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This article is about the film. For the song sometimes known as "Pretty Woman", see Oh, Pretty Woman. For the song in the musical Sweeney Todd, see Pretty Women.
Not to be confused with Pretty Lady (disambiguation).
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 by Garry Marshall
Produced by Arnon Milchan
Steven Reuther
Gary W. Goldstein
Written by J. F. Lawton
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Charles Minsky
Edited by Raja Gosnell
Priscilla Nedd
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • March 23, 1990 (1990-03-23)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $14 million
Box office $463.4 million

Pretty Woman is a 1990 American romantic comedy film set in Los Angeles. Written by J. F. Lawton and directed by Garry Marshall, it 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 is one of the most popular films of all time; it saw the highest number of ticket sales in the US ever for a romantic comedy,[1] 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.[2]

The film received mixed 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. It was followed by a string of similar romantic comedies, including Runaway Bride (1999), which reunited Gere and Roberts, again under the direction of Garry Marshall.


Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), a successful workaholic businessman and corporate raider in Los Angeles on business, accidentally takes a detour on Hollywood Boulevard while looking for Beverly Hills. He unsuccessfully tries to ask for directions and ends up in the red-light district, where he encounters a sex-worker named Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), who mistakes him for a possible client. Her roommate and best friend, Kit De Luca (Laura San Giacomo), encourages her to recruit him, though he only wants directions and makes a deal with her to pay her if she shows him the way. Intrigued by her knowledge and wit he hires her to spend the night with him for $300 in his hotel's penthouse apartment, treating her to strawberries and champagne and sharing personal information with her. He comes to trust her as she "surprises" him by flossing her teeth after eating the strawberries (and not doing drugs as he thought she was more likely to do given her profession). They spend the night watching I Love Lucy reruns and having sex.

The morning after, Edward hires Vivian to stay with him for a week as an escort for social events. She advises him that it will cost him, and he agrees to pay her $3,000 and gives her money and access to his credit cards to buy suitable elegant clothing. She then goes shopping on Rodeo Drive, only to be snubbed by saleswomen who disdain her because of her unsophisticated and overly sexual appearance. Initially, hotel manager Barney Thompson (Hector Elizondo) is also somewhat hostile towards her but slowly relents and instead helps her find a dress and even coaches her on dinner etiquette. Edward returns and is visibly amazed by her transformation. The business dinner does not end well, however, with Edward making clear his intention to dismantle James Morse's corporation once it was bought, close down the shipyard which Morse had spent 40 years building, and sell the land for real estate. Morse and his grandson, David, abandon their dinner in anger, while Edward remains preoccupied with the deal afterward. Back at the hotel, he reveals to Vivian that he had not spoken to his recently deceased father for 14½ years. She attempts to cheer him up but he rebuffs her and leaves. Later that night, lonesome and worried, she goes looking for him. She tries again to console him and they end up having sex on the grand piano in the hotel lounge.

The next morning Edward asks Vivian about her buying only one dress and she, upset, tells him about the snubbing that took place the day before. He takes her to a store where he makes sure that the staff will indulge her. He leaves her with money and his credit cards and she goes on a shopping spree. Now wearing very elegant clothes Vivian returns carrying all the bags, to the shop that had snubbed her, telling the saleswomen they had made a big mistake and announcing nonchalantly that she "has to go shopping now", leaving them speechless.

The following day, Edward takes Vivian to a polo match he sponsors in hopes of networking for his business deal. She meets some of his snooty upperclass friends and tells him that she understands why he came looking for her. While she chats with David Morse, who is there playing polo, Phillip Stuckey, Edward's attorney begins to suspect that she is a spy. Edward reassures him by telling him how they met, and that she is in fact a sex worker, and Phillip (Jason Alexander) approaches her and offers to hire her once she is finished with Edward, insulting her. When they return to the hotel, she is furious with Edward for telling Phillip about her and plans to leave, but he apologizes, confessing his jealousy towards David and persuades her to see out the week. He, elated, leaves work early the next day to take her on a date to the opera in San Francisco in his private jet. Vivian is moved to tears by the opera (which is La traviata, whose plot deals with a rich man tragically falling in love with a courtesan). Clearly growing closer they later play chess and she convinces him to take the next day off.

