If you've seen "Avatar", you might remember that the movie begins with a close-up of the main character Jake Sully opening his eyes. For the longest time, however, the film had a much different beginning.

In a new interview with Oregon Live, Director James Cameron says there were originally 4 1/2 minutes of footage showing a polluted, dystopian Earth. But even though he liked it, the movie was just taking too long to get rolling.

Says Cameron, "I walked in one day and said to my two editors, 'Guys, I want each of you to cut a new version of the start of the film, Reel 1, that doesn't have any Earth in it at all.' And they looked at me like I was out of my mind. And I said, 'No — it's gonna work.' They had to figure out the details. I said, 'Just grab a couple of things to use as flashbacks, and start it in space when Jake opens his eyes.' "

For the release of the "Avatar" box set in November, Cameron went back and added in "the Earth opening" — but for a heavy price.

"It's all a big negotiation with the studios," he says. "How much money do they want to spend on these sort of revisionist versions of the movie? Because on the whole Earth opening, the visual effects weren't done, and we had to go back and spend a million bucks or whatever to get those shots done. So there's a price tag dangling from anything that gets re-inserted."

Overall, there are 16 minutes of polished, new footage added (including the new eight minutes you can see in theaters this weekend) and an additional 45 minutes of unfinished, deleted scenes.

Cameron added, "If you just want to wallow in "Avatar" for three hours, I can get that for you."

Check out the rest of the in-depth interview here.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

'Avatar' box set to feature deleted scenes of dying Earth
Director James Cameron says new footage cost somewhere around $1 million for special-edition box set.