Even among James Cameron’s epic and frequently arduous productions, from “Titanic’s” nine months of filming to the three years spent on “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “The Abyss” was particularly ambitious — and difficult: The 1989 thriller was shot almost entirely underwater, requiring its crew and cast to learn how to shoot, and act, while using diving equipment with which many of them were completely unfamiliar.
“You show up to do a diving movie, you’re going to have to dive,” says Cameron in a new clip from bonus features accompanying the film’s digital release on Tuesday. “The only problem is they don’t know how they’re going to react to being in a diving helmet until they’ve already signed a contract and showed up.”
Following a rare theatrical screening of the extended edition at Los Angeles’ Beyond Fest in October, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment announced that Cameron and his Lightstorm partner Jon Landau had overseen a 4K remastering of “The Abyss” and several other titles from his library for rerelease — first a one-night-only screening of the film in theaters nationwide, then on digital platforms and finally on disc in March.
In a recent conversation with Variety, Cameron said there was no better way to make the film than by putting the cast and crew through such rigorous preparation ahead of time. “‘The Abyss’ was tough on everybody,” he said. “It was physically taxing for me and for them. It was a tough shoot. There was no way for me to make it easier on everybody than what it was, other than to just not do it, and that’s not my style.”
In addition to a proper high-definition release of the film, Cameron scoured his vaults for new and unseen archival footage from behind the scenes of the production, featuring the actors acclimating to the demands of performing underwater. The clip comes from “Deep Dive: A Conversation with James Cameron,” where the filmmaker reflected on the beginnings of his first waterbound adventure and answers burning questions (and corrects some misconceptions) about its making.
“The Abyss” joins “True Lies” and “Aliens” in 4K Tuesday, to be followed in physical formats on March 12. Watch the footage featuring a 2023 interview with Cameron below: