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Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman is a 1990 romantic comedy film. The film centers around the titular character, down-on-her-luck prostitute Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) who is hired by a wealthy businessman and corporate raider, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) to be his escort for several business functions, and their developing relationship.

Pretty Woman was initially intended to be a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles but was reconceptualized into a romantic comedy. The film was a critical success and became one of 1990's highest grossing films, and today is one of the most financially successful entries in the romantic comedy genre, with an estimated gross of $464 million USD. Roberts received a Golden Globe Award for her role, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Screenwriter J. F. Lawton was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and a BAFTA Award. The film was followed by a string of similar romantic comedies, including Runaway Bride, which teamed up Gere and Roberts under the direction of Garry Marshall once again.


Corporate raider Edward Lewis (Gere) is having trouble driving the Lotus Esprit he has borrowed and stops to ask for directions on Hollywood Boulevard. Vivian Ward (Roberts), a hooker with a heart of gold, thinks he is trying to find "a date" and walks over to his car. A lost Edward agrees to pay Vivian for directions. Rather than giving him the directions he wants, Vivian jumps in the car and offers to show him personally. On the way to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (Beverly Hills), Vivian comments on his bad driving. Much to her surprise and delight, Edward asks her to drive the rest of the way. Despite the Lotus's famously stiff clutch, she demonstrates driving skill and takes him to his hotel without mishap. Vivian, who thinks she has charmed Edward, is at first rejected and says she will return to her corner by taxi. When Edward sees her a few minutes later waiting at the bus stop, he offers to hire her for an hour, which after some awkward conversation (on his part), becomes a night.

Edward explains his business to Vivian--he buys large companies, breaks them up and sells them in smaller parts for profit. Vivian compares it to a chop shop, where stolen cars are cut up for parts and usually sold for more than the whole car is worth. Edward acknowledges the validity of the comparison for the first time. He later reveals the origin of his business methods to Vivian: when he was a boy, his father divorced his mother to be with another woman, and emptied his wife's bank account as well as taking his own money. Consequently, his mother died of poverty, and Edward grew angry and bitter over time. He told Vivian that his father was the president of the third company he took over, broke up and sold off. His revenge was taken, but his appetite for more still lives on.

The next day, Edward's lawyer Phil calls Edward and tells him businessman James Morse and his grandson David wish to meet with him to discuss Edward's plans to buy their business. Edward decides to bring a date in order to keep the meeting social, and hires Vivian to spend the week with him, offering to pay her $3,000. He gives money for a dinner dress, but when she attempts to shop on Rodeo Dr., the saleswomen snub her and are rude to her (apparently because of her streetwalker's clothing). Vivian returns to the hotel distraught; Barnard, the manager of the hotel at first asks her to dress more appropriately, then after hearing her story, befriends her and directs her to a store where they help her buy a beautiful cocktail dress. He also gives her a lesson in using silverware and table manners, so that she will not be intimidated at the dinner with Edward.

That night, Vivian and Edward meet James and David Morse. During the meal, Vivian brings out the enlightened gentleman in the elderly Morse, but the business discussion with Edward grows colder and colder. Everything about James Morse shames Edward and exposes his lack of real quality in spite of his financial status. The Morses express their anger over Edward's impending takeover of their company and finally walk out of the restaurant.

The next morning, Vivian tells Edward "the saleswomen wouldn't help me, they were mean to me." Edward accompanies her for the first part of a shopping spree, culminating in her returning to the store who salesladies were rude to her at the end of her excursion to tell them what a huge mistake they made in not helping her, since they work on commission, and Vivian had obviously spent a very considerable amount of money. Vivian and Edward's business relationship quickly develops into friendship, and Edward and Vivian go on several dates and spend several evenings trading deep emotional insights they cannot share with anyone else. In an attempt to persuade Edward to abandon his self-discipline and understand "lower class" people she invites him to "veg out" in front of the TV. Despite her experience as a prostitute, Vivan finds herself falling in love with Edward.

