The Abyss (1989)

PG-13 | 140 mins | Adventure, Science fiction | 9 August 1989

Director:

James Cameron

Writer:

James Cameron

Producer:

Gale Anne Hurd

Cinematographer:

Mikael Salomon

Editor:

Joel Goodman

Production Designer:

Leslie Dilley

Production Company:

20th Century Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

       A 17 Oct 1988 HR “Hollywood Report” column noted that writer-director James Cameron first conceived of The Abyss as a high school student. According to a 4 Nov 1988 NYT article, seventeen-year-old Cameron wrote a short story, also titled “The Abyss,” after seeing a science lecture about a “liquid-oxygenated saline solution” that would allow animals to breath liquid. According to a 6 Aug 1989 NYT article, the liquid flourocarbon used in the film had been tested on one scientist, who almost died, and on numerous animals to greater success. In the film, when “Ensign Monk” immerses the pet rat “Beany” in a vat of pink liquid, the substance shown is actually liquid flourocarbon, and the rat playing Beany lived.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, actors received extensive diver training in the Cayman Islands and were certified as open water divers prior to production. Underwater filming took place “at depths up to 55 feet and under 24 pounds per square inch of pressure.”
       Principal photography began 15 Aug 1988, as reported by 30 Aug 1988 HR production charts and an 18 Aug 1988 HR news item. Forty-percent of filming was done underwater, in a 7.5 million-gallon water tank and a smaller, 2.5 million-gallon tank, at Earl Owensby’s Cherokee Studios in Gaffney, SC. The studio space was originally built as a nuclear power plant, but the project was abandoned and Owensby purchased the unfinished structure, converting it into a filming location. Shooting inside the tanks began around noon and ended at midnight, as stated in the 17 Oct 1988 HR. Some ... More Less

