Pretty Woman

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Pretty Woman
A man in a black smart suit stands back to back with a woman wearing a black short skirt and black thigh-high boots.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGarry Marshall
Written byJ. F. Lawton
Produced byArnon Milchan
Steven Reuther
Gary W. Goldstein
CinematographyCharles Minsky
Edited byRaja Gosnell
Priscilla Nedd
Music byJames Newton Howard
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • March 23, 1990 (1990-03-23) (United States)
Running time
119 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$14 million
Box office$463.4 million

Pretty Woman is a 1990 American romantic comedy film directed by Garry Marshall, from a screenplay by J. F. Lawton. The film stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, and features Héctor Elizondo, Ralph Bellamy (in his final performance), Laura San Giacomo, and Jason Alexander in supporting roles.[1] The film's story centers on down-on-her-luck Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward and wealthy businessman Edward Lewis. Vivian is hired to be Edward's escort for several business and social functions, and their relationship develops over the course of her week-long stay with him. The film's title Pretty Woman is based on the 1964 song "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison. It is the first film on-screen collaboration between Gere and Roberts; their second film, Runaway Bride, was released in 1999.

Originally intended to be a dark cautionary tale about class and prostitution in Los Angeles, the film was re-conceived as a romantic comedy with a large budget. It was widely successful at the box office and was the third-highest-grossing film of 1990. The film saw the highest number of ticket sales in the US ever for a romantic comedy,[2] with Box Office Mojo listing it as the number-one romantic comedy by the highest estimated domestic tickets sold at 42,176,400, slightly ahead of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) at 41,419,500 tickets.[3] The film received mixed reviews, though Roberts received a Golden Globe Award and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance, which catapulted her to stardom. In addition, screenwriter J. F. Lawton was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and a BAFTA Award.


Edward Lewis, a high-powered corporate raider from New York, buys and dismantles struggling companies, selling off the assets for profit. He wants his girlfriend to accompany him during a business trip, but fed up with being his "beck and call girl," she ends their relationship. Leaving a business party in the Hollywood Hills, Edward takes his lawyer's Lotus Esprit sports car and accidentally ends up on Hollywood Boulevard in the city's red-light district. There he encounters prostitute Vivian Ward. As he is having difficulties driving a manual transmission car, he pays Vivian to drive him to the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Edward then impulsively hires her for the night, and despite some awkwardness, finds her charming and gets on well with her. The next day, he asks Vivian to play his girlfriend that week at a series of business events he's attending while attempting a takeover of shipbuilder James Morse's company. Edward offers Vivian $3,000 and a new wardrobe for six days.

Vivian excitedly accepts, but when she attempts to go shopping on Rodeo Drive, she is turned away by the rude, snobbish saleswomen and turns to Barney, the hotel's manager, for help. He teaches her proper etiquette and arranges for her to buy a cocktail dress for an important business dinner that evening. Edward is impressed by Vivian's transformation and opens up to her, revealing details about his personal and business life, including his turbulent relationship with his late father.

When Edward's attorney, Phillip, suspects Vivian is a corporate spy, Edward reveals how they met. Phillip later crudely propositions Vivian for her services after Edward is finished with her. Vivian is hurt and furious at Edward for exposing her. Edward apologizes and realizes Vivian's straightforward personality is rubbing off on him. Edward takes Vivian by private jet to see La traviata at the San Francisco Opera. The story of a prostitute who falls in love with a rich man moves Vivian. She later breaks her "no kissing" rule while having sex with Edward. After mistakenly believing Edward is asleep, Vivian admits she loves him.

His return to New York imminent, Edward offers to help Vivian get off the streets and suggests putting her up in a nice condo and giving her an allowance, promising to visit her regularly. Vivian is offended by the offer, as Edward is still treating her like a prostitute, and recalls a childhood fantasy of being rescued from her abusive home by a knight on a white steed.

