It'd Be a Big Mistake to Not Check Out These 30 Pretty Woman Secrets⁠—Huge!

Pretty Woman premiered more than 30 years ago and launched the careers of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, who is celebrating 72nd birthday August 31.

By Tierney Bricker Aug 31, 2021 2:21 PMTags
Watch: Julia Roberts Reveals Sweet 50th Birthday Surprise

"She rescues him right back."

On March 23, 1990, Disney released a little rom-com starring an up-and-coming actress about a businessman and a prostitute who fall in love after he pays her thousands of dollars to spend the week with him. Not the usual stuff fairy tales are made of...but Pretty Woman wasn't your average romantic comedy.

Directed by Garry Marshall, the Hollywood legend who passed away in 2016, and starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, who turns 72 on Aug. 31, no one expected Pretty Woman to become a hit, let alone become one of 1990's most successful films and one of movie history's most enduring love stories. 

Made for just $17 million, the story of Edward Lewis (Gere) and Vivian Ward (Roberts) went on to gross over $460 million worldwide, earn four Golden Globe nominations and made Roberts one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

But did you know Roberts almost wasn't cast in the iconic roles and several other A-list actresses almost stepped into Vivian's thigh-high boots? How about that the original script was much darker and would've made Walt Disney blush?

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Julia Roberts' Most Iconic Roles

Check out 30 fun facts you might not know about Pretty Woman, including the scene that made a then 23-year-old Roberts break out in hives and the unusual pact the director and stars made after production wrapped...

1. The original script by J.F. Lawton was called $3,000, a reference to the amount Edward pays Vivian.

2. Initially much grittier and less of a fairy tale story, Edward and Vivian do not end up together in the original script. Per Vanity Fair, the original ending was a drug-addicted Vivian and Kit (Laura San Giacomo) on a bus to Disneyland, a trip financed by her week spent with Edward (after he kicks her out of his car), as Vivian "stares out emptily ahead."

3. Other actors who were initially considered for the role of Edward before Gere signed on were reportedly John Travolta, Christopher Reeve, Kevin Kline, Denzel Washington and Sylvester Stallone.

4. "Every actress in town" wanted the role of Vivian, according to Diane Lane, who revealed she had to pass on the role due to "conflicting schedules" during an appearance on Watch What Happens Live.

5. Actresses that read for the role included Daryl Hannah, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Steenburgen and Meg Ryan, with Ryan being the studio and Marshall's early top pick.

6. Per Lane, the script was initially much grittier, but "got Disney-fied and it turned out to be a feel good movie. Originally, this crazy [woman] was kicked out of a rolling limo in the end because she was delusional that she thought this guy was in love with her. She was only hired for the weekend. And we had such compassion for her."

7. Marshall initially pictured Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer in the lead roles, but told Vanity Fair his vision for the film completely changed once he cast Gere and Roberts. (Pacino did read opposite Roberts before turning down the role.)

"It would definitely have been a different movie if had it been Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. It might have been closer to the original script and maybe not have had a happy ending," he explained. "But the chemistry between Julia and Richard, it is palpable on the screen, it was palpable in auditions. You can't really see how it could end any other way, because they just light up with each other."

8. The opera Vivian and Edward attend together is La Traviata, which is about a man falling in love with a prostitute. Subtle!

9. Roberts had to audition twice. After first landing the role when it was still $3,000, the mostly unknown 21-year-old (at the time of auditions) had to read again when Disney took over the project.

10. After turning down the role of Edward several times, Roberts was the one to convince Gere to do the movie, per their 2015 appearance on Today. When Roberts was flown to New York to try and persuade him, Marshall called Gere to check in. While he was on the phone, Roberts wrote "Please say yes" on a Post-it note. Gere then told Marshall over the phone, "I just said yes."

11. That iconic movie poster? It's not actually Roberts' body! Her head was super-imposed onto body double Shelley Michelle.

12. While it became one of the most iconic scenes in the movie, the bubble batch scene wreaked havoc for Roberts' hair as spending so much time in the water ended up stripping all of the red dye out of her hair.

"By the end of the day, the detergent had taken off all of my hair color," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "We had emergency hair color at 10 o'clock at night because of the bathtub."

13. When Roberts was having difficulty laughing in the scene where Vivian is watching re-runs of I Love Lucy, Marshall ended up off-camera tickling her feet to get a genuine laugh from his star.

14. In the piano scene, Gere is actually playing the instrument. And the piece he is playing was an original composition that ended up on the film's soundtrack.

15. Ferrari and Porsche both declined requests for their cars to be featured in the film, as they didn't want their brands associated with soliciting prostitutes. Edward ended up driving a sportscar from Lotus Cars.

16. The homeless man that Edward asks for directions? It's a quick cameo from Marshall. 

17. Roberts, a relative newcomer, was so nervous to film the sex scene that she broke out in hives. "I had never done this kind of stuff before, and I was really nervous," Roberts told ABC News. "I'd get hives. They'd say, 'kiss,' and I'd get a hive."

18. The person who shouts "What's your dream? Everybody's got a dream!" It was the film's costume designer, Marilyn Vance.

19. Aside from a pair of Chanel heels, Vance and her team created every one of Vivian's looks in the movie, including the polka dot polo dress and her infamous cut-out dress.

20. All of Edward's suits were custom-made for Gere, with Vance going all the way to Italy to find the right fabric.

21. One of the film's most memorable looks was originally going to be completely different, as the studio wanted Vivian to wear a black gown to the opera, not red, Vance revealed to Elle, going on to say they tested out three looks before she convinced them the gown needed to be red.

22. The ruby and diamond necklace Edward presented to Vivian in the scene cost $250,000 and was so valuable that a security team was on set the entire time.

23. The most famous scene wasn't actually meant to make it in the movie. Wanting to pull a gag on Roberts, Marshall told Gere to snap the box shut during one take of the necklace scene, which resulted in that genuine reaction from the star. It wasn't until the final edit that Marshall added it in.

24. Roberts' reported payday for Pretty Woman was $300,000. 

25. Pretty Woman was the second movie that Meg Ryan passed on that would end up landing Roberts an Oscar nomination. Before passing on Pretty Woman, Ryan turned down the role in Steel Magnolias to star in When Harry Met Sally, with Roberts going on to earn a Best Supporting Actress nod for the tearjerker.

26. Despite its surprise success, going on to become one of the top-grossing movies of the year, the director and his stars vowed to never do a sequel. 

"We made a pact a long time [ago] —when we did it," Marshall revealed to Today. "We said, we're not doing Pretty Woman 2 unless we all do it together."

27. The trio did reunite for another rom-com in 1999: Runaway Bride, with Roberts earning $17 million and Gere pocketing $12 million for the highly anticipated reunion, which Gere engineered, according to The Los Angeles Times. While he loved the script, Gere had one condition the studio had to meet before he signed on to play Ike: "If you can get Julia, I'm in." The stars then convinced Marshall to come on to direct.

28. 30 years later, Pretty Woman remains Disney's highest-grossing R-rated release.

29. In August 2018, Pretty Woman: The Musical made its debut on Broadway after four years of development. Steve Kazee, Jenna Dewan's fiancé, played Edward during the show's initial run in Chicago before it closed one year later, and Samantha Barks of Les Miserables fame played Vivian.

30. The film's title comes from Roy Orbison's song "Oh, Pretty Woman," which is featured on the soundtrack.

(Originally published on Monday, March 23, 2020, at 2 p.m. PST)