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Pretty Woman is a 1990 romantic comedy film. The film centers on down-on-her-luck prostitute Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) who is hired by a wealthy businessman and corporate raider, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) to be his escort for several business functions, and their developing relationship.

Pretty Woman was initially intended to be a dark drama about prostitution in New Yorkmarker but was reconceptualized into a romantic comedy. The film was a critical success and became one of 1990's highest grossing films, and today is one of the most financially successful entries in the romantic comedy genre, with an estimated gross of $464 million USD. Roberts received a Golden Globe Award for her role, and was nominated for an Academy Award in her first blockbuster hit which brought her worldwide acclaim. Screenwriter J. F. Lawton was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and a BAFTA Award. The film was followed by a string of similar romantic comedies, including Runaway Bride, which teamed up Gere and Roberts under the direction of Garry Marshall once again. It is also notable as being Ralph Bellamy's final film before his death in 1991.


Corporate raider Edward Lewis (Gere) is having trouble driving his borrowed Lotus Espirit and stops for directions on Hollywood Boulevardmarker. Vivian Ward (Roberts), a hooker, walks over to his car. Edward agrees to pay her for directions, but Vivian jumps in the car and offers to show him. On the way to the Beverly Wilshire Hotelmarker, Vivian comments on his bad driving. Much to her delight, Edward asks her to drive. Vivian says she will return to her corner by taxi. When Edward sees her waiting at a bus stop, he offers to hire her for the night. Edward explains his business to her, in which he buys large companies, breaks them up and sells them for profit. When he was a boy, his father divorced his mother to be with another woman, and emptied his wife's bank account. Consequently, his mother died poor, and Edward grew up bitter.

The next day, Edward's lawyer Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander) calls Edward and tells him businessman James Morse and his grandson David wish to meet with him to discuss Edward's plans to buy their business. Edward decides to bring a date in order to keep the meeting social, and hires Vivian to spend the week with him, offering to pay her $3,000. He gives money for a dinner dress, but when she attempts to shop on Rodeo Drivemarker, the saleswomen snub her. Vivian returns to the hotel distraught; Barnard (Elizondo) , the manager of the hotel at first doesn't hide his disdain for Vivian. He tells her that her presence is only tolerated because of Edward's standing at the hotel. He does ask her to dress more appropriately, but when Vivian tearfully explains the episode at the store where she was turned away, he befriends her and directs her to a store where they help her buy a beautiful cocktail dress. He also gives her a lesson (at her request) in table manners, so that she will not be intimidated at dinner. That night, Vivian and Edward meet James and David Morse. During the meal, Vivian brings out the enlightened gentleman in the elderly Morse, but the business discussion with Edward grows cold. The Morses express their anger over Edward's impending takeover and walk out.

The next morning, Edward tells Vivian to buy some more clothes for some upcoming events. Vivian reveals to Edward the episode the previous day where the saleswomen wouldn't help her. This time, Edward accompanies her for the first part of a shopping spree. Vivian ends her day by returning to the store from where its sales staff was rude to her to tell them what a huge mistake they made in not helping her. Vivian and Edward's business relationship quickly develops into friendship, and Edward and Vivian go on several dates and spend several evenings trading deep emotional insights. Edward learns that Vivian only chose her profession because she couldn't make the rent otherwise, and was too ashamed to go home. Vivian finds herself falling in love with Edward.

Edward and Vivian attend a corporate polo match, where Vivian meets Phil, who pesters Edward until he reveals that Vivian is actually a prostitute after he sees Vivian and the younger Morse getting along. He only tells Phil that out of spite and Phil approaches Vivian and crudely propositions her. She is hurt by Edward's betrayal. When she gets back to the penthouse she announces she is leaving, but ignores Edward's money. When Edward sees this, he apologizes. Vivian decides to stay. An idyllic few days ensue, during which Edward flies her by private jet to San Francisco to see La Traviata. After the opera Vivian wakes Edward with a kiss, symbolic of the change in their relationship (she never kisses her clients).