Edward meets with Morse but, changed by his experience with Vivian, chooses to work with him to save his company instead of dismantling it. Phillip, furious that Edward's new direction has cost him a fortune, goes to the hotel to confront him but finds only Vivian. Blaming her for Edward's changing character, he attempts to rape her. Edward arrives and punches Phillip, then fires him.

With his business in L.A. complete, Edward asks Vivian to stay with him one more night, but only because she wants to, not because he will pay. She refuses and leaves. Edward re-thinks his life, and while being driven to the airport, has the chauffeur detour to Vivian's apartment building. He climbs out through the white limousine's sunroof and ascends the fire escape to kiss Vivian, overcoming his fear of heights and metaphorically fulfilling her fairytale dream.


Cast notes:



The film was initially conceived as a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles in the 1980s.[4] The relationship between Vivian and Edward also originally involved controversial themes, including Vivian being addicted to drugs; part of the deal was that she had to stay off cocaine for a week. Edward eventually throws her out of his car and drives off. The original script by J.F. Lawton, called 3000,[5] ended with Vivian and her prostitute friend on the bus to Disneyland.[4] Producer Laura Ziskin considered these elements detrimental to a sympathetic portrayal of Vivian, and they were removed or assigned to Kit. The deleted scenes have been found, and some were included on the DVD released for the film's 15th anniversary.[4] In one, Vivian tells Edward, "I could just pop ya good and be on my way", indicating her lack of interest in "pillow talk". In another, she is confronted by a drug dealer, Carlos, then rescued by Edward when the limo driver Darryl gets his gun out.

Though inspired by such films as Wall Street and The Last Detail,[5] the film bears a resemblance to Pygmalion myths: particularly George Bernard Shaw's play of the same name, which also formed the basis for the Broadway musical My Fair Lady. It was Walt Disney Studios then-president Jeffrey Katzenberg who insisted the film be re-written as a modern-day fairy tale and love story, as opposed to the original dark drama. It was pitched to Touchstone Pictures and re-written as a romantic comedy.[6] The title 3000 was changed because Disney executives thought it sounded like a title for a science fiction film.[7]


Casting of the film was a rather lengthy process. Marshall had initially considered Christopher Reeve, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kevin Kline, and Denzel Washington for the role of Edward, and Albert Brooks,[8] Al Pacino and Burt Reynolds turned it down.[9] Pacino went as far as doing a casting reading with Roberts before rejecting the part.[10] Sam Neill, Tom Conti and Charles Grodin tested for the part along with Roberts.[11] Gere initially refused but when he met with Roberts, she persuaded him and he eventually agreed to play Lewis.[12] He reportedly 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?"[13] Julia Roberts was not the first choice for the role of Vivian, and was not wanted by Disney. Many other actresses were considered. Marshall originally envisioned Karen Allen for the role; when she declined, auditions went to many better-known actresses of the time including Molly Ringwald,[14] who turned it down because she felt uncomfortable playing a prostitute.[citation needed] Winona Ryder auditioned, but was turned down because Marshall felt she was "too young". Jennifer Connelly was also dismissed for the same reason.[4] Emily Lloyd turned it down as it conflicted with her shooting for the film Mermaids.[15] Drew Barrymore, Brooke Shields, Uma Thurman, and Kristin Davis auditioned for the role of Vivan.[16]

Meg Ryan, who was a top choice of Marshall's, turned it down as well. According to a note written by Marshall, Mary Steenburgen was also among the first choices. Diane Lane came very close to being cast (the script was much darker at the time); they had gone as far as costume fittings, but due to scheduling conflicts she could not accept. Michelle Pfeiffer turned the role down, saying she did not like the script's "tone."[17] Daryl Hannah was also considered, but believed the role was "degrading to women".[17] Valeria Golino declined, doubting it would work with her thick Italian accent.[citation needed] And Jennifer Jason Leigh had auditioned.[18] Lea Thompson unsuccessfully auditioned for the role as she thought the film was a drama.[19] When all the other actresses turned down the role, 21-year-old Julia Roberts, a relative unknown, with only the sleeper hit Mystic Pizza (1988) and the yet-to-be-released Steel Magnolias (1989), for which she would be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, won the role of Vivian. Her performance made her a star. J.F. Lawton, writer of the original screenplay, has suggested that the film was ultimately given a happy ending because of the chemistry of Gere and Roberts.[5]

