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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.
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
Starring Julia Roberts
Richard Gere
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 $463,407,268

Pretty Woman is a 1990 American romantic comedy film set in Los Angeles. Written by J. F. Lawton and directed by Garry Marshall, 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. The story of Pretty Woman centers on the down-on-her-luck Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward who is hired by a wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis, to be his escort for several business and social functions, and their developing relationship over the course of Vivian's week-long stay with him.

Originally intended to be a dark cautionary tale about class and prostitution in Los Angeles, this motion picture was reconceived as romantic comedy with a large budget. It was widely successful at the box office, and it became one of the highest money-makers of 1990.

Today it is one of the most financially successful entries in the romantic comedy genre, with an estimated gross income of $463.4 million.[1] It is considered by many critics to be the most successful movie in the genre.[2]

Pretty Woman 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,[3] 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 a moderate amount of critical praise, particularly for the performance of Roberts, for which she received a Golden Globe Award, and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. In addition, the screenwriter J. F. Lawton was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and a BAFTA Award. This movie was followed by a string of similar romantic comedies, including Runaway Bride (1999), which re-united Gere and Roberts under the direction of Garry Marshall once again.


Edward Lewis (Gere), a successful businessman and "corporate raider", takes a detour on Hollywood Boulevard to ask for directions. Receiving little help, he encounters a prostitute named Vivian Ward (Roberts) who is willing to assist him in getting to his destination, providing that he pays her to do so. Vivian's roommate Kit De Luca (Laura San Giacomo) encourages her to try and recruit him as part of Vivian's clientele.

The morning after, Edward hires Vivian to stay with him for a week as a girlfriend experience escort for social events. Vivian advises him that it "will cost him", and Edward agrees to pay her $3,000 and gives her access to his credit cards to buy suitable clothing. Vivian then goes shopping on Rodeo Drive, only to be snubbed by saleswomen who disdain her because of her unsophisticated appearance. Initially, hotel manager Barnard Thompson (Hector Elizondo) is also somewhat taken aback. But he relents and decides to help her buy a dress, even coaching her on dinner etiquette. Edward returns and is visibly amazed by Vivian's 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 spent 40 years building, and sell the land for real estate. Morse and his grandson abandon their dinner in anger, while Edward remains preoccupied with the deal afterward. Back at the hotel, Edward reveals to Vivian that he had not spoken to his recently deceased father for 14 and half years. Later that night, the two make love on the grand piano in the hotel lounge.

The next morning, Vivian tells Edward about the snubbing that took place the day before. Edward takes Vivian on a shopping spree. Vivian then returns, carrying all the bags, to the shop that had snubbed her, telling the salesgirls they had made a big mistake and announcing distractedly that she "has to go shopping now".

The following day, Edward takes Vivian to a polo match where he is interested in networking for his business deal. While Vivian chats with David Morse, the grandson of the man involved in Edward's latest deal, Philip Stuckey (Edward's attorney) wonders if she is a spy. Edward re-assures him by telling him how they met, and that Vivian is, in fact, a prostitute, and Philip (Jason Alexander) then approaches Vivian and offers to hire her once she is finished with Edward, inadvertently insulting her. When they return to the hotel, she is furious with Edward for telling Phillip about her. She plans to leave, but he apologizes and persuades her to see out the week. Edward leaves work early the next day and takes a breath-taking Vivian on a date to the opera in San Francisco in his private jet. She is clearly moved by the opera (which is La Traviata, whose plot deals with a rich man tragically falling in love with a courtesan).

While playing chess with Edward after returning, Vivian persuades him to take the next day off. They spend the entire day together, and then have sex, in a personal rather than professional way. Just before she falls asleep, Vivian admits that she's in love with Edward. Over breakfast, Edward offers to put Vivian up in an apartment so he can continue seeing her. She feels insulted and says this is not the "fairy tale" she wants. He then goes off to work without resolving the situation. Kit, collecting money for rent from Vivian, comes to the hotel and realizes that Vivian is in love with Edward.

Edward meets with Mr. Morse, about to close the deal, and 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 for which he initially had little time. 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. Furious, Philip goes to the hotel to confront Edward, but only finds Vivian there. He pretends to blame her for changing Edward and tries to make a pass at her, but Vivian bites his hand to make him stop. Furious, he slaps her and tries to rape her while trying to offer her some money for sex. Edward arrives in time to stop Philip, 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. She refuses once again and returns to the apartment she shares with Kit, preparing to leave for San Francisco to earn a G.E.D. in the hopes of a better life. Edward gets into the car with the chauffeur that took her home. Instead of going to the airport, he goes to her apartment arriving accompanied by 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.

His leaping from the white limousine, and then climbing the outside ladder and steps, is a visual urban metaphor for the knight on white horse rescuing the "princess" from the tower, a childhood fantasy Vivian told him about. The film ends as the two of them kiss on the fire escape.


  • Richard Gere as Edward Lewis, a rich, ruthless businessman 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 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 a hooker named Vivian.
  • Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward, a beautiful, kind-hearted prostitute 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.
  • 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 Morse for a Navy shipbuilding contract that would effectively make his company strong again.
  • Jason Alexander as Philip Stuckey, Edward's insensitive lawyer. Philip pesters Edward after he sees Vivian and David Morse getting along. After learning that Vivian is a prostitute, Philip propositions her (to her dismay). After a lucrative deal falls through because of Edward's feelings for Vivian, he angrily tries to force himself on her but is stopped by Edward. The epitome of corporate greed, Philip represents what Edward might have become had he not met Vivian 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 Edward and Vivian attend.
  • Amy Yasbeck as Elizabeth Stuckey, Philip'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 Barney to help Vivian purchase a dress after Vivian has an encounter with two snobby women in another dress store.
  • Hector Elizondo as Barnard "Barney" Thompson, the stuffy but golden-hearted manager of the hotel. At first, Barnard 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 Edward that his secretary was one of her bridesmaids.
  • Laurelle Brooks Mehus as the night desk clerk where among other scenes she shared 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.