As the week starts to end and Edward prepares to return to New Yorkmarker, Edward tells Vivian he wants to see her again and offers to supply her with everything she needs. Vivian refuses and says she wants the whole thing—commitment, or nothing. Edward claims that he's never treated her like a prostitute before he leaves for the day. As the time draws near for Edward to finalize his buyout of Morse Industries, his relationship with Vivian is beginning to show its effects: he loses his bitter lust for vengeance against his father. Respecting James Morse's caring nature, he tells the older man he has another solution for his company instead. Amazed at Edward's change in attitude, Morse genuinely tells him he's proud of him.

Phil is upset to hear that the buyout has been stalled and goes to Edward's hotel to confront him. He finds Vivian alone, and after blaming her for Edward's behavior, attempts to rape her. Edward arrives and a fight ensues, after which Edward orders Phil to leave and breaks off their business relationship and friendship. Vivian and Edward talk, and Vivian states she wants "the fairy tale." Edward says he can`t offer that. He asks Vivian to stay the night but she declines. The next day, Edward checks out. Barnard notices his pensiveness and remarks how difficult it must be to give up something so beautiful, supposedly referring to the diamond necklace. Edward asks Darryl to drive him to Vivian's apartment in a white limousine; he arrives as Vivian is packing to move to San Franciscomarker. Although nervous, Edward controls his fear of heights and climbs the fire escape to Vivian's apartment. Vivian meets him on the landing, and he asks what happens in her fantasy after the knight on the white horse rescues her. She tells him that she "rescues him right back".


Julia Roberts as the transformed Vivian
  • Richard Gere as Edward Lewis: Edward is a rich, ruthless businessman who is alone on business for a week in Los Angeles. At the start of the film, he borrows a fancy car from his lawyer and winds up in the red-light district. After getting lost, he meets a hooker named Vivian while asking for directions on his way back to the Beverly Wilshire Hotelmarker.
  • Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward: Vivian works as a prostitute on Hollywood Boulevardmarker. She runs into Edward, a wealthy businessman, when he asks her for directions to Beverly Hillsmarker. Edward hires Vivian for the night and offers $3,000 to spend the week with him.
  • Ralph Bellamy as James Morse: James is a businessman and owner of a underperforming company in which Edward is interested in buying and breaking up. Edward later has a change of heart and offers to partner up with Morse for a shipbuilding contract that would effectively make his company strong again.
  • Jason Alexander as Philip Stuckey: Philip is Edward's misogynistic lawyer. Philip pesters Edward after he sees Vivian and David Morse getting along. After revealing that Vivian is a prostitute, Philip unsuccessfully attempts to sleep with Vivian.
  • John David Carson as Mark Roth
  • Laura San Giacomo as Kit De Luca: Kit is Vivian's wisecracking friend. She is also her roommate who spent their rent money on drugs. After Vivian gives her rent money and a little more, while telling her that she has 'potential', an inspired Kit begins to plan for a life off the streets.
  • Alex Hyde-White as David Morse
  • Amy Yasbeck as Elizabeth Stuckey
  • Elinor Donahue as Bridget
  • Hector Elizondo as Barnard Thompson: A stuffy but golden-hearted concierge, Barnard is the manager of the hotel. At first, Barnard doesn't hide his disdain for Vivian although he eventually befriends Vivian, helps her buy a cocktail dress and gives her table manners lessons.
  • Judith Baldwin as Susan



Pretty Woman was initially intended to be a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles in the late 1980s/early 1990s. The relationship between Vivian and Edward also harbored controversial themes, including the concept of having Vivian addicted to cocaine; part of the deal was that she had to stay off it for a week. She needed the money to go to Disneyland. Edward eventually throws her out of his car and drives off. The movie was scripted to end with Vivian and her prostitute friend on the bus to Disneyland. These traits, considered by producer Laura Ziskin to be detrimental to the otherwise sympathetic portrayal of her, were removed or incorporated into the character of Vivian's friend, Kit. These "cut scenes" have been found in public view, and some were included on the DVD released on the movie's 15th anniversary. One such scene has Vivian offering Edward, "I could just pop ya good and be on my way", indicating a lack of interest in "pillow talk". In another, she is confronted by drug dealers outside of The Blue Banana, and rescued by Edward and Darryl.

