As we've mentioned before, sometimes the best way for a director to capture pain and suffering is to make the cast suffer actual pain, because that whole "acting" thing is seriously overrated. Thus the following directors turned their sets into torture chambers for artistic purposes, and/or because they just hated actors.
5 James Cameron Almost Drowns His Cast and Himself
20th Century Fox
We've covered The Abyss' amazing technological leaps, but we neglected to mention that 40 percent of the shooting took place in an abandoned underwater nuclear tank, which doesn't exactly conjure up images of tea parties and pony rides. For starters, there's the iconic scene where Ed Harris is introduced to the magic goop that will let him breathe underwater.
20th Century Fox
Made by dipping gillyweed in the suit's urine compartment.
This fluid actually exists in real life, but the only man who's tested it nearly bought the kelp farm. Not wanting to take his chances with a magical mystery liquid, Harris opted to hold his breath whenever he had to film in the suit. So when Harris is gasping and seizing up in panic as his helmet fills, he ain't acting.
As it turns out, nearly drowning was something of a running theme on the set. Another scene involved actors swimming without helmets, and since nobody in the cast was Aquaman, Cameron employed safety divers to stick life-giving oxygen into their faces. Then he told them to stay way the hell away from the camera, so if any of those scenes had gone wrong, the safety divers would have had a nice long swim to get to whoever's lungs were quickly filling with water. Oh, and one time a diver used an oxygen regulator incorrectly and pumped water into Harris' mouth instead of air and nearly killed him. Whoops-a-daisy!
It gets better. In order to ensure that nobody accidentally floated up to the surface, the actors were all strapped down with weights, meaning weak swimmers were screwed, and strong swimmers ... were also screwed. Yes, Cameron kept his actors in line with the same method the mafia uses to dispose of bodies.
All the hard work and stress (along with the constant threat of decompression sickness) caused Harris to break down and cry one evening and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio to famously scream "We're not animals here!" before storming off the set. Cameron responded to their extremely understandable concerns by calling anyone who couldn't keep up "wussies," because this was before he filmed Titanic and invented the concept of love.
Mark Thiessen/National Geographic
Love of water, and of hypothermia. Which wouldn't really have helped matters.
In fairness to Cameron, he was putting his life on the line right there with them. One day both Cameron and his assistant forgot to check the oxygen meter on his tank and, well, you can guess what happened next. Again, a safety diver gave him water instead of air, and Cameron had to cold-cock him in the face so he could escape to the surface moments before blacking out. Both the diver and the assistant were fired, and humanity narrowly avoided living in a dark timeline where Terminator 2 was never made. If you can call that living.