They spend the next day entirely together talking and enjoying each other's company. During the night Vivian breaks her "no kissing on the mouth" rule and they end up making love for the very first time. Just before she falls asleep in his arms she admits that she's in love with him. Over breakfast the next day he offers to put her up in an apartment so she can be off the streets but she rejects it, insulted and says this is not the "fairy tale" she wants. Telling him a story of her childhood fantasy, he then goes off to work without resolving the situation. Kit, collecting money from her, comes to the hotel and realizes that she is in love with Edward. She reluctantly encourages Vivian to pursue a relationship with him.

In the meantime, Edward meets with Morse and is about to close the deal, but changes his mind at the last minute. His time with Vivian has shown him another way of living and working, taking time off and enjoying activities he never cared for. As a result, his strong interest towards his business is put aside. He decides that he would rather help Morse than take over his company. Morse still has his Navy contracts that could make his company a lot richer and Edward bluffed a little, the contracts were delayed not destroyed. With those Navy Contracts, Edward 10 million shares of the company he owns, they will build big ships together. That was Edward's dream: to build things, instead of tearing them down. Furious over the loss of so much money, Phillip goes to the hotel to confront Edward, but finds only Vivian. He blames her for changing Edward and tries to grope her. She bites his hand to make him stop and a furious Phillip slaps and tries to rape her. Edward arrives in time to stop him, hitting him while chastising him for his greed and then throws him out.

Edward tends to Vivian and tries to persuade her to stay with him because she wants to, not because he's paying her but she refuses once again and returns to the apartment she shared with Kit, preparing to leave for San Francisco to earn a GED. With his business trip done, Edward packs and gets ready to head back to New York. He pauses in the lobby and asks Barney to return the jewelry that Vivian wore on their date to the opera. He states that "it must be hard letting go of something so beautiful" and informs Edward that the limo's chauffeur drove Vivian home the day before. He gets into the car with the chauffeur but instead of going to the airport, he goes to her apartment arriving with music from La traviata. He climbs up the fire escape, despite his fear of heights, with a bouquet of roses clutched between his teeth to woo her. Edward, leaping from the white limo and then climbing the fire escape, is a visual urban metaphor for the knight on a white horse rescuing the princess from the tower, the childhood fantasy Vivian told him about. The film ends as they kiss passionately on the fire escape. They declare their love to each other.


  • Richard Gere as Edward Lewis, a rich, corporate raider and womanizer from New York who is alone on business for a week in Los Angeles. At the start of the film, he borrows a Lotus Esprit from his lawyer (Phillip) and, not being able to drive it well, winds up lost in the red-light district. While asking for directions back to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel he meets and later falls in love with a hooker named Vivian.
  • Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward, a beautiful hooker with a heart of gold on Hollywood Boulevard, who is independent and assertive—refusing to have a pimp and fiercely reserving the right to choose her customers and what she would do and not do when with them. She runs into Edward, a wealthy businessman, when he asks her for directions to Beverly Hills. Edward hires Vivian for the night and offers her $3,000 to spend the week as his escort to business social engagements. She later falls in love with Edward.
  • Ralph Bellamy as James Morse, a businessman and owner of an underperforming company that Edward is interested in buying and breaking up. Edward later has a change of heart and offers to partner with him for a Navy shipbuilding contract that would effectively make his company strong again. This was Bellamy's final acting performance in a career that lasted nearly six decades.
  • Jason Alexander as Phillip Stuckey, Edward's insensitive lawyer. He pesters Edward after he sees Vivian and David Morse getting along. After learning that Vivian is a sex worker, he propositions her (to her dismay). After a lucrative deal falls through because of Edward's feelings for her, he angrily tries to force himself on her but is stopped by Edward. The epitome of corporate greed, he represents what Edward might have become had he not met her and changed his outlook on life.
  • John David Carson as Mark Roth, a businessman in Edward's office.
  • Laura San Giacomo as Kit De Luca, Vivian's wisecracking friend and 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, James Morse's grandson, who is smart and is being groomed to take over the Morse Company when his grandfather either dies or retires. He plays polo and might have feelings toward Vivian as he shows her his horse during the game that she and Edward attend.
  • Amy Yasbeck as Elizabeth Stuckey, Phillip's wife, who likes to be the center of attention in everything. She is quite sarcastic to Vivian when they first meet at the polo game, although she does tell Edward that Vivian is sweet.
  • Elinor Donahue as Bridget, a friend of Barney Thompson who works in a women's clothing store and is asked by him to help Vivian purchase a dress after she has an encounter with two snobby women in another dress store.
  • Héctor Elizondo as Barney Thompson, the dignified but golden-hearted manager of the hotel. At first, he does not hide his disdain for Vivian, but he eventually befriends her, helps her buy a cocktail dress, and gives her lessons in table manners.
  • Judith Baldwin as Susan, one of Edward's ex-girlfriends, with whom Edward reunites at the beginning of the film. She has married and reveals to him that his secretary was one of her bridesmaids, inferring that Susan got to know the secretary more than she did Edward, from having to go through the secretary in her many attempts (usually unsuccessful) to reach him.
  • Laurelle Brooks Mehus as the night desk clerk. Among other scenes, she appeared in the opening hotel scene with Vivian and Edward.
  • James Patrick Stuart as the day bellhop who carries Vivian's new clothes for her after her shopping spree.
  • Dey Young as a snobby saleswoman in a dress store.
  • Larry Miller as Mr. Hollister, the salesman in the clothing store where Vivian buys her cocktail dress and many other outfits using Edward's credit card.
  • Patrick Ridgewood as Dennis the elevator operator.