Inspirations for the film could have been drawn from the Pygmalion myth. It also bears striking resemblances to George Bernard Shaw's play of the same name, which also formed the basis for the Broadwaymarker musical My Fair Lady. It was then-Disney Studio President Jeffrey Katzenberg who insisted it should be re-written as a modern-day fairy tale, instead of being the dark story it was in the original script titled $3,000. It also has unconfirmed references to That Touch of Mink, starring Doris Day and Cary Grant.

The male lead is a businessman, Edward Lewis (played by Richard Gere). While ruthless in business — he is a "corporate raider" — he is portrayed as intelligent, sensitive, and pensive, unlike the more common Gordon Gekko stereotype of the late 1980s financial tycoon as coarse and narcissistic (and often nouveau riche). Asking for directions to his hotel, he meets a prostitute, Vivian. (In the United States, as in much of the world, prostitutes who work on the streets come disproportionately from the lower classes, and Vivian suffers from financial desperation.) Because of her deprived background, she is naïve and unaware of the manners integral to the wealthy/upper classes of the period, resulting in mild embarrassment for herself and Edward, who handles it with cheerful, unpretentious good-nature. In contrast to the class and occupational archetypes associated with her profession — she's charismatic, kind, and perceptive. During their time spent together, Vivian learns from Edward the virtue of manners and money (the film is quintessentially Eighties in this sense), while Edward learns from Vivian the virtue of treating everyone with respect and empathy. Of course, a relationship based more on genuine love than on money or convenience grows between Edward and Vivian (symbolised by Vivian's kissing of Edward on the lips, despite her promise to Kit to avoid such an expression of true affection), and throughout the movie they struggle with the differences in social class and values.


Casting of Pretty Woman was a rather lengthy process. Marshall had initially considered Christopher Reeve for the role of Lewis, and Al Pacino turned it down. Pacino went as far as doing a casting reading with Roberts before turning the leading role down. Gere agreed to the project. Reportedly, Gere started off much more active in his role, but Garry Marshall took him aside and said "No, no, no. Richard. In this movie, one of you moves and one of you does not. Guess which one you are?" Julia Roberts was far from the first choice for the role of Vivian. Marshall originally envisioned Karen Allen for the role of Vivian. When she declined, it went to many better-known actresses of the time including Molly Ringwald who turned it down because she felt uncomfortable with the content in the script, and did not like the idea of playing a prostitute. She has since stated in several interviews that she regrets turning the role down. Meg Ryan, who was a top choice of Marshall's, turned it down. According to a note written by Marshall, Mary Steenburgen was the first choice to play Vivian Ward. Michelle Pfeiffer turned the role down as well, because she did not like the "tone" of the script. Daryl Hannah was also considered, but turned the role down because she believed it was "degrading to women". Valeria Golino also turned it down as she did not think the movie could work with her thick Italian accent. Jennifer Jason Leigh had auditioned for the part, but later decided not to do the movie after she read the script because she felt it was sexist. Other actresses considered for the role of Vivian were Heather Locklear, Jodie Foster, Helen Hunt, Helen Slater, Bridget Fonda, Robin Wright Penn, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane, Kyra Sedgwick and Brooke Shields. Jennifer Connelly auditioned for the role of Vivian, but it was decided she was too young for the part, as were Winona Ryder and Drew Barrymore. When all the other actresses turned down the role, Julia Roberts, who was relatively unknown at the time, with the exception of the film Steel Magnolias, was able to win the role.


