Pretty Woman

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Pretty Woman
A man in a suit stands back to back with a woman wearing a short skirt and thigh high boots.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGarry Marshall
Produced byArnon Milchan
Steven Reuther
Gary W. Goldstein
Written byJ. F. Lawton
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyCharles Minsky
Edited byRaja Gosnell
Priscilla Nedd
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
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 Hector 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 sex worker Vivian Ward, who is hired by Edward Lewis, a wealthy businessman, to be his escort for several business and social functions, and their developing relationship over the course of her week-long stay with him.

Originally intended to be a dark cautionary tale about class and sex work in Los Angeles, the film was reconceived 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, although Roberts's performance received praised, for which she received a Golden Globe Award and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. In addition, screenwriter J. F. Lawton was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and a BAFTA Award.


High-powered businessman Edward Lewis is dumped by his girlfriend during an unpleasant phone call wherein he asked her to escort him during his business trip and she has finally had enough of being treated solely as his "beck and call girl." Edward is a corporate raider from New York, who buys companies that are in financial trouble and tears down the company piece by piece. Leaving a business party in the Hollywood Hills, he takes his lawyer's Lotus Esprit sports car, and accidentally ends up on Hollywood Boulevard in the city's red-light district, where he encounters prostitute Vivian Ward. As he is having difficulties driving the car, she gets in and guides him to the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where he is staying. It becomes clear that Vivian knows more about the Lotus than he does, and he lets her drive. Vivian charges Lewis $20 for the ride, and they separate. She goes to a bus stop, where he finds her and offers to hire her for the night; the next day, he asks Vivian to play the role his girlfriend has refused, offering her $3,000 to stay with him for the next six days as well as paying for a new, more acceptable wardrobe for her. That evening going to business dinner, he gets visibly moved by her transformation brought about by the helping manager of the hotel. Edward begins seeing Vivian in a different light. He begins to open up to her, revealing his personal and business lives.

Edward takes Vivian to a polo match in hopes of networking for his business deal. His attorney, Phillip, suspects Vivian is a corporate spy, and Edward tells him how they truly met. Phillip later approaches Vivian, suggesting they do business once her work with Edward is finished. Insulted, and furious that Edward has revealed their secret, Vivian wants to end the arrangement. Edward apologizes, and admits to feeling jealous of a business associate (she had met him at previous night dinner) to whom Vivian paid attention at the match. Vivian's straightforward personality is rubbing off on Edward, and he finds himself acting in unaccustomed ways. Clearly growing involved, Edward takes Vivian by private jet to see La Traviata at the San Francisco Opera. Vivian is moved to tears by the story of the prostitute who falls in love with a rich man. Vivian breaks her "no kissing on the mouth" rule (which her friend Kit taught her) and they have sex; in the afterglow believing Edward is asleep, Vivian admits she loves him, and as she drifts off, Edward opens his eyes. Edward offers to put her up in an apartment so she can be off the streets. Hurt, she refuses, says this is not the "fairy tale" she dreamed of as a child, in which a knight on a white horse rescues her.

Meeting with the tycoon whose shipbuilding company he is in the process of "raiding," Edward changes his mind. His time with Vivian has shown him a different way of looking at life, and he suggests working together to save the company rather than tearing it apart and selling off the pieces. Phillip, furious at losing so much money, goes to the hotel to confront Edward, but finds only Vivian. Blaming her for the change in Edward, he attempts to rape her. Edward arrives, wrestles Philip off her, punches him in the face and throws him out of the room.

With his business in L.A. complete, Edward asks Vivian to stay one more night with him, but because he wants to, not because he's paying her. She refuses. Edward re-thinks his life, and as he's leaving for LAX to return to New York, he instead has the hotel chauffeur detour to Vivian's apartment building, where he leaps from out the white limousine's sun roof and "rescues her," overcoming his extreme fear of heights to ascend her fire escape. Edward asks, "So what happens after he climbed up the tower and rescues her?" to which Vivian responds, "She rescues him right back."




The film was initially conceived as a dark drama about sex work 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 sex-worker 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 drug dealers, then rescued by Edward.

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]

The film is one of two movies that triggered a resurgence of romantic comedy in Hollywood, the other being When Harry Met Sally. Following this film's success, Roberts became the romantic comedy queen of the 1990s.


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 Al Pacino and Burt Reynolds turned it down.[8] Pacino went as far as doing a casting reading with Roberts before rejecting the part.[9] Gere initially refused but when he met with Roberts, she persuaded him and he eventually agreed to play Lewis.[10] 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?"[11] 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,[12] who turned it down because she felt uncomfortable playing a sex worker.[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.[13]

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."[14] Daryl Hannah was also considered, but believed the role was "degrading to women".[14] Valeria Golino declined, doubting it would work with her thick Italian accent.[citation needed] And Jennifer Jason Leigh had auditioned.[15] 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) to her credit, 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.


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 sex workers.[4] Lotus Cars saw the placement value, and supplied a Silver 1989.5 Esprit SE (which was later sold).[16]

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. 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.[17]

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 become 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 October 18.


