25 Things You Didn’t Know About “Pretty Woman”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the movie Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts, Julia Roberts’ hair, and Richard Gere. (Now don’t you feel old?) The big celebration, with the cast reuniting for the first time in twenty-five years on the Today Show, happened last week. But we were out of town last week, so we’re going to join the party late, because Pretty Woman is one of Em’s favorite movies of all time. Right up there with Grease, Sound of Music, and Airplane. Somehow, director Gary Marshall managed to turn a movie about a street-walking prostitute into a much loved family classic. The original script, however, probably wouldn’t have been the kind of film Em and her family would have sat down to, hundreds of times, with a pot of tea. Read on to find out why… plus 24 other things you probably didn’t know about the 1990 film Pretty Woman.

1. The original Pretty Woman script was way darker. In the original script, Julia Roberts’ character Vivian is addicted to cocaine, and agrees to give the drug up for a week so she can earn enough money to take her friend Kit to Disneyland. And in the movie’s original ending, Richard Gere’s character, Edward, throws Vivian out of the car, and, yes, she takes a bus to Disneyland. Not quite the “Disney” ending of the final version!

2. The final version had Vivian’s roommate Kit saddled with the drug habit and the questionable life choices instead.

3. In the version of Pretty Woman we all know and most of us love, Edward breaks into the bathroom to find Vivian flossing her teeth, rather than doing drugs, as he’d suspected. In the original — and far more realistic! — script, he was right: she was doing drugs.

4. One of the main reasons that the movie got its fairytale ending was the immediate chemistry between co-stars Gere and Roberts. The filmmakers knew audiences would storm the screen if Vivian and Edward didn’t end up together. The other reason is that director Gary Marshall doesn’t do dark endings.

5. But don’t feel bad for the screenwriter, J.F. Lawton. He claims he was just trying something different with his Pretty Woman script, and that he likes a happy ending as much as the next guy. Screenwriting can be tricky at times because, when you make it in the entertainment industry, you may find that you will have to compromise on some aspects of your work – having a good grounding in writing practices from an instructor like Roger Wolfson, who has extensive experience in the industry, may be a good place to start to prepare for this and when looking to pursue a career in screenwriting.

6. Pretty much every actress currently in her forties or fifties is rumored to have either auditioned for the role of Vivian and been rejected, or offered the role and passed it up — and later regretted the decision, of course. (As Vivian says to the snooty shop assistant: “Big mistake. Huge.”) Actresses who allegedly turned down the role include Megan Ryan, Kim Basinger, Melanie Griffith, Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Heather Locklear, Diane Lane, Molly Ringwald, Sandra Bullock, Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Connolly, and Kristin Davis. And rumor has it that both Drew Barrymore and Winona Ryder wanted the part, but director Gary Marshall thought they were too young.

7. Speaking of that scene with the snooty shop assistant: that was in the original script!

8. Actors who (allegedly) almost played Edward include Burt Reynolds, Albert Brooks, Al Pacino, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

9. In the poster for the movie, Julia Roberts’ head was superimposed on the body of famous body double Shelley Michelle (see above).

10. There was no body double for Richard Gere on the poster, but they did turn his hair brown for the poster! In the movie, on the other hand, it’s completely grey.

11. According to the IMDB Parents’ Guide for this movie, “The main character and a supporting character are prostitutes, and both sex and sexuality are repeatedly depicted as well as discussed (though not “coarsely”). The protagonists are sensually involved throughout the movie.” Which is pretty much the reason this movie was a huge hit and a family favorite in TV dens across the world: lots of “sensual involvement” and no “coarse” sex. It’s also the reason many people think the movie’s depiction of prostitution is unrealistic. (Duh. It’s a Disney movie!)

12. The IMDB Guide also offers this helpful heads up: “A woman wears a pair of fetish latex boots for most of the film.”

13. The famous scene where Edward gives Vivian a diamond necklace, and snaps the case shut on her hand, wasn’t in the script. They were filming the day after Roberts’ 21st birthday, and Gere and director Marshall planned it as a surprise for the (probably hungover) birthday girl. Roberts’ reaction (huge laughter) is genuine, and the filmmakers liked it so much, they kept it in.

14. That necklace is genuine, too, by the way: it was worth $250,000. During filming of those scenes, an armed security officer from the jewelry store stood behind the director.

15. Producer Laura Ziskin contributed the final line of the last scene: “She rescues him right back.” When they’d filmed the earlier scene, where Vivian says, “I want the fairy tale,” this closing line hadn’t yet been written.

16. Pretty Woman was originally titled $3,000, i.e. the amount Vivian was paid for the week.

17. Continuity oops: When Vivian is offering Edward a choice of condoms, she is holding four colored condoms (plus the gold circle condom). In one shot, Vivian holds the condoms in a certain order. In the next shot, they are in a different order, and then in the third shot, they are back in the original order. Given the number of times super-fans have watched this movie, the level of detail here shouldn’t be surprising.

18. You may recall that in that condom scene, she’s sitting on a desk (on a fax machine, actually). Vivian rarely sits down on a chair in the movie. The filmmakers wanted to show that, because of her profession, Vivian felt more comfortable sitting on the floor or on top of furniture.

19. In the famous piano scene, Richard Gere is actually playing the piano. He also composed the piece of music that he plays.

20. Later in that scene, Vivian and Edward get busy on the piano, hitting all sorts of random piano keys with flailing limbs. According to the DVD director’s commentary, the piano sounds you hear during that sex scene were dubbed in afterwards, because the actual keys the two of them randomly hit made such a discordant sound that it was unusable.

21. Porsche declined the opportunity for product placement in this movie, because they did not want to be associated with soliciting prostitutes. Lotus Cars UK said yes to being the car that Gere drives to pick up Roberts, and their sales tripled in the year after the movie came out. We’ll say it again: Big mistake. Huge.

22. In the restaurant scene when Vivian accidentally catapaults a snail across the room, the waiter says, “It happens all the time.” Many years later, director Gary Marshall cast the same actor in The Princess Diaries and gave him the same line.

23. Here’s another ridiculously detailed report of a continuity error: The pancake Vivian is eating during breakfast is, for most of the scene, a croissant. Then the croissant magically becomes a pancake. In the first scene with the pancake, she takes a second bite. In the next scene with the pancake in her hand, there is only one bite missing. Also, the pancake with one bite missing has a different bite pattern and is clearly a different pancake. Yes, people really do notice this stuff!

24. During a sex scene, Roberts got so nervous that a visible vein popped in her forehead. Director Marshall got into bed with Roberts and Gere and the two guys massaged her forehead until the vein disappeared. Roberts allegedly also broke into hives during this scene, and was given calamine lotion to calm them.

25. In the establishing shots of the city, at the start of the movie, some of the neon letters in the hotel where Vivian lives are burned out. The only remaining lighted letters spell “HO.” Stay classy, Hollywood!


One Comment

  1. Lo here: Em, I think your family may be the only one that considers “Pretty Woman” a “family movie.”

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