Pretty Woman's budget was not limited, therefore producers could acquire as many locations as possible for shooting on their estimated $14,000,000. The majority of the film was shot in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, to be specific, in Beverly Hillsmarker. The escargot restaurant called 'The Voltare' was filmed at the Rex, now called Cicada. Filming of the Beverly Wilshire Hotelmarker lobby interior was shot at the now torn-down Ambassador Hotelmarker. Filming commenced on July 24, 1989, but was immediately plagued by countless problems, including issues with space and time. This included Ferrarimarker and Porsche, who had declined the product placement opportunity of the car Edward drove, because they did not want to be associated with soliciting prostitutes. Lotus Cars UK saw the placement value with such a major feature film. This gamble paid off as Esprit sales tripled in 1990-1991. The company supplied a Silver 1989.5 Esprit SE, which was later sold. The film's primary shooting was completed on October 18, 1989.



The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Metacritic, Pretty Woman received an average score of 51 out of 100 from the 17 reviews it collected. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D, stating that the film "starts out as a neo-Pygmalion comedy" and with "its tough-hooker heroine, it can work as a feminist version of an upscale princess fantasy." Gleiberman also said that it "pretends to be about how love transcends money" and that it "is really obsessed with status symbols." Although despite negative reviews, Janet Maslin of The New York Times stated that "Pretty Woman manages to be giddy, lighthearted escapism much of the time" and that "Ms. Roberts... is a complete knockout, and this performance will make her a major star."

Box office

In its opening weekend, Pretty Woman opened at number one at the box office grossing $11,280,591 and averaging $8,513 per theater. The film dropped to number two in its second weekend, although it grossed more in its second weekend, grossing $12,471,670. It remained number one at the box office for four non-consecutive weeks and on the top ten for sixteen weeks. The film has grossed $178,406,268 in the United States and $285,000,000 in other territories for a total worldwide gross of $463,406,268. It was also the fourth highest-grossing film of the year in the United States and the third highest-grossing worldwide.


The film received four 1990 Golden Globe Awards nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Actor for Richard Gere, Best Actress, which Julia Roberts won, and Best Supporting Actor for Hector Elizondo. The film also earned Roberts her second Academy Award nomination and her first nomination for Best Actress.




Pretty Woman is noted for its musical selections and hugely successful soundtrack. The film features the song "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, which inspired the movie's title. Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1990. The soundtrack also features "King of Wishful Thinking" by Go West, "Show Me Your Soul" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "No Explanation" by Peter Cetera, "Wild Women Do" by Natalie Cole and "Fallen" by Lauren Wood. The soundtrack went on to be certified three times platinum by the RIAA.

The opera featured in the movie is La Traviata, which also served as inspiration for the plot of the movie. The piano piece which Richard Gere's character plays in the hotel lobby was composed by and performed by Gere. Julia Roberts sings the song "Kiss" by Prince while Richard Gere's character is on the phone. Background music is composed by James Newton Howard. Entitled "He Sleeps/Love Theme", this piano composition is inspired by Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Street".

Soundtrack Track List

  1. "Wild Women Do" - Natalie Cole
  2. "Fame '90" - David Bowie
  3. "King of Wishful Thinking" - Go West
  4. "Tangled - Jane Wiedlin"
  5. "It Must Have Been Love" - Roxette
  6. "Life in Detail" - Robert Palmer
  7. "No Explanation" - Peter Cetera
  8. Real Wild Child " - Christopher Otcasek
  9. "Fallen" - Lauren Wood
  10. "Oh, Pretty Woman" - Roy Orbison
  11. "Show Me Your Soul" - Red Hot Chili Peppers

See also


  1. Stewart, James B DisneyWar, page 110. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN 978-0-74-326709-0
  2. Pretty Woman casting information and trivia at IMDB; accessed May 17, 2007.

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