What is a director's cut, and where did the term come from?
Making a movie is no easy feat. You go in with the best intentions, but the more money you spend on the movie, the more people you have to answer to. If you're working for a studio or a lot of independent producers, chances are you'll have to compromise your vision.
Unless you are entitled to make a director's cut. Final cut on a movie means that no matter what, the director gets to say what is released. Very few people in Hollywood have this. Most times, the studio will release their version, and then much later either on Blu-ray or digital, the director will release their version.
That's where the director's cut comes into play. But what is the definition of a director's cut? And how does it happen in Hollywood?
Today we're going to define that term, look at a few examples, and talk about how directors get their vision to the audience.
What Is a Director's Cut? (Definition and Examples)
These are important terms to know if you want to work in Hollywood. Let's dig deep into definitions before we get into the examples.
Director's Cut Definition
A director's cut is a version of a film that represents the director's own approved edit.
A director's cut may include scenes that were not in the theatrical cut of the movie, which was altered by the studio for time or content.
What Does the Director’s Cut Mean?
It means that this version of a film has been edited in exact accordance with the director's wishes. They have decided on the order of scenes, cuts, and length, without any interference from producers or studios. Maybe scenes that got cut from the theatrical release get added back to the director's cut.
Where did Director's Cut come from?
According to Wikipedia, "The trend of releasing alternate cuts of films for artistic reasons became prominent in the 1970s; in 1974, the 'director's cut' of The Wild Bunch was shown theatrically in Los Angeles to sold-out audiences."
It evolved from there with directors and studios battling it out over the decades.
What Is Final Cut?
Final cut means that a director takes on a project knowing they will be allowed to release the director's cut to the public without interference. If a director has a final cut, there can be no fight with the studio over what goes into the movie. Only their say matters.
What Is the Difference Between a Theatrical Cut and Director's Cut?
The theatrical cut of a movie is what the studio has decided to release to theaters. Sometimes, but not every time, the producers or studio will create their own edit to change a director's vision. They may cut out sex, violence, or just trim movies for time, so they can show more often.
The director's cut means that the director chose what cut is on the screen.
Many times, studios and directors agree on what should hit screens. That means sometimes the theatrical cut is the director's cut. But many times it's not, and we only see what the director intended years later.
What's Different Between the Director's Cut and the Extended Cut?
An extended cut of a movie might add scenes cut for rating or time. They are often released by the studio to capitalize on a big title, like a comedy, where more outrageous scenes could be added. If the director wanted them added in, then they would be in the director's cut. Lots of times, extended cuts are made without the director, unless specifically advertised.
Something like The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition was made with director Peter Jackson, and it bridges the gap between extended and director's cut.
Director's Cut Examples
There are lots of examples of director's cuts out there. One that comes to mind immediately is that of Blade Runner, which Ridley Scott famously keeps releasing director's cuts of, as he goes back and tweaks voiceover, dream sequences, and lots of other nuances. Scott also released a far superior director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven, which turned the average film into a masterpiece.
James Cameron was allowed to release a director's cut of Aliens that restored 20 minutes of the movie that Fox cut out back in the day. That cut is now seen as the truest version of that film and heralded all over.
Another famous one is the Richard Donner cut of Superman II. Donner was famously replaced on the movie, and only years later allowed to come in and assemble his darker and weirder version of the movie for audiences to see.
Summing Up What Is a Director's Cut
Hopefully, you were able to learn what is a director's cut and all the terms and nuances here to set yourself off on your Hollywood career. Remember, the more money it costs to make a movie, the more people have a say in how it turns out. You might be a long way from demanding final cut, but you can hone your skills on indies where you might have it no matter what.
When critically watching films, it's fun to analyze a director's cut versus theatrical. You can see the intentions behind scenes and also come at it from different points of view.
Got a favorite director's cut?
We want to hear about it in the comments.