The film also features Hank Azaria in his first speaking role, playing a detective early in the film.



The film was initially conceived to be a dark drama about sex work in Los Angeles in the 1980s.[3] The relationship between Vivian and Edward also originally harboured controversial themes, including the concept of having Vivian addicted to drugs; part of the deal was that she had to stay off cocaine for a week, because she needed the money to go to Disneyland. Edward eventually throws her out of his car and drives off. The film was scripted to end with Vivian and her sex worker friend on the bus to Disneyland.[3] 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 Kit. These deleted scenes have been found in public view, and some were included on the DVD released on the film's 15th anniversary.[3] 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 the Blue Banana, and rescued by Edward and Darryl.

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 should be re-written as a modern-day fairy tale with qualities of a love story, as opposed to being the dark drama it was originally developed as. It was pitched to Touchstone Pictures and re-written as a romantic comedy. The original script was titled $3,000,[4] however this title was changed because Disney executives thought it sounded like a title for a science fiction film.[5] It also has unconfirmed references to That Touch of Mink, starring Doris Day and Cary Grant.[citation needed]

The film is one of the two movies that triggered the resurrection of the romantic comedy genre in Hollywood, the other being When Harry Met Sally. After completion of the 1960s Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedies, the genre fell out of favor.[citation needed] Following its 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 Lewis, and Al Pacino turned it down.[6] Pacino went as far as doing a casting reading with Roberts before rejecting the part.[7] 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?"[8] Julia Roberts was not the first choice for the role of Vivian, and was not wanted by Disney. Many other actresses were considered at the time. Marshall originally envisioned Karen Allen for the role. When she declined, it went to many better-known actresses of the time including Molly Ringwald,[9] who turned it down because she felt uncomfortable with the content of the script, and did not like the idea of 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.[3]

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. Diane Lane came very close to being cast as Vivian (which had a much darker script at the time), but due to scheduling was unable to take the role. They had gone as far as costume fittings with Lane. Michelle Pfeiffer turned the role down as well, because she did not like the "tone" of the script.[10] Daryl Hannah was also considered, but turned the role down because she believed it was "degrading to women".[10] Valeria Golino also turned it down as she did not think the movie could work with her thick Italian accent.[citation needed] Jennifer Jason Leigh had auditioned for the part.[11] When all the other actresses turned down the role, 21-year-old Julia Roberts, who was relatively unknown at the time, with the exception of the sleeper hit Mystic Pizza (1988), and later her Oscar-nominated performance in Steel Magnolias (1989), won the role of Vivian. Her performance made her a star.