       A 17 Oct 1988 HR “Hollywood Report” column noted that writer-director James Cameron first conceived of The Abyss as a high school student. According to a 4 Nov 1988 NYT article, seventeen-year-old Cameron wrote a short story, also titled “The Abyss,” after seeing a science lecture about a “liquid-oxygenated saline solution” that would allow animals to breath liquid. According to a 6 Aug 1989 NYT article, the liquid flourocarbon used in the film had been tested on one scientist, who almost died, and on numerous animals to greater success. In the film, when “Ensign Monk” immerses the pet rat “Beany” in a vat of pink liquid, the substance shown is actually liquid flourocarbon, and the rat playing Beany lived.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, actors received extensive diver training in the Cayman Islands and were certified as open water divers prior to production. Underwater filming took place “at depths up to 55 feet and under 24 pounds per square inch of pressure.”
       Principal photography began 15 Aug 1988, as reported by 30 Aug 1988 HR production charts and an 18 Aug 1988 HR news item. Forty-percent of filming was done underwater, in a 7.5 million-gallon water tank and a smaller, 2.5 million-gallon tank, at Earl Owensby’s Cherokee Studios in Gaffney, SC. The studio space was originally built as a nuclear power plant, but the project was abandoned and Owensby purchased the unfinished structure, converting it into a filming location. Shooting inside the tanks began around noon and ended at midnight, as stated in the 17 Oct 1988 HR. Some crew members did not leave the water until 2:30 a.m. However, producer Gale Ann Hurd stated that the level of enthusiasm remained high, with everyone on the crew showing up to view dailies as late as 3 a.m.
       Seven weeks of underwater filming was followed by ten weeks of “dry lensing,” as stated in the 18 Aug 1988 HR. Principal photography was expected to end mid-Dec 1988. Some visual effects were scheduled to be done in SC, and “some on location in various parts of the world,” with a small amount to be completed in Los Angeles, CA. The delivery date for the completed film was set for late May/early Jun 1989.
       Production notes stated that the submersible oil drilling platform known as Deepcore was constructed inside Cherokee’s 7.5 million-gallon tank and consisted of “six partial and complete modules” around twenty-five feet tall and sixteen feet in diameter. With the help of a structural engineer, the platform took eight months to design and build. Two working submersibles, Flatbed and Cab One, were built for the shoot by Can-Dive Services, Ltd., a Canadian commercial diving firm. A 16 Aug 1989 LAT article stated that black plastic beads were placed on the surface of the water in the tanks to block out light, creating the illusion that the actors were thousands of feet below sea level. The diving helmets worn by the cast were designed by Western Space and Marine Inc., a Santa Barbara, CA-based company headed by marine engineer Scott Millard, as stated in a 16 Aug 1989 LAT article. The helmets were made of fiberglass and plastic, designed to remain fogless, and fitted with aircraft-quality microphones used to record dialogue. Communications designer and sound mixer Lee Orloff worked with Peter Kurland to create an audio system that allowed Cameron to communicate with cast members through their helmets and in the submersibles. A remote headset, known as Clearcom, allowed Cameron to communicate with the assistant directors and roughly twenty other crew members. According to production notes, The Abyss was “the first motion picture to record scripted dialogue directly onto tape during underwater filming.”
       According to the 6 Aug 1989 NYT, actor Ed Harris threatened not to take part in promoting The Abyss after enduring “physical torment” and Cameron’s “autocratic” directing style throughout the shoot. When asked how he was treated on set, Harris responded that the question was “like asking a soldier how he was treated in Vietnam.” Actors Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Michael Biehn elaborated on the hardships of filming underwater, including claustrophobia and loss of hair due to over-chlorinated water. Although a safety diver was assigned to each of the cast members, Harris and actor Leo Burmester were not met by the divers quickly enough after one scene involving a “helmetless ‘free swim’” in which they were forced to hold their breaths. Although the actors performed at a depth of thirty-three feet, they were not deep enough to need decompression upon their return to land, while Cameron and several crewmembers operated at a depth of fifty feet and needed to “hang from hoses halfway up the tank” for up to two hours after shooting to avoid decompression sickness.
