“Deep” Director Yates Dies At 81

January 10, 2011

DeepposterWikiBritish director Peter Yates literally submerged himself in his work when he was making the movie blockbuster “The Deep”  in Bermuda in the summer of 1976.

The man who described himself as a “barely passable swimmer” before production began on the adaptation of Peter Benchley’s thriller about vacationers who stumble upon two hidden treasures on Bermuda’s reefs — Spanish gold and World War Two-era morphine — ended up diving more than 600 times during the course of the shoot.

Mr. Yates, a four-time Academy Award nominee, died at his home in England on Sunday. He was 81.

He last visited Bermuda to attended a reunion celebration marking the 25th anniversary of “The Deep” production at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute along with author Mr. Benchley and the film’s star Jacqueline Bisset.

Released in the summer of 1977 — and the second highest-grossing film of that year after “Star Wars” –”The Deep” was successfully marketed as a follow-up of sorts to Steven Spielberg’s phenomenally successful 1975 adaptation of Mr. Benchley’s “Jaws.”

Novice producer Peter Guber bought the movie rights to “The Deep” in 1976 before the book had even been published.

He recruited Mr. Yates — then best known for his 1968 Steve McQueen crime drama “Bullitt”, featuring one of the most audacious car chases in cinema history — to direct the film which was partly inspired by Mr. Benchley’s friendship with Bermudian treasure diver Teddy Tucker.


Robert Shaw — the star of “Jaws” — was cast as Romer Treece, a flinty Bermudian marine archeologist and lighthouse keeper loosely based on Mr. Tucker. Nick Nolte was cast as Ms Bisset’s boyfriend. Future Oscar winner Louis Gosset, Jr. played Haitian drug kingpin Henri Cloche, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the multi-million dollar cache of medical morphine the amateur divers have discovered on a Bermuda wreck.

The film was shot on location in Bermuda and in the British Virgin Islands.

1yatesPRhandout“I thought I could sit topside on a boat watching television monitors of what the camera was shooting below,” said Mr. Yates (pictured at left) in an interview at the time of the film’s release. “This is one picture made out of total ignorance.

“We took it for granted that we’d all do a little diving. But none of my cast had ever done any scuba diving before.

“I expected to use doubles a great deal more than I did. The more my cast dived, the more they wanted to do the dangerous work themselves.

“Robert Shaw was the first to volunteer to do his own diving. Then Nolte and Jacqueline really threw themselves into the spirit of the thing.

“As a result, the camera is right up tight on all of them in most of the scenes so audiences know they are watching the stars in all the exciting action, not stunt doubles

“We began work in the summer and I wore only blue jeans to keep from being cut by the coral. By the end of production in November, the water temperature was down to 62 degrees and I was wearing two wet suits.”

While some of the film’s spectacular underwater footage was shot on the island’s reefs and on a wreck in the Caribbean, the bulk of the diving scenes were filmed in a vast tank constructed at Boaz Island.

The film involved 10 weeks of submerged shooting for the cast, crew, stagehands and Mr. Yates, who were sometimes required to dive between three and four times a day in depths of up to 120 feet.

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  1. Sink or Swim: The Making of “The Deep” : Bernews.com | November 6, 2011
  1. Graeme Outerbridge says:

    I had a lot of fun helping to build the underwater set^^

    • Vin Collins says:

      Why was the crew diving so deep? 120ft??

      • nev grovermann says:

        classic movie met Al Giddings in Aust just after filming He designed a special UW lense for closeup work on the movie At that stage of time there was no such equipment Al went on to bigger and grander Uw work with cameras