Edward and Vivian attend a corporate polo match, where Vivian meets Phil and his wife Elizabeth. They also see David Morse, and Vivian has a friendly conversation with him about his polo horse. Curious to know more about Vivian, and suggesting she might be a spy for the Morses, Phil pesters Edward until he reveals that Vivian is actually a common prostitute he picked up the night he borrowed Phil's car. Greatly amused at this revelation, Phil approaches Vivian and suggests that he hire her as a whore after Edward is done with her. She is hurt at what she perceives as Edward's betrayal and cheap treatment of her. On the way back to the hotel she ignores him, and when she gets back to the penthouse she tells him she is upset with how he treated her at the match, revealing her "secret" to Phil. She then proceeds to tell Edward she's leaving and that she wants her money; he throws the money on the bed and walks away. She gathers her clothes and leaves, but doesn't take the money because of the callous way he threw it down. When he realizes she did not take his money, he goes after her. Vivian is waiting for the elevator when Edward comes out and apologizes. The elevator doors open after he apologizes and admits he was jealous to see her with David Morse at the Polo match. Vivian decides to stay. After the elevator doors shut, she informs Edward: "You hurt me; don't do it again."

An idyllic few days ensue, during which time Edward flies Vivian by private jet to San Francisco for a performance of Verdi's La Traviata. The opera (which is not named in the film) is the story of a Parisian courtesan who falls in love with a wealthy young man, paralleling the growing relationship between Edward and Vivian. The story makes a tremendous impression on Vivian, as Edward had predicted. For the occasion, Edward dresses Vivian in a skin-tight bright red haute couture gown, with a diamond necklace and earring set valued at $250,000 lent to him by a famous jeweler (FRED Paris Joaillier). That night after the opera Vivian wakes Edward with a kiss, symbolic of the change in the relationship of the pair (she had previously stated that she never kisses her clients as it is just "business").

As the week starts to end and Edward prepares to return to New York. Edward tells Vivian he wants to see her again and offers to supply her with an apartment, a car, and as much money as she needs, including credit cards so she can shop. Vivian refuses and says she wants the whole thing--commitment, or nothing at all. She describes a fantasy from her childhood--rescue from a tower by a knight on a white horse- "the fairy tale". Before he leaves he says, "I've never treated you like a prostitute." After he's gone, she whispers to herself, "You just did."

As the time draws near for Edward to finalize his buyout of Morse Industries, he loses his bitter lust for vengeance against his father, and decides to partner with Morse instead--to build warships, rather than breaking up a shipyard and selling it for scrap. Phil is shocked and upset to hear this, and goes to Edward's hotel to confront him. He finds Vivian alone in the penthouse, and after blaming her for Edward's backing out of the takeover, attempts to rape her. He slaps her and calls her a whore. Edward arrives and pulls Phil off Vivian; he punches Phil and kicks him out.

While easing each others injuries Vivian and Edward have conversation about what each other wants, and Vivian states she wants "the fairy tale." Edward says he's not capable of offering that. He asks Vivian to stay the night, not because he's paying her but because she wants to, but she declines the offer. Vivian leaves, but first says good-bye to Barnard and thanks him for his kindness.

The next day, Edward checks out of the hotel. Barnard notices his pensiveness and remarks how difficult it must be to give up something so beautiful, supposedly referring to the diamond necklace. He also notes that Darryl, Edward's usual driver, had dropped Vivian off at her apartment the day before. Edward asks Darryl to drive him to Vivian's apartment in a white limousine; he arrives as Vivian is packing to move to San Francisco. Edward has flowers, and opera music is blaring from the car. Although nervous, Edward controls his fear of heights and climbs the fire escape to Vivian's apartment. Vivian meets him on the landing, and he asks what happens in her fantasy after the knight on the white horse rescues her. "She rescues him right back", says Vivian, and they kiss warmly. They apparently live happily ever after, in modern day terms.




Pretty Woman was initially intended to be a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles in the late 1980s/early 1990s. The relationship between Vivian and Edward also harbored controversial themes, including the concept of having Vivian addicted to cocaine; part of the deal was that she had to stay off it for a week. 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. 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 "cut scenes" have been found in public view, and some were included on the DVD released on the movie's 15th anniversary. 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 of The Blue Banana, and rescued by Edward and Darryl.