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.[18] Despite dropping to number two in its second weekend, it grossed more with $12,471,670.[18] It was number one at the box office for four non-consecutive weeks, and in the Top 10 for 16 weeks.[18] 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.[19] It was also the fourth highest-grossing film of the year in the United States[20] and the third highest-grossing worldwide.[21] The film remains Disney's highest-grossing R-rated release ever.[22]

Critical response [edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 62% based on 67 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. 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."[23] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 51 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[24] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[25]

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."[26] On its twentieth anniversary, Gleiberman wrote another article, saying that while he felt he was right, he would have given it a B today.[27] 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."[28]



It ranks on #21 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions.


The film is noted for its musical selections. The hugely successful soundtrack features the song "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, which inspired its title. Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" 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.[29]

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. The piano piece Gere's character plays in the hotel lobby was actually composed by and performed by him. 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. Entitled "He Sleeps/Love Theme", this piano composition is inspired by Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Street".


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

The soundtrack was released on March 13, 1990 by EMI.[30][31]

Track listing[edit]

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" (performed by Roy Orbison)2:55
11."Show Me Your Soul" (performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers)4:20
Total length:43:36


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Austria (IFPI Austria)[32] 2× Platinum 100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[33] 5× Platinum 500,000^
Germany (BVMI)[34] Platinum 500,000^
Sweden (GLF)[35] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[36] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[38] 3× Platinum 3,000,000^

*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.[39] 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.[40] The Chicago and Broadway casts will feature Samantha Barks, in her Broadway debut as Vivian and Steve Kazee as Edward.[40] Orfeh will portray Kit, and Jason Danieley will play Philip Stuckey. Eric Anderson will portray the role of Mr. Thompson and Kingsley Leggs will play the role of James Morse.[39]


  1. ^ "Pretty Woman". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  2. ^ Prince, Rosa (March 21, 2012). "Richard Gere: Pretty Woman a 'Silly Romantic Comedy'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  3. ^ "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved July 12, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Pretty Woman: 15th anniversary (DVD). Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Touchstone. 2005.
  5. ^ a b c Kate Erbland, "The True Story of Pretty Woman’s Original Dark Ending, Vanity Fair, March 23, 2015. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
  6. ^ Hilary Lewis (August 26, 2016). "8 Movies With Major Title Changes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  7. ^ Stewart, James B. (2005). DisneyWar. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-7432-6709-0.
  8. ^ "'Pretty Woman' Casting Information and Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved May 17, 2007.[unreliable source?]
  9. ^ Pacino, Al (June 15, 2007). ""Al Pacino Interview"". Larry King Live (Interview). Interviewed by Larry King. CNN.
  10. ^ TODAY (March 24, 2015). "'Pretty Woman' Cast Reunites 25 Years Later – TODAY" – via YouTube.
  11. ^ Tiffin, George (2015). A Star is Born: The Moment an Actress becomes an Icon. Head of Zeus. p. 493. ISBN 978-1-78185-936-0.
  12. ^ Corcoran, Monica (June 28, 2008). "Molly Ringwald: Pretty in Pucci". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  13. ^ Arnold, Ben (July 27, 2016). "Emily Lloyd: The Unluckiest Actress In Hollywood History?". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Darly Hannah Pleased to Decline Pretty Woman".
  15. ^ Kachka, Boris (December 4, 2005). "Lone Star: Jennifer Jason Leigh Plays an Extroverted Striver in Abigail's Party, Now, that's a stretch". New York Magazine: 2.
  16. ^ "LOTUS ESPRIT SE PRETTY WOMAN MOVIE CAR". Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  17. ^ Dumas, Daisy (December 6, 2011). "From Pretty Woman and Atonement to The Seven Year Itch, the Most Unforgettable Dresses of All Time". Daily Mail. London.
  18. ^ a b c "Pretty Woman (1990)—Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  19. ^ "Pretty Woman (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  20. ^ "1990 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  21. ^ "1990 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  22. ^ "DOMESTIC GROSSES BY MPAA RATING". Retrieved July 4, 2016.
  23. ^ "Pretty Woman". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  24. ^ "Pretty Woman Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  25. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Pretty Woman" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  26. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (March 23, 1990). "Pretty Woman". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 29, 2009.
  27. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "'Pretty Woman': 20 Years after My Most Infamous Review (Yes, I gave it a D), Here's My Mea Culpa—and Also My Defense". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 15, 2011.
  28. ^ Chocano, Carina (April 11, 2011). "Thelma, Louise and All the Pretty Women". The New York Times.
  29. ^ "Pretty Woman's Soundtrack RIAA Multi Platinum Award". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
  30. ^ "Pretty Woman Original Soundtrack". Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  31. ^ "Pretty Woman Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  32. ^ "Austrian album certifications – Various – Pretty woman" (in German). IFPI Austria. Enter Various in the field Interpret. Enter Pretty woman in the field Titel. Select album in the field Format. Click Suchen. 
  33. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Various – Pretty woman". Music Canada.
  34. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Various; 'Pretty woman')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie.
  35. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden.
  36. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Various; 'Pretty woman')". IFPI Switzerland. Hung Medien.
  37. ^ "British album certifications – Various – Pretty woman". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Pretty woman in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  38. ^ "American album certifications – Various – Pretty woman". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  39. ^ a b Clement, Olivia. " 'Pretty Woman' Musical Finds Its Broadway Home, Sets Summer 2018 Opening" Playbill, November 22, 2017
  40. ^ a b McPhee, Ryan. "Jason Danieley Joins Broadway-Bound 'Pretty Woman' Musical" Playbill, October 6, 2017

External links[edit]