By all accounts, James Cameron’s 1989 sci-fi adventure film The Abyss was a harrowing and difficult production for the actors involved. Many performers from the film, including Ed Harris and Elizabeth Mastrantonio, have refused to speak on their miserable time filming the movie when addressing the public, due to that trauma. But according to a video shared on Twitter, the set wasn’t all doom and gloom, as one extra can be seen pantsing another during a climactic moment in the film.
The pantsing prank, which appears only in the film’s director’s cut, seems to have slipped past James Cameron, as many fans feel that it’s unlikely the director would tolerate such a prank on his set. While filming The Abyss, actors apparently became so mired by discomfort and danger that they began disparaging the production with derogatory nicknames such as “The Abuse,” “Son of Abyss,” and “Life’s Abyss and then You Dive.”
An extra on the set of James Cameron’s The Abyss pantsed another man, and the footage made its way into the film’s director’s cut.
The film follows Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as a pair of divorced petroleum engineers, drafted to assist a dangerously enthusiastic Navy SEAL with a top-secret recovery operation. Despite the pair having their own marital issues which haven’t been fully parsed through, they agree to work together to uncover a nuclear submarine which has sunk under mysterious circumstances.
James Cameron would, of course, go on to do a number of other deep-water based films after The Abyss, though the filmmakers’ penchant for practical effects made shooting something of a nightmare.
Actors were forced to hold their breath under real water for long periods of time in order to achieve cinematic shots that CGI could not replicate at the time, causing a number of highly dangerous filming conditions. Perhaps James Cameron left the pantsing scene in the final moments of The Abyss due to some much needed levity after the heightened danger of both the film and the real life story of the production.
The video, which was shared to Twitter shows a climactic ending scene which only exists in James Cameron’s special edition cut of The Abyss, featuring an enormous tsunami wave towering over a beach before coming to a complete halt in the air.
This scene was apparently meant for the original cut of the film, but test audiences rejected the enormous wave sequence due to the unfinished special effects presented during their screening, according to trivia on IMDb. Cameron removed the scene due to time and budget constraints, only to finish the effects and put the scene back into the director’s cut.
Actors were forced to hold their breath under real water for long periods of time in order to achieve cinematic shots that CGI could not replicate at the time, causing a number of highly dangerous filming conditions.
So there are a number of reasons why James Cameron may have allowed the pantsing prank to appear in his special cut of The Abyss. Obviously, by the time Cameron was cutting the final footage together, he likely would have been forced to work with the coverage previously shot, forcing him to leave the pantsing in the climactic moment.
Of course, the prank does serve as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, so perhaps James Cameron has been waiting for audiences to catch this secret Easter egg for years. The Abyss is not currently available to stream on any of the major streamers, though perhaps the film’s newfound fan fare will cause a resurgence in its demand, forcing Cameron and his team to offer the streaming rights.