Final cut privilege
On nearly all occasions in the United States, only established and bankable directors (such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott or Peter Jackson) are given final cut rights. Outside the Hollywood studio system—in France, for example—directors whose reputations are built on artistic merit, as opposed to bankability, frequently have final cut on their films. In America there are only some acclaimed, but not necessarily bankable directors, such as Woody Allen, Alexander Payne and Terrence Malick, who enjoy final cut. Sometimes nonbankable directors get final cut privilege when making a film on a low budget.
Before a film is released, studios will usually make changes for commercial purposes, or to remove any controversial content. Sometimes such practices can cause conflict between the director and studio releasing the film (see American History X and Brazil).
Other contractual agreements will still apply, though: A director commissioned for a film with a rating no higher than "R" (in the US) will still have to make sure to meet this agreement. This happened with Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, which included an orgy scene that was shown in Europe, but would have given the film a higher "NC-17" rating in the US. For its US release, foreground actors were digitally added to obscure some sex acts to reach the contractually obliged R rating.