       During principal photography, Earl Owensby, owner of Cherokee Studios, tried to evict the production, claiming that one of the water tanks had been damaged and certain unapproved materials were being used, as noted in a 4 Nov 1988 LAT brief. A federal judge ruled in the filmmakers’ favor and enacted a restraining order against Owensby, who later filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and GJP Inc. for $2.088 million. According to an 18 Jan 1989 Var brief, an out-of-court settlement was reached. One month later, in Feb 1989, a divorce settlement was reached between producer Gale Ann Hurd and James Cameron, who had separated during pre-production but maintained a good working relationship throughout the shoot.
       As noted in a 10 Feb 1989 Backstage item, Dreamquest Images produced eighty shots in the film, including those of a seventy-foot miniature of the USS Montana submarine, which was shot with an “overhead motion control gantry system.” Dreamquest also completed underwater blue screen photography, other miniatures, and composites.
       A 9 Aug 1989 Var item estimated that budget overruns on the $45 million picture may have pushed costs to $60 million, with an additional $20-25 million expected to be spent on marketing. However, a 21 Mar 1995 DV news item stated that Cameron, who reportedly forfeited half his salary due to overruns, claimed the budget was originally $36 million and only climbed to $42 million after a visual effects supplier went “100% over” budget and the set was unioized by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Various contemporary sources provided conflicting information about the budget, including a 6 Aug 1989 LAT article that claimed the film was originally budgeted at $33 million but climbed to $43 million, and a 16 Jul 1989 LAT “Outtakes” column that estimated the production costs at $47 million, with an additional $15 million for prints and advertising. According to the 6 Aug 1989 LAT, although Fox’s market research team found that the title of the film was problematic, as “most Americans” were not familiar with the word “abyss” and could not pronounce it, the title was not changed.
       According to the 9 Aug 1989 Var, an “’all media’ preview screening” was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on 8 Aug 1989, the day before general release. On its opening day, the film grossed $2,103,340 for a per-screen average of $1406 on 1496 screens, according to an 11 Aug 1989 DV item. A 29 Oct 1989 LAT noted that, after twelve weeks in theaters, the film had taken in $53.9 million in box-office grosses. According to a 22 Feb 1993 LAT article, The Abyss ultimately grossed $60 million.
       Critical reception was mixed. Technical aspects, including the cinematography and sound design, received high praise, while several reviews, including the 7 Aug 1989 HR, 7 Aug 1989 DV, and 9 Aug 1989 LAT, criticized the ending as abrupt and implausible. The Abyss won an Academy Award for Visual Effects and received the following nominations: Art Direction, Cinematography, and Sound.
       A special edition of the film, including twenty-seven minutes of omitted scenes, was released 26 Feb 1993 in Los Angeles and New York City, as reported by a 5 Feb 1993 LAT news item. Among the restored scenes in The Abyss Special Edition was a five-minute-long tidal wave sequence, and three minutes of credits were added, according to a 7 May 1993 LAT article. The restoration cost $300,000, as stated in the 22 Feb 1993 LAT. 20th Century Fox and Image Entertainment released a home video version of the 171-minute film that sold for $100. Although Cameron stated that he had had “final cut” in 1989 and believed in the original theatrical release version, he later realized the edits that were made to shorten The Abyss altered its tone and original intent. Cameron was quoted in the 7 May 1993 LAT as saying, “The original goal of the film was to tell a story of a kind of apocalypse in which we are all judged by a superior race and found to be worthy of salvation because of a single average man.”

