During last year's opening of "The Abyss" at Radio City Music Hall, the audience burst into ripples of laughter and applause when they briefly saw Elliott's mug on the big screen as an oil driller.
"(Director) James Cameron was sitting in front of me, and he actually turned around and looked at me," Elliott said. "It's just weird for people to suddenly see me pop up in a film--people who know the joke with me about a guy who really wants to get into show business."
I did end up in The Abyss, but I didn't get the part I auditioned for. That was during the 1988 writers' strike, maybe? Maybe there was another one after that, I can't remember. But it was during a writers' strike that I went out and read for the role Todd Graff got, the guy with the little white rat that he carries around on his shoulder. James Cameron liked me and we talked a lot, and then I heard I didn't get the part, and a few weeks later, I got invited down to North Carolina, and he was literally writing my role on legal paper while I was on the set. Handing it to me and saying, "Okay, you're gonna say this, that, and that thing." And I had a great time doing that movie, actually. He was really great to me.
Writer Lewis Abernathy sold the [DeepStar 6] script at the same time that friend James Cameron was working on his own "underwater monster saga". Despite Cameron's asking that he delay this movie to avoid competing with The Abyss (1989), Abernathy went ahead and was thereby deemed persona non grata with Cameron and associates until they patched together their friendship when Abernathy accompanied Cameron on the September 1995 filming of the wreck of the Titanic for Titanic (1997) (but not any actual dives to the wreck itself).
I always felt like Cameron needed to tie the creatures into something more, and not just a "Hi, sorry to bother you, know we've never met, but we are thinking now may be a good time to destroy you all." Atlantis, sea stories of old, aliens, history of life on earth...whatever, but something. Maybe, just maybe, a back story where long ago two races diverged from a common ancestor (Morlock-Eloi style) and we figure out we we are the bastard cousins of some better race, and maybe some of us can learn to reunite and... well, you get the picture.
The thing is, when you get right down to it, it may have just been a better movie without the sea civilization. Just a good old human story underwater might have done it.
''The worst moments for me were being towed with fluid rushing up my nose and my eyes swelling up,'' says Mr. Harris. ''Once, the regulator was put in upside down so that one-half of what was going into my lungs was water. For a brief second, I thought, 'This is it,'
What Cameron wanted, I'm sure, was something like the ending of 2001 where the experience of contact is nigh-incomprehensible to the human who's doing it. I mean does Keir Dullea spending the rest of his life in what seems a moment in some fancy hotel room, then coming back as a space baby make any damn sense at all? But that works. And this just doesn't.
I watched this multiple times on DVD. It was one of the very first DVDs with extras and there was a commentary track but it wasn't audio, it was subtitles. It was great, it had all sorts of little tidbits about how each scene was constructed and how absolutely technical a director Cameron is.
[A]s the short tale grows into a long tale, the original intention (or motif) is apt to get abolished and find itself superseded by a quite different one. . . . Much the same thing happened with "Pudd'nhead Wilson." I had a sufficiently hard time with that tale, because it changed itself from a farce to a tragedy while I was going along with it -— a most embarrassing circumstance. But what was a great deal worse was, that it was not one story, but two stories tangled together; and they obstructed and interrupted each other at every turn and created no end of confusion and annoyance.
Here was a set of new characters who were become inordinately prominent and who persisted in remaining so to the end; and back yonder was an older set who made a large noise and a great to-do for a little while and then suddenly played out utterly and fell down the well. There was a radical defect somewhere, and I must search it out and cure it.
The defect turned out to be the one already spoken of —- two stories in one, a farce and a tragedy. So I pulled out the farce and left the tragedy. This left the original team in, but only as mere names, not as characters. Their prominence was wholly gone; they were not even worth drowning.
[. . . ]
By this time the whole show was being run by the new people and in their interest, and the original show was become side-tracked and forgotten . . . Their story was one story, the new people's story was another story, and there was no connection between them, no interdependence, no kinship. It is not practicable or rational to try to tell two stories at the same time; so I dug out the farce and left the tragedy.
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