Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Garry Marshall|
|Produced by||Arnon Milchan
Gary W. Goldstein
|Written by||J. F. Lawton|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Raja Gosnell
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|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. Its story centers on down-on-her-luck Hollywood hooker 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 became one of the highest-grossing films of 1990. The film saw the highest number of ticket sales in the US ever for a romantic comedy, with Box Office Mojo listing it as the #1 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. The film received positive reviews, with Roberts's performance being 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.
Edward Lewis, a successful corporate raider in Los Angeles on business, accidentally ends up on Hollywood Boulevard in the city's red-light district, after breaking up with his girlfriend during an unpleasant phone call in which he appears highly controlling; he asks her to escort him during his trip, but she is offended that he treats her as his 'beck and call girl'. Leaving a party, he takes his lawyer's Lotus Esprit luxury car, and encounters a prostitute, Vivian Ward. He stops for her, having difficulties driving the car, and asks for directions to Beverly Hills. He asks her to get in and guide him to the Beverly Hills Regent 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; later, he asks Vivian to play the role his girlfriend has refused, offering her $3000 to stay with him for the next six days as well as paying for a new, more acceptable wardrobe for her. That evening, visibly moved by her transformation, 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 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 in his private jet to see La Traviata in San Francisco. Vivian is moved to tears by the story of the prostitute who falls in love with a rich man; after the opera, they appear to have fallen in love. Vivian breaks her "no kissing on the mouth" rule (which her friend Kit taught her), and he 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, punches him in the face, and throws him out.
With his business in L.A. complete, Edward asks Vivian to stay one more night with him -- because she wants to, not because he's paying her. She refuses. On his way to the airport, Edward re-thinks his life and has the hotel chauffeur detour to Vivian's apartment building, where he leaps from out the white limo's sun roof and "rescues her," an urban visual metaphor for the knight on a white horse of her dreams.
- Richard Gere as Edward Lewis, a rich corporate raider and womanizer from New York.
- Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward, an assertive freelance hooker with a heart of gold on Hollywood Boulevard.
- Ralph Bellamy as James Morse, owner of a troubled shipbuilding company Edward plans to take over. (This was Bellamy's final acting performance, in a career that lasted nearly six decades.)
- Jason Alexander as Phillip Stuckey, Edward's insensitive lawyer. (Alexander is best known for the sitcom Seinfeld, in which a VHS copy of Pretty Woman appears in Seinfeld's apartment.)
- Héctor Elizondo as Barney Thompson, the dignified but soft-hearted hotel manager.
- Laura San Giacomo as Kit De Luca, Vivian's wisecracking friend and roommate, who has taught her the prostitution trade.
- Alex Hyde-White as David Morse, James Morse's grandson, who is being groomed to take over the company.
- Amy Yasbeck as Elizabeth Stuckey, Phillip's wife.
- Elinor Donahue as Bridget, a friend of Barney Thompson who works in a women's clothing store.
- John David Carson as Mark Roth, a businessman in Edward's office.
- Judith Baldwin as Susan, one of Edward's ex-girlfriends.
- Laurelle Brooks Mehus as the hotel's night desk clerk.
- James Patrick Stuart as the day bellhop.
- Dey Young as a snobbish saleswoman in a dress store.
- Larry Miller as Mr. Hollister, the manager of a clothing store where Vivian buys her new wardrobe.
- Patrick Richwood as Dennis, the hotel elevator operator.
- Hank Azaria in his first speaking role, as a detective.
The film was initially conceived as a dark drama about sex work in Los Angeles in the 1980s. 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 ended with Vivian and her sex-worker friend on the bus to Disneyland. 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. In one, Vivian tells Edward, "I could just pop ya good and be on my way", indicating her disinterest in "pillow talk". In another, she is confronted by drug dealers, then rescued by Edward.
The film bears striking resemblances 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. The original script was titled $3,000, in reference to the amount Edward pays for a week's company from Vivian. However, this title was changed because Disney executives thought it sounded like a title for a science fiction film. The script also has unconfirmed references to That Touch of Mink, starring Doris Day and Cary Grant.
The film is one of two movies that triggered a resurgence of romantic comedy in Hollywood, the other being When Harry Met Sally. After the 1960s Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedies, the genre had fallen out of favor. 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, and Denzel Washington for the role of Edward, and Al Pacino turned it down. Pacino went as far as doing a casting reading with Roberts before rejecting the part. Gere agreed to the project, and 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?" 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, who turned it down because she felt uncomfortable playing a sex worker. Winona Ryder auditioned, but was turned down because Marshall felt she was "too young". Jennifer Connelly was also dismissed for the same reason.
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." Daryl Hannah was also considered, but believed the role was "degrading to women". Valeria Golino declined, doubting it would work with her thick Italian accent. And Jennifer Jason Leigh had auditioned. 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.
The film's budget was substantial, at $14 million, so producers could shoot in many locations. 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. Lotus Cars saw the placement value, and supplied a Silver 1989.5 Esprit SE (which was later sold).
Shooting was a generally pleasant, easy-going experience, as the budget was broad and the shooting schedule was not tight. 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.
During the scene in which Roberts sings along to Prince in the bathtub, sliding down and dunking her head under the bubbles, she came up and opened her eyes to find everyone gone except the cameraman, who got the shot. And in the love scene, she got so nervous that a vein visibly popped out 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 clear them until shooting could resume. The filming was completed on October 18.
In its opening weekend, the film was at number one at the box office, grossing $11,280,591 and averaging $8,513 per theater. Despite dropping to number two in its second weekend, it grossed more with $12,471,670. It was number one at the box office for four non-consecutive weeks, and in the Top 10 for 16 weeks. 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. It was also the fourth highest-grossing film of the year in the United States and the third highest-grossing worldwide. The film remains Disney's highest-grossing R-rated release ever.
Critical response 
The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 62% of 55 film critics have given it a positive review, with a rating average of 5.7 out of 10. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives it a score of 51 based on 17 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
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." On its twentieth anniversary, Gleiberman wrote another article, saying that while he felt he was right, he would have given it a B today. 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."
- 16th César Awards
- Best Foreign Film
- 63rd Academy Awards
- Best Actress – Julia Roberts
- 48th Golden Globe Awards
- Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay – J. F. Lawton
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 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 triple platinum by the RIAA.
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".
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||March 13, 1990|
|Singles from Pretty Woman|
|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|
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- 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.
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