      Super Sea Rover and Mini Rover Mk II, two remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV's) used in the film, are credited as cast members "Big Geek" and "Little Geek," respectively. End credits include “Special Thanks” to the following organizations and individuals: American Sterilizer Corp.; Atlantic Diving; Peter B. Bennett, PhD. DSc.; Danny Blanton; Dean Brown; Burle Industries; C. M. R. Services, Inc.; Chicago Pneumatic Tool, Co.; City of Los Angeles; Dacor Corp.; Dozier Equipment Co.; E-Mu Systems, Inc.; Gai-Tronics Corp.; Henschel; Interface Marketing, Jeff Denker; Jasmine Technologies, Inc.; Paul Karnes, M.D.; Walter Kidd; Johannes A. Kylstra, M.D.; Lifestar International; O’Neill, Inc.; Piedmont Airlines; Raytheon Marine Co.; Reebok; Sanders Brothers Construction; Ronnie McDaniel; David A. Smith; Silicon Beach Software; The South Carolina Film Commission; Supermac Technology; Tektronix; Truevision, Inc. “Special Thanks” are followed by the statement: “Filmed on location at the Earl Owensby Studios in Gaffney, South Carolina and at Harbor Star Stage, San Pedro, California.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Backstage
10 Feb 1989.
---
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1989.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1995.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1988
p. 1, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 1988.
---
LA Weekly
2 Jun 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Nov 1988
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jul 1989
Calendar, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times
6 Aug 1989
Section Q, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1989
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1989
Section G, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
29 Oct 1989
Calendar, p. 31.
Los Angeles Times
5 Feb 1993
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
22 Feb 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 May 1993
Calendar, p. 25.
New York Times
4 Nov 1988
Section C, p. 8.
New York Times
6 Aug 1989
Section A, p. 15.
New York Times
9 Aug 1989
p. 13.
Variety
18 Jan 1989.
---
Variety
9 Aug 1989
p. 11, 16.
Variety
9 Aug 1989
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Gale Ann Hurd Production
A James Cameron Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl 2d asst cam
2d cam op
2d cam asst
Steadi-Cam op
Steadi-Cam op
Still photog
Best boy elec
1st elec
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Supv tarp rigger
Crane op
Underwater lighting supv
Underwater dir of photog
Underwater rigger, Ocean Images crew
Systems mgr, Ocean Images crew
Elec, Ocean Images crew
Elec, Ocean Images crew
Cam asst, Ocean Images crew
Gaffer, Ocean Images crew
Lighting, Ocean Images crew
Lighting, Ocean Images crew
Lighting, Ocean Images crew
Best boy, Ocean Images crew
1st asst cam, Ocean Images crew
Lighting/Rigger, Ocean Images crew
Underwater documentary photog, Ocean Images crew
Underwater still photog, Ocean Images crew
Addl 2d asst cam, Los Angeles unit
Elec, Los Angeles unit
Key grip, Los Angeles unit
Best boy grip, Los Angeles unit
Underwater lighting equip by
Underwater lighting and equip des by
Underwater lighting and equip des by
Cam equip provided by
Grip and lighting equip by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Storyboard artist
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Asst to the art dept
FILM EDITORS
Co-ed
Co-ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Video ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Lead buyer
On-set dresser
Store keeper
Const coord
Asst const coord
Const foreman
Const foreman
Const foreman
Const buyer
Lead carpenter
Lead carpenter
Lead carpenter
Master plasterer
Master plasterer
Master plasterer
Scenic artist
Standby painter
Sculptor
Lead welder
Props/Sets, Ocean Images crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Ward asst
Ward asst
Deepsuit hardware manufactured by
Precision Effects, Deepsuit hardware manufactured
MUSIC
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Sd des
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cable man
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
ADR ed
Foley supv
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Sd eff rec
Sd editing services
Audio programmer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Rec
Machine op
Machine op
Eng
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley rec by
Foley rec
Foley by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff prod
Visual eff supv
Dream Quest images visual eff supv
Industrial Light and Magic visual eff supv
Conceptual des
Miniature des
Spec eff coord
Spec eff best boy
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Helmets, backpacks, and manipulator arm manufactur
Project mgr, Helmets, backpacks, and manipulator a
Project eng, Helmets, backpacks, and manipulator a
Project eng, Helmets, backpacks, and manipulator a
Project eng, Helmets, backpacks, and manipulator a
Systems manufacturing, Helmets, backpacks, and man
Systems manufacturing, Helmets, backpacks, and man
Loc tech support, Helmets, backpacks, and manipula
Best girl, Helmets, backpacks, and manipulator arm
Submersibles built by
Submersibles built by
D. P. leadman, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
D. P. crew, Submersibles
R. O. V. eng, Submersibles
Underwater communication des, Submersibles
Can-Dive tech consultant, Submersibles
Can-Dive project mgr, Submersibles
Can-Dive supv/ROV pilot, Submersibles
Can-Dive asst supv/ROV pilot, Submersibles
