fest film festival at Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles for a special edition screening of his 1989 breakthrough movie, The Abyss.
During the production of The Abyss, centered around the sinking and rescue operation of an American submarine in the Caribbean and subsequently requiring actors and crew to actually scuba-dive, the safety and rescue team did not have their eyes on Cameron.
An experienced diver, Cameron revealed that he would dive 30 feet down with his filming crew, wearing heavy weights around his feet and waist so he could maneuver his camera on the underwater floor.
“We had the ‘angels,’ which were the safety divers that were right there, and each one was assigned to one or two of the actors and just kept them in sight the whole time,” the Oscar-winning director narrated to the audience. “[But] they weren’t watching me.”
Cameron further recalls struggling to get his colleagues’ attention, “wasting my last breath of air on an underwater p.a system” as his oxygen tank ran out.
When the Avatar director was finally able to unburden himself from all the gear, a safety diver wouldn’t let him ascend too fast lest his lungs over-expanded – a common danger of scuba diving.
Unable to communicate what was happening, Cameron had but one choice left.
“So I punched him in the face and swam to the surface and therefore survived.”
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