163 minutes is a pretty intimidating runtime for casual viewers, which partially accounts for the underwhelming box office returns on Blade Runner 2049. If you were hesitant to commit to a visually ambitious sci-fi epic that’s almost three hours long, then a four-hour sci-fi epic might be out of the question (at least until it arrived on Blu-ray). But that was almost the case with Blade Runner 2049; according to the editor of Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, the first cut of the film was much longer, and may have required repeat visits to the theater.

Speaking with Provideo Coalition, editor Joe Walker reveals that the initial edit of Blade Runner 2049 was four hours long and that he cut it into two halves. Villeneuve even considered releasing the final film as a two-parter:

That break revealed something about the story – it’s in two halves. There’s K discovering his true past as he sees it and at the halfway mark he kind of loses his virginity (laughs). The next morning, it’s a different story, about meeting your maker and ultimately sacrifice – “dying is the most human thing we do.” Oddly enough both halves start with eyes opening. There’s the giant eye opening at the beginning of the film and the second when Mariette wakes up and sneaks around K’s apartment. We toyed with giving titles to each half but quickly dropped that. But what does remain is that there’s something of a waking dream about the film. That’s a very deliberate choice in terms of visuals but also the kind of pace they were striving for on set and the hallucinatory feel in the cut – it’s the kind of dream where you tread inexorably closer to the truth.

A whole lot of movie can happen in an hour, but according to Walker, they mostly cut “a lot of connective tissue and bridges,” and “pared the dialogue down to the minimum amount you could get away with.” The end result was the 163-minute theatrical version, or as Walker calls it, “the right version,” which gives “you time to peer into the souls of the character, interspersed with some very dynamic moments of destructiveness.”

The majority of the editing process revolved around trying to capture and convey the right “dreamlike” tone, though Walker adds that the most difficult sequence was the fight between Ryan Gosling’s K and Harrison Ford’s Deckard — an edit that took six months (off and on).

Unfortunately, we’ll never see the four-hour, two-part version of Blade Runner 2049. Villeneuve has said that the theatrical version is the director’s cut of the film, and neither he nor Walker are fond of releasing Blu-rays with deleted scenes.

The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movie Posters of All Time

More From ScreenCrush