Can-Dive sub pilot/Tech, Submersibles
Can-Dive sub pilot/Tech, Submersibles
Can-Dive sub pilot/Tech, Submersibles
Can-Dive sub pilot/Tech, Submersibles
Can-Dive sub pilot/Tech, Submersibles
Can-Dive sub pilot/Tech, Submersibles
Spec eff coord, Los Angeles unit
Prod supv, Visual eff crew
Visual eff ed, Visual eff crew
Model shop supv, Visual eff crew
Chief modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Mr. Cameron's visual eff liaison, Visual eff crew
Visual eff coord, Visual eff crew
Visual eff coord, Visual eff crew
Opt consultant, Visual eff crew
Asst visual eff ed, Visual eff crew
Prod secy, Visual eff crew
Modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Modelmaker, Visual eff crew
Sculptor, Visual eff crew
Conceptual artist, Visual eff crew
Illustrator, Visual eff crew
Underwater miniature photog, Underwater miniature
Lighting supv, Underwater miniature crew
2d cam op, Underwater miniature crew
Asst cam, Underwater miniature crew
Gaffer, Underwater miniature crew
Elec, Underwater miniature crew
Eff supv, Underwater miniature crew
Eff rigger, Underwater miniature crew
Divemaster, Underwater miniature crew
Key grip, Underwater miniature crew
Grip, Underwater miniature crew
Set coord, Underwater miniature crew
Coord, Underwater miniature crew
Prod asst, Underwater miniature crew
Radio controlled miniatures by
Supv, Radio controlled miniatures
Mechanical des, Radio controlled miniatures
Mechanical des, Radio controlled miniatures
Mechanical des, Radio controlled miniatures
Mechanical des, Radio controlled miniatures
Mechanical des, Radio controlled miniatures
Mechanical des, Radio controlled miniatures
Mechanical des, Radio controlled miniatures
Elec des, Radio controlled miniatures
Elec des, Radio controlled miniatures
Modelmaker, Radio controlled miniatures
Modelmaker, Radio controlled miniatures
Modelmaker, Radio controlled miniatures
Modelmaker, Radio controlled miniatures
Modelmaker, Radio controlled miniatures
Coord, Radio controlled miniatures
Spec visual eff by
Visual eff supv prod, Dream Quest Images
Visual eff line prod, Dream Quest Images
Prod coord, Dream Quest Images
Eff photog, Dream Quest Images
Eff photog, Dream Quest Images
Eff photog, Dream Quest Images
Miniature photog supv, Dream Quest Images
Motion control supv, Dream Quest Images
Motion control supv, Dream Quest Images
Motion control supv, Dream Quest Images
Motion control tech, Dream Quest Images
Motion control tech, Dream Quest Images
Motion control tech, Dream Quest Images
Motion control tech, Dream Quest Images
Motion control tech, Dream Quest Images
Motion control tech, Dream Quest Images
Eff rigging supv, Dream Quest Images
Matte artist, Dream Quest Images
Matte artist, Dream Quest Images
Matte photog, Dream Quest Images
Motion control elec, Dream Quest Images
Miniature const supv, Dream Quest Images
Anim supv, Dream Quest Images
Rotoscope supv, Dream Quest Images
Opt supv, Dream Quest Images
Opt compositing, Dream Quest Images
Opt compositing, Dream Quest Images
Opt line-up, Dream Quest Images
Opt line-up, Dream Quest Images
Opt coord, Dream Quest Images
Visual eff ed, Dream Quest Images
Visual eff asst ed, Dream Quest Images
Laser lighting eff, Dream Quest Images
Pseudopod seq prod at
Marin County, California
Visual eff prod, Industrial Light & Magic
Computer graphics des, Industrial Light & Magic
Computer graphics supv, Industrial Light & Magic
Opt supv, Industrial Light & Magic
Opt supv, Industrial Light & Magic
Computer graphics anim, Industrial Light & Magic
Computer graphics anim, Industrial Light & Magic
Computer graphics anim, Industrial Light & Magic
Computer graphics anim, Industrial Light & Magic
Eff ed, Industrial Light & Magic
Eff cam, Industrial Light & Magic
Eff cam, Industrial Light & Magic
Addl eff cam, Industrial Light & Magic
Addl eff cam, Industrial Light & Magic
Eff art dir, Industrial Light & Magic
Matte consultant, Industrial Light & Magic
Eff cam asst, Industrial Light & Magic
Eff cam asst, Industrial Light & Magic
Stage project mgr, Industrial Light & Magic
Anim supv, Industrial Light & Magic
Modelmaker, Industrial Light & Magic
Eff coord, Industrial Light & Magic
Prod asst, Industrial Light & Magic
Visual eff supv, Los Angeles surface unit
Dir of photog, Los Angeles surface unit
Spec eff provided by
Spec eff, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Spec eff, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Spec eff, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Spec eff, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Spec eff, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Cam op, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Asst cam, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Asst cam, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Gaffer, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Gaffer, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Key grip, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Grip, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
Addl modelmaker, Stetson Visual Services, Inc.
NTI beings created by
Supv, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Prod coord, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Shop foreman, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Lead tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Lead tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Lead tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Key sculptor, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Key mechanical, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Key mechanical, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Movement des, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Tech, Steve Johnson's X.F.X., Inc.