Pretty Woman was initially conceived to be a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles in the 1980s.[4] 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 movie was scripted to end with Vivian and her prostitute friend on the bus to Disneyland.[4] 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 Vivian's friend, Kit. These deleted scenes have been found in public view, and some were included on the DVD released on the film's 15th anniversary.[4] 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.

Pretty Woman 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 then-Disney Studio 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, however this title was changed because executives at Touchstone 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.

The film is one of the two movies that triggered the resurrection of the romantic comedy genre in Hollywood (the other movie being When Harry Met Sally. After completion of the 1960s Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedies, the genre fell out of favor: not a single romantic comedy was produced by Hollywood studios in the 1970s. Following Pretty Woman 's success, Roberts became the romantic comedy queen of the 1990s.


Casting of Pretty Woman 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?"[citation needed] 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,[8] who turned it down because she felt uncomfortable with the content of the script, and did not like the idea of playing a prostitute. Winona Ryder, a popular box-office draw at the time, auditioned, but was turned down because Marshall felt she was "too young". Jennifer Connelly was also dismissed for the same reason.[4]

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. Michelle Pfeiffer turned the role down as well, because she did not like the "tone" of the script.[9] Daryl Hannah was also considered, but turned the role down because she believed it was "degrading to women".[9] Valeria Golino also turned it down as she did not think the movie could work with her thick Italian accent. Jennifer Jason Leigh had auditioned for the part, but later decided not to do the movie after she read the script because she felt it was sexist.[10] 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 her Oscar-nominated performance in the film Steel Magnolias (1989), won the role of Vivian. Roberts' performance made her a star.


Pretty Woman '​s budget was substantial; therefore producers could shoot in many locations on the film's estimated budget of $14 million.[4] The majority of the film was shot on location in Los Angeles, California, specifically in Beverly Hills, and inside soundstages at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. The escargot restaurant called "The Voltaire" was shot at the restaurant "Rex", now called "Cicada". The 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, who had declined the product placement opportunity of the car Edward drove, because the manufacturers did not want to be associated with soliciting prostitutes.[4] 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). This gamble paid off as the sales of the Lotus Esprit tripled during 1990-91.[citation needed]

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.[4] While shooting the scene where Vivian is lying down on the floor of Edward's penthouse, watching re-runs of I Love Lucy, in order to achieve a genuine laughter, Garry Marshall had to tickle Roberts' 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 Roberts' fingers was improvised by Gere, and Roberts' surprised laugh was genuine, while the dress worn by Roberts in that scene has been included in a list of the most unforgettable dresses of all time.[11]

During the scene in which Roberts sings along to Prince in the bathtub sliding down and dunking her head under the bubbles, Roberts 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 Roberts and Gere, Roberts 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.[4] The filming was completed on October 18.


Box office[edit]

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

Critical response [edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 62% of 55 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.7 out of 10.[16] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 51 based on 17 reviews.[17]

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




Pretty Woman is noted for its musical selections and hugely successful soundtrack. The film features the song "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, which inspired the movie's 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.[21]

The opera featured in the movie is La Traviata, which also served as inspiration for the plot of the movie. The highly dramatic aria fragment that is repeated in the movie is from the end of "Dammi tu forza!" ("Give me strength!") from the opera. The piano piece which Richard Gere's character plays in the hotel lobby was composed by and performed by Gere. Julia Roberts sings the song "Kiss" by Prince while Richard 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
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released February 14, 1990
Genre Pop, Rock
Length 43:36
Label EMI
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars link

The soundtrack was released on February 14, 1990[22][23]

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. ^ "Box Office Mojo". Retrieved July 12, 2007. 
  2. ^ Mandell, Zack (May 18, 2012). "Julia Roberts' Romantic Comedy Career Flourishes with Time". Yahoo! Voices. 
  3. ^ Prince, Rosa (March 21, 2012). "Richard Gere: Pretty Woman a ‘Silly Romantic Comedy’". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Pretty Woman: 15th anniversary (DVD). Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Touchstone. 2005. 
  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. ^ Corcoran, Monica (June 28, 2008). "Molly Ringwald: Pretty in Pucci". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Darly Hannah Pleased to Decline Pretty Woman". 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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). 
  12. ^ a b c "Pretty Woman (1990)—Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Pretty Woman (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  14. ^ "1990 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  15. ^ "1990 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  16. ^ "Pretty Woman". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 14, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Pretty Woman Reviews at Metacritic.com". Metacritic. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  18. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (March 23, 1990). "Pretty Woman". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 29, 2009. 
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Chocano, Carina (April 11, 2011). "Thelma, Louise and All the Pretty Women". The New York Times. 
  21. ^ "Pretty Woman's Soundtrack RIAA Multi Platinum Award". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 12, 2009. 
  22. ^ "Pretty Woman Original Soundtrack". Amazon.com. Retrieved February 21, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Pretty Woman Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved February 21, 2011. 

External links[edit]

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