I was puzzled by the following bit of trivia about the movie Now You See Me:

During filming of the scene where Henley Reeves tries to escape from a tank of water and piranhas, Isla Fisher came close to drowning. Fisher had become stuck and tried to alert the crew by banging on the window she was facing, but the cast and crew did not think anything of it because that was what the character was supposed to be doing. She was able to untangle the chain and get out of the tank safely.

Isla Fisher repeated this story in several interviews (or at least several newspapers repeated the same interview), but I find this hard to believe. Surely, every big budget movie that is shooting a dangerous scene, where the character is supposed to be acting in distress, will have a pre-arranged signal to tell the in-character distress from real distress.

This is of course common in adult movies (and unfilmed adult behavior): when in-character behavior, and behavior that should trigger immediate intervention are very close together, you agree on a safeword. If the actor can't speak, you agree on a signal that can be made without speaking.

Would the set of Now You See Me really not have one person present who would think of this before they proceeded to submerge their leading lady? Do they not have safety managers on set, who are trained in this sort of thing?

  • 4
    Seems ridiculous to me too, if entirely true. Of course it could have been exaggerated to make a story for marketing purposes.
    – iandotkelly
    Jul 25, 2016 at 14:54
  • 4
    From Bruce Campbell's "If Chins Could Kill," talking about the "Wall of Blood" scene from the first Evil Dead Movie - Rami: Okay, if you can't breathe or need us to stop, just wave your arms around a lot. Campbell: Isn't that supposed to be what I'm doing anyway? Rami: Okay, ready? Action! Jul 25, 2016 at 15:57
  • 1
    What good would a safeword do underwater?? It should have been a hand gesture. Jul 26, 2016 at 0:37
  • There were rescue divers and a pre-arranged signal for filming The Abyss and Ed Harris almost drowned at one point anyway. That was a pretty insane shoot, by all accounts, but people do die during production because of mishaps, and not just stuntment. Jul 26, 2016 at 2:50
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    @LorenPechtel I'm pretty sure "safeword" is being used to cover any signal, verbal or otherwise. Jul 26, 2016 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


In general, there is a support member of the crew hidden within reaching distance of the star who will hand them an oxygen supply on demand.

In this case that wasn't possible as the stunt was performed in a tank of water.

Fisher admits to panicking and not following the proper procedure of pushing a panic button although it should be said that due to the initial entanglement in the chains she couldn't reach it.

The 37-year-old plays a glamorous escapologist in Now You See Me – which starts with dramatic shots of her freeing herself from shackles while submerged in a tank of water.

The scene demanded she bang desperately on the glass walls to give the impression of being in distress .  .  . but when her chains became entangled, she revealed that she started to panic for real.

Ref: Daily Mail

enter image description here

Fisher – who is married to Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen – said she was unable to reach a safety button that would have drained the thousands of gallons of water in seconds, while a safety diver with a canister of oxygen was too far away too reach her.

The former Home And Away actress, who also stars in Baz Luhrmann’s £60 million new version of The Great Gatsby, said she got into trouble after being submerged for two-and-a-half minutes.

‘They had a guy who was off camera, but he was a long way away with a can of oxygen,’ she said. ‘By the time I realised I couldn’t get up and beckoned for him, I realised that I had run out of air.’

Fisher said she knew there was a ‘kill switch’ nearby that would have drained the tank in 70 seconds, but she couldn’t reach it.

However, she added: ‘Luckily, I managed to get free and stay level-headed and got out before it went even more horribly wrong.’

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    The kill switch "would have drained the tank in 70 seconds" - over a minute - so she'd probably survive with nothing more serious than permanent brain damage...
    – Wad Cheber
    Jul 26, 2016 at 1:47
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    Though hopefully she was conscious enough to get air from the top of the tank. Hopefully. Jul 26, 2016 at 2:06
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    @Swan I imagine that once the crew saw her hit the button and the water start to the drain they would have rushed in to help her, not sat there until the water drained.
    – SGR
    Jul 26, 2016 at 7:39

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