Eff supv, Spire rising seq
Asst, Spire rising seq
Asst, Spire rising seq
Prod supv, Spire rising seq
Set coord, Spire rising seq
Modelmaker, Spire rising seq
Modelmaker, Spire rising seq
Cam op, Spire rising seq
Cam asst, Spire rising seq
Prod assoc, Spire rising seq
Prod assoc, Spire rising seq
Prod asst, Spire rising seq
Prod asst, Spire rising seq
Addl model const by
Model painter, The Design Setters Corporation
Modelmaker, The Design Setters Corporation
Modelmaker, The Design Setters Corporation
Modelmaker, The Design Setters Corporation
Modelmaker, The Design Setters Corporation
Modelmaker, The Design Setters Corporation
Modelmaker, The Design Setters Corporation
Modelmaker, The Design Setters Corporation
Miniatures const by
Model shop supv, Wonderworks, Inc.
Model shop mgr, Wonderworks, Inc.
Project coord, Wonderworks, Inc.
Project coord, Wonderworks, Inc.
Foreman, Wonderworks, Inc.
Process compositing
Video and graphic displays by
Video and graphic displays, Video Image
Video and graphic displays, Video Image
Video and graphic displays, Video Image
Video and graphic displays, Video Image
Title des
Visual eff 65mm cam equip provided by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Key hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod assoc
Prod coord
Scr supv
Creative/Tech/Res asst to Mr. Cameron
Asst to Ms. Hurd
Asst to Ms. Hurd
Prod secy
Asst prod coord
Unit pub
Pub asst
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Post prod accountant
Catering provided by
Asst cook
Asst cook
Craft service
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Key set prod asst/Post prod liaison to Mr. Cameron
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Underwater unit supv
Underwater unit prod supv
Safety-chamber op, Ocean Images crew
Diver outfitter, Ocean Images crew
Underwater cont, Ocean Images crew
Safety, Ocean Images crew
Equip op, Ocean Images crew
Underwater utilities, Ocean Images crew
Underwater utilities, Ocean Images crew
Loc mgr, Los Angeles unit
Loc mgr, Los Angeles unit
First aid, Los Angeles unit
Catering provided by, Los Angeles unit
Craft service, Los Angeles unit
Extras casting, Los Angeles unit
Extras coord, Los Angeles unit
Driver, Los Angeles unit
Driver, Los Angeles unit
Driver, Los Angeles unit
Prod asst, Los Angeles unit
Prod asst, Los Angeles unit
Prod asst, Los Angeles unit
Prod asst, Los Angeles unit
Oil drilling equip furnished by
a division of Cooper Industries, Inc.
Underwater equip and services furnished by
Water and tank consulting services furnished by
William Turpish and Associates, Water and tank con
Water and tank consulting services furnished by
Kaweah Construction Company, Water and tank consul
Kaweah Construction Company, Water and tank consul
Water and tank consulting services furnished by
Water and tank consulting services furnished by
James M. Montgomery/Consulting Engineers, Inc., Wa
James M. Montgomery/Consulting Engineers, Inc., Wa
Water and tank consulting services furnished by
Aqua Pools, Water and tank consulting services fur
Systems consultant, Macintosh
Big Geek and Little Geek provided by
Video transfers by
President, Mobile Transfer, Inc.
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Double, Ocean Images crew
Double, Ocean Images crew
Double, Ocean Images crew
Double, Ocean Images crew
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"Willing," written by Lowell George, performed by Linda Rondstadt, courtesy of CEMA Special Markets and Capitol Records, Inc.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
9 August 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 9 August 1989
Production Date:
15 August--mid December 1988 in Gaffney, SC
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
24 August 1989
Copyright Number:
PA423008
Physical Properties:
Sound
THX Digitally Mastered; Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
Color
Prints
Prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
140
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29764
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The USS Montana , a Navy submarine carrying nuclear missiles, crashes into an unidentified object and sinks somewhere near the Cayman Trough. Nearby, Virgil “Bud” Brigman oversees Deep Core, an experimental, submersible oil drilling platform located 1,700 feet below sea level. Benthic Petroleum, the corporation that funds Deep Core, agrees to lend the rig and its crew to the U.S. Navy for a search and rescue operation. Although Bud is wary of the mission, his crewmembers are excited to receive triple overtime pay and he is promised a Navy Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) team. Soon after, Lindsey Brigman, Bud’s estranged wife and the woman who designed Deep Core, arrives on the Benthic Explorer, the ship that provides “topside” support to Bud and his crew. Insisting that she understands Deep Core better than anyone else, Lindsey joins the Navy SEALs as they set out for the mission. In the submersible that takes them down, Lindsey warns the men about the symptoms of High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS), including shaky hands and psychosis, but their leader, Lt. Coffey, insists they will be fine. Bud is surprised to see Lindsey when she arrives on Deep Core, and the unhappy couple bickers. Tensions also arise between Bud’s crew and the SEAL team as Lt. Coffey demands cooperation. Alan “Hippy” Carnes, who pilots Deep Core’s ... +