The film's budget was substantial, at $14 million, therefore producers could shoot in many locations.[3] 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". Filming of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel lobby was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Filming commenced on July 24, 1989, but was immediately plagued by countless problems, including issues with space and time. This included Ferrari and Porsche declining the product placement opportunity of the car Edward drove, because the manufacturers did not want to be associated with soliciting sex workers.[3] Lotus Cars saw the placement value with such a major feature film. This company supplied a Silver 1989.5 Esprit SE (which was later sold).

Shooting was a generally pleasurable and easy-going experience for those involved, as the film's budget was broad and the shooting schedule was not tight.[3] While shooting the scene where Vivian is lying down on the floor of Edward's penthouse, watching reruns of I Love Lucy, in order to achieve genuine laughter, Garry Marshall had to tickle her feet (out of camera range) to get her to laugh so hysterically, which is featured in the film. Likewise the scene in which Gere playfully snaps the lid of a jewelry case on her fingers was improvised by him, and her surprised laugh was genuine, while the dress worn by her in that scene has been included in a list of the most unforgettable dresses of all time.[12]

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 and saw that everyone had left except the cameraman, who got the shot. In addition, during the love-making scene between her and Gere, she got so nervous that a vein visibly popped out on her forehead. She also developed a case of hives, and calamine lotion was used to clear them until shooting could resume.[3] The filming was completed on October 18.


Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film was at #1 at the box office, grossing $11,280,591 and averaging $8,513 per theater.[13] Despite it dropping to number two in its second weekend, it grossed more in its second weekend, $12,471,670.[13] It was number one at the box office for four non-consecutive weeks and in the top ten for sixteen weeks.[13] 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.[14] It was also the fourth highest-grossing film of the year in the United States[15] and the third highest-grossing worldwide.[16]

Critical response [edit]

The film received mixed 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.[17] 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.[18]

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."[19] On its twentieth anniversary, Gleiberman wrote another article explaining his review, ultimately saying that although he felt he was right, he would have given it a B today.[20] Carina Chocano of The New York Times said that 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."[21]




The film is noted for its musical selections and hugely successful soundtrack. The film 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 three times platinum by the RIAA.[22]

The opera featured in the film is La Traviata, which also served as inspiration for the plot of the movie. The highly dramatic aria fragment that is repeated is from the end of "Dammi tu forza!" ("Give me strength!") from the opera. The piano piece which Gere's character plays in the hotel lobby was composed by and performed by him. Roberts sings the song "Kiss" by Prince while 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
Released March 13, 1990
Recorded 1964, 1988–1989
Genre Pop, Rock
Length 43:36
Label EMI
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars link

The soundtrack was released on March 13, 1990.[23][24]

Track listing
No. Title Length
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:


  1. ^ Prince, Rosa (March 21, 2012). "Danny DeVito: Pretty Woman a ‘Silly Romantic Comedy’". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  2. ^ "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved July 12, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Pretty Woman: 15th anniversary (DVD). Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Touchstone. 2005. 
  4. ^ Lawton, Jonathan. "$3,000" (PDF). AwesomeFile.com. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Stewart, James B. (2005). DisneyWar. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-7432-6709-0. 
  6. ^ "'Pretty Woman' Casting Information and Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved May 17, 2007. [unreliable source?]
  7. ^ Pacino, Al (June 15, 2007). "Al Pacino Interview". Interview with Larry King. Larry King Live. CNN. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Corcoran, Monica (June 28, 2008). "Molly Ringwald: Pretty in Pucci". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Darly Hannah Pleased to Decline Pretty Woman". 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ 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). 
  13. ^ a b c "Pretty Woman (1990)—Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Pretty Woman (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  15. ^ "1990 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  16. ^ "1990 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Pretty Woman". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Pretty Woman Reviews at Metacritic.com". Metacritic. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  19. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (March 23, 1990). "Pretty Woman". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Chocano, Carina (April 11, 2011). "Thelma, Louise and All the Pretty Women". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ "Pretty Woman's Soundtrack RIAA Multi Platinum Award". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 12, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Pretty Woman Original Soundtrack". Amazon.com. Retrieved February 21, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Pretty Woman Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved February 21, 2011. 

External links[edit]

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