Veteran actor Ralph Bellamy, who plays James Morse, appears in his final acting performance before his death in 1991. Jason Alexander, who had also recently been cast for his role as the bumbling George Costanza in Seinfeld, was cast as Philip Stuckey. A VHS copy of Pretty Woman would appear in Seinfeld's apartment in later seasons of Seinfeld as a homage to Alexander's participation in the film.


The film's budget was substantial, at $14 million, so producers could shoot in many locations.[4] Most filming took place in Los Angeles, California, specifically in Beverly Hills, and inside soundstages at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. The escargot restaurant the "Voltaire" was shot at the restaurant "Rex," now called "Cicada". Scenes set in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel lobby were shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Filming commenced on July 24, 1989, but was immediately plagued by problems. These included Ferrari and Porsche declining the product placement opportunity for the car Edward drove, neither firm wishing to be associated with prostitutes.[4] Lotus Cars saw the placement value, and supplied a Silver 1989.5 Esprit SE (which was later sold).[20]

Shooting was a generally pleasant, easy-going experience, as the budget was broad and the shooting schedule was not tight.[4] While shooting the scene where Vivian is lying down on the floor of Edward's penthouse, watching reruns of I Love Lucy, Garry Marshall had to tickle Roberts' feet (out of camera range) to get her to laugh.[21] The scene in which Gere playfully snaps the lid of a jewelry case on her fingers was improvised, and her surprised laugh was genuine. The red dress Vivian wears to the opera has been listed among the most unforgettable dresses of all time.[22]

During the scene in which Roberts sang to a Prince song in the bathtub, slid down and submerged her head under the bubbles; she emerged to find the crew had left except for the cameraman, who captured the moment on film. In the love scene, she was so stressed that a vein became noticeable on her forehead and had to be massaged by Marshall and Gere. She also developed a case of hives, and calamine lotion was used to soothe her skin until filming resumed.[4] The filming was completed on November 30.[23]

Shelley Michelle acted as body double for Roberts in risqué scenes and the film poster.[24]


Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film was at number one at the box office, grossing $11,280,591 and averaging $8,513 per theater.[25] Despite dropping to number two in its second weekend, it grossed more with $12,471,670.[25] It was number one at the box office for four non-consecutive weeks, and in the Top 10 for 16 weeks.[25] It has grossed $178,406,268 in the United States and $285,000,000 in other countries for a total worldwide gross of $463,406,268.[3] It was the fourth highest-grossing film of the year in the United States[26] and the third highest-grossing worldwide.[27] The film was Disney's highest-grossing film ever and remains Disney's highest-grossing R-rated release.[28][29]

Critical response [edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 64% based on 69 reviews, with an average rating of 6.00/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Pretty Woman may be a yuppie fantasy, but the film's slick comedy, soundtrack, and casting can overcome misgivings."[30] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 51 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[31] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[32]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D, saying it "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 it "pretends to be about how love transcends money," but "is really obsessed with status symbols."[33] On its twentieth anniversary, Gleiberman wrote another article, saying that while he felt he was right, he would have given it a B today.[34] Carina Chocano of The New York Times said the movie "wasn't a love story, it was a money story. Its logic depended on a disconnect between character and narrative, between image and meaning, between money and value, and that made it not cluelessly traditional but thoroughly postmodern."[35]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[36] Best Actress Julia Roberts Nominated
BMI Film & TV Awards Film Music Award James Newton Howard Won
Most Performed Song from a Film "It Must Have Been Love" – Per Gessle Won
British Academy Film Awards[37] Best Film Arnon Milchan, Steven Reuther and Garry Marshall Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Julia Roberts Nominated
Best Screenplay – Original J. F. Lawton Nominated
Best Costume Design Marilyn Vance Nominated
César Awards Best Foreign Film Garry Marshall Nominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Julia Roberts Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[38] Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Richard Gere Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Julia Roberts Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Hector Elizondo Nominated
Golden Screen Awards Won
Jupiter Awards Best International Actress Julia Roberts Won
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actress Won
People's Choice Awards Favorite Comedy Motion Picture Won
Writers Guild of America Awards[39] Best Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen J.F. Lawton Nominated