The USS Montana , a Navy submarine carrying nuclear missiles, crashes into an unidentified object and sinks somewhere near the Cayman Trough. Nearby, Virgil “Bud” Brigman oversees Deep Core, an experimental, submersible oil drilling platform located 1,700 feet below sea level. Benthic Petroleum, the corporation that funds Deep Core, agrees to lend the rig and its crew to the U.S. Navy for a search and rescue operation. Although Bud is wary of the mission, his crewmembers are excited to receive triple overtime pay and he is promised a Navy Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) team. Soon after, Lindsey Brigman, Bud’s estranged wife and the woman who designed Deep Core, arrives on the Benthic Explorer, the ship that provides “topside” support to Bud and his crew. Insisting that she understands Deep Core better than anyone else, Lindsey joins the Navy SEALs as they set out for the mission. In the submersible that takes them down, Lindsey warns the men about the symptoms of High Pressure Nervous Syndrome (HPNS), including shaky hands and psychosis, but their leader, Lt. Coffey, insists they will be fine. Bud is surprised to see Lindsey when she arrives on Deep Core, and the unhappy couple bickers. Tensions also arise between Bud’s crew and the SEAL team as Lt. Coffey demands cooperation. Alan “Hippy” Carnes, who pilots Deep Core’s remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s), watches as Ensign Monk, one of the SEALs, prepares a fluid breathing system that is only used for extremely deep diving. To demonstrate how it works, Monk immerses Hippy’s pet rat, Beany, in the oxygenated fluorocarbon emulsion used by the machine, and the rat does not drown. From the platform’s sub-bay, Bud’s crew and the SEALs depart for the USS Montana using Deep Core’s submersibles. Inside the naval submarine, no survivors are found. After seeing several dead bodies, “Jammer” Willis, one of Bud’s drillers, shows signs of HPNS. Bud tells Jammer to stay where he is and gives him a rope to tug in case of emergency. When no one else is around, Jammer sees a glowing object and panics, pulling at the rope to no avail. At the same time, Lindsey’s submersible loses power as another glowing form zips past her viewport. An unconscious Jammer is brought back to Deep Core, where Ensign Monk, who is also a medic, determines that he has fallen into a coma. Lindsey tells Bud about the glowing orb she saw and wonders if Jammer’s hysteria was prompted by something similar. When Coffey hears about the sightings, he surmises that the glowing objects were probes operated by Russian submarines that have come to strip the sunken submarine of its warheads. As the Deep Core crew sees a television news report that Soviet warships are moving toward the USS Montana, Coffey receives orders from his superior, McBride, to move to Phase Two of his operation: to recover a nuclear warhead, arm it, and await further instruction. Although Bud tries to stop them, the SEALs take a submersible back to the sunken submarine and dismantle one of the missiles, returning to the rig with a nuclear warhead. A hurricane strikes and knocks a crane off the Benthic Explorer. Lindsey and Bud get word that the crane is headed toward them and brace themselves as it lands just a few meters away. Still connected to the crane by a tether, Deep Core is pulled to the edge of a ledge but comes to rest there as the crane plummets into the depths of the Cayman Trough. In the meantime, the crew battles flooding and fires aboard the rig, and four crewmembers are lost, as well as Wilhite, one of the SEALs. Lindsey re-routes power to the platform’s sub-bay and warns Bud that they will soon lose heat and oxygen. On a dive to examine Deep Core’s exterior damage, she encounters two more glowing objects and photographs of one of them. She shows the crew, and determines that they are surrounded by well-meaning, non-terrestrial intelligent beings, or “NTI’s.” Viewing the rig’s video surveillance feed, Hippy and Lindsey discover that Coffey has brought a nuclear warhead on board. Lindsey goes to stop him, but Coffey orders Schoenick, one of his men, to restrain her. Hippy notices that Coffey’s hands are shaking and determines that he is suffering from HPNS. Later, Coffey overhears Lindsey and