The director's cut was discovered entirely by accident.
Budget overruns and poor test-screenings meant that Scott was overruled on several key decisions on the film as it came close to completion, most famously the ending (partially achieved with unused footage from "The Shining") and the narration. For many years, it was thought that Scott's original version hadn't survived, but in 1989, Warner Bros sound preservationist Michael Arick stumbled across a rare 70mm print in the archives while looking for footage from "Gypsy." Arick didn't watch it, but it was sent to the Fairfax on Beverly Boulevard in L.A. the following year when they were holding a special festival of 70mm films. They were as surprised as anyone to find that they were screening a never-before-seen version of the film, and word of mouth soon led to sell-outs at additional screenings, which led Warners to plan a release. It was labelled as the "Director's Cut," but against the objections of Ridley Scott, who wanted to make further changes, but wasn't given the time or budget to do so. It was only with the 2006 Final Cut that he was able to do those last alterations. It wasn't just the film that took some time to see the light properly; Vangelis' score only got a proper release after the Director's Cut in 1992, although bootlegs circulated throughout the 1980s.