The soundtrack features the song "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, which inspired its title. Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love", originally released in December 1987, reached No. 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 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 triple platinum by the RIAA.[40]

The opera featured in the film is La Traviata, which also served as inspiration for its plot. The highly dramatic aria fragment that is repeated is the end of "Dammi tu forza!" ("Give me strength!"), from the opera. Roberts sings the song "Kiss" by Prince while she is in the tub and Gere's character is on the phone. Background music is composed by James Newton Howard. The piano piece Gere's character plays in the hotel lobby was actually composed and performed by him. Entitled "He Sleeps/Love Theme", this piano composition is inspired by Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Street".


Pretty Woman
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedMarch 13, 1990
Recorded1964, 1981, 1988–1989
ProducerVarious artists
Singles from Pretty Woman
  1. "Show Me Your Soul"
    Released: February 14, 1990
  2. "Wild Women Do"
    Released: 1990
  3. "King of Wishful Thinking"
    Released: 1990
  4. "It Must Have Been Love"
    Released: May 20, 1990
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars link

The soundtrack was released on March 13, 1990, by EMI.[41][42]

1."Wild Women Do" (performed by Natalie Cole)4:06
2."Fame '90" (performed by David Bowie)3:36
3."King of Wishful Thinking" (performed by Go West)4:00
4."Tangled" (performed by Jane Wiedlin)4:18
5."It Must Have Been Love" (performed by Roxette)4:17
6."Life in Detail" (performed by Robert Palmer)4:07
7."No Explanation" (performed by Peter Cetera)4:19
8."Real Wild Child (Wild One)" (performed by Christopher Otcasek)3:39
9."Fallen" (performed by Lauren Wood)3:59
10."Oh, Pretty Woman" (written and performed by Roy Orbison)2:55
11."Show Me Your Soul" (performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers)4:20
Total length:43:36

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[43] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[44] 2× Platinum 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[45] 5× Platinum 500,000^
France (SNEP)[46] Gold 100,000*
Germany (BVMI)[47] Platinum 500,000^
Ireland (IRMA)[48]
Special Edition
Gold 7,500^
Japan (RIAJ)[49] Gold 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[50] Gold 7,500^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[51] 3× Platinum 300,000^
Sweden (GLF)[52] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[53] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[54] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[55] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^
Worldwide 7,000,000[56]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Musical adaptation[edit]

A stage musical adaptation of the film opened on Broadway on July 20, 2018, in previews, officially on August 16 at the Nederlander Theatre.[57] This follows an out-of-town tryout at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, which will run from March 13 to April 15, 2018. The musical has music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance; the late Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton wrote the book; and Jerry Mitchell is the director and choreographer.[58] The Chicago and Broadway casts featured Samantha Barks, in her Broadway debut as Vivian and Steve Kazee as Edward. Barks finished her run as Vivian on 21 July 2019 and was replaced by Jillian Mueller the following evening, with Brennin Hunt, of ‘Rent’ fame, assuming the role of Edward.[58] Orfeh portrayed Kit, and Jason Danieley played Philip Stuckey. Eric Anderson portrayed the role of Mr. Thompson and Kingsley Leggs played the role of James Morse.[57]


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External links[edit]