Hippy talking about him, confirming his fear that Bud’s crew has become an impediment to his mission. While everyone sleeps, an NTI comes aboard Deep Space in the form of a shifting mass of seawater. The crew awakens as the NTI probes the rig, and Lindsey smiles as it takes the shape of her face. When the NTI approaches the nuclear warhead, Coffey shuts an emergency door, cutting it off. Lindsey asks if he still thinks she saw a Russian probe, and he secretly takes a knife to his forearm, where he has been cutting himself – another sign of psychosis brought on by HPNS. Soon after, Hippy sees Coffey attach the warhead to Big Geek, one of the ROV’s. After he catches Hippy spying, Coffey holds the crew at gunpoint. Hippy warns that Coffey is sending the nuclear warhead down to blow up the NTI’s. Monk asks when the bomb is set to go off, and Schoenick replies in three hours. Monk warns that they will not have enough time to clear the blast, while Lindsey, Bud, and Hippy try to convince Schoenick that Coffey has lost his mind. Waking up from his coma, Jammer confirms that he saw an NTI before losing consciousness. Meanwhile, Bud leaves the rig and swims into the icy cold seawater to gain access to the sub-bay, where Coffey has shut himself off to launch the nuclear warhead. Bud attempts to stop Coffey from boarding a submersible, but is overpowered. He suits up and dives after Coffey, while Lindsey mans a second submersible and joins the pursuit. Although she crashes into Coffey’s submersible and causes him to fall over the ledge to his death, Big Geek is still at large with its nuclear warhead. Lindsey’s submersible floods due to the collision. She panics because she does not have a diving suit and asks Bud to take her with him as he dives back to Deep Core, assuming that her body will go into deep hypothermia and can be revived after ten or fifteen minutes. When he arrives with her lifeless body in the sub-bay, Bud’s crew attempts to revive Lindsey using a defibrillator, adrenaline shots, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). After everyone else gives up, Bud continues to administer CPR and Lindsey miraculously comes back to life. With the nuclear warhead still set to explode, Bud volunteers to go after it. Since Big Geek has gone into the depths of the Cayman Trough, he straps on the fluid breathing system meant for very deep diving, and sets off alongside Little Geek, the other ROV. Unable to speak as he breathes fluid, Bud communicates with the crew via a keypad on his arm. They become nervous as he goes lower and lower, setting the world record for the deepest suit dive at a depth of 4,800 feet. Bud’s messages become nonsensical as he goes lower, and Lindsey attempts to engage him by apologizing for her poor communication skills. At 16,000 feet below sea level, Little Geek stops working. Bud ignites an underwater flare, then types that he is feeling better and sees light everywhere. The crew assumes Bud is losing his mind, but he is able to locate and dismantle the nuclear warhead, which has landed at the edge of the trough. When he is through with his mission, Bud reports that he has only five minutes of oxygen left. Lindsey begs him to come back, but he sends her a message that he knew this mission was a “one-way ticket,” assuring his wife that he loves her. Bud is visited by an NTI, who takes his hand and leads him to a large ship, illuminated by ornate patterns of light. He is taken to a chamber where the water parts, creating an air space where Bud can breathe oxygen. More NTI’s approach, and show him his messages to Lindsey, projected onto a wall of water. Meanwhile, the storms lifts and the Benthic Explorer regains contact with Deep Core. Bud surprises everyone by sending another message, alerting the crew that he has made new friends. The rig begins to shake, and the crew of the Benthic Explorer watches in disbelief as the NTI ship rises to the surface of the ocean, bringing Deep Core with it. Lindsey emerges from the rig as Bud appears from inside the ship. The couple reunites and kisses, calling each other by their married names. +

Legend
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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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