Inspirations for the film could have been drawn from the Pygmalion myth. It also bears striking resemblances to 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 it should be re-written as a modern-day fairy tale, instead of being the dark story it was in the original script titled $3,000. It also has unconfirmed references to That Touch of Mink, starring Doris Day and Cary Grant.

The male lead is a businessman, Edward Lewis (played by Richard Gere). While ruthless in business — he is a "corporate raider" — he is portrayed as intelligent, sensitive, and pensive, unlike the more common stereotype of the late 1980s financial tycoon as coarse and narcissistic (and often nouveau riche). Asking for directions to his hotel, he meets a prostitute, Vivian. (In the United States, as in much of the world, prostitutes who work on the streets come disproportionately from the lower classes, and Vivian suffers from financial desperation.) Because of her deprived background, she is naïve and unaware of the manners integral to the wealthy/upper classes of the period, resulting in mild embarrassment for herself and Edward, who handles it with cheerful, unpretentious good-nature. In contrast to the class and occupational archetypes associated with her profession — she's charismatic, kind, and perceptive. During their time spent together, Vivian learns from Edward the virtue of manners and money (the film is quintessentially Eighties in this sense), while Edward learns from Vivian the virtue of treating everyone with respect and empathy. Of course, a relationship based more on genuine love than on money or convenience grows between Edward and Vivian (symbolised by Vivian's kissing of Edward on the lips, despite her promise to Kit to avoid such an expression of true affection), and throughout the movie they struggle with the differences in social class and values.

Casting of Pretty Woman was a rather lengthy process. Marshall had initially considered Christopher Reeve for the role of Lewis, and Al Pacino turned it down. Pacino went as far as doing a casting reading with Roberts before turning the leading role down. 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?" Julia Roberts was far from the first choice for the role of Vivian, it went to many successful A-list actresses including Molly Ringwald (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink) who turned it down because she felt uncomfortable with the content in the script, and did not like the idea of playing a prostitute. She has stated in several interviews that she regrets turning the role down. Meg Ryan, who was a top choice of Marshall's, turned it down. Michelle Pfeiffer turned the role down as well, because she did not like the "tone" of the script. Daryl Hannah also was considered, but turned the role down because she believed it was "degrading to women". A runner-up for the role Valeria Golino turned it down, because 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. When all the other actresses turned down the role, Julia Roberts, who was relatively unknown at the time, with the exception of the film Steel Magnolias, was able to win the role.


Pretty Woman's budget was not limited, therefore producers could acquire as many locations as possible for shooting on their estimated $14,000,000 . The majority of the film was shot in Los Angeles, California, to be specific, in Beverly Hills. The escargot restaurant scene was filmed at the Rex, now called Cicada. Filming of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel lobby interior was shot at the now torn-down Ambassador Hotel. 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 they did not want to be associated with soliciting prostitutes. Lotus Cars UK saw the placement value with such a major feature film. This gamble paid off as Esprit sales tripled in 1990-1991. The company supplied a Silver 1989.5 Esprit SE, which was later sold. The film's primary shooting was completed on October 18, 1989.


Pretty Woman is noted for its musical selections and launched a hugely successful soundtrack. The film features the song "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, the title of which inspired that of the movie. Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" reached #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 opera featured in the movie is La Traviata, which also served as inspiration for the plot of the movie. The piano piece which Richard Gere's character plays in the hotel lobby was composed by and performed by Gere.

Background music includes the piano intro from Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Streets" from the album "Darkness on the Edge of Town".

In popular culture

  • In a season six episode "Humiliation" of Law & Order with the murder victim being a prostitute, a one-time suspect references the film: "Richard Gere picks up Julia Roberts they make a billion dollars off of it."
  • The 2001 film The Princess Diaries, a parallel to Pretty Woman, has many of the same supporting cast members and the same lines used in Pretty Woman. Garry Marshall is the director of both films and they are both made at Disney (though Pretty Woman was released under the Touchstone Pictures banner). In The Princess Diaries 2, when Allan Kent's character catches the ring, he says "It happens all the time", a reference to the snails scene. Violetta's aria, "Sempre libera degg'io" from La traviata is briefly heard in both Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries 2.
  • Mentioned in the Ugly Betty episode, "East Side Story".
  • Plot and scenes referenced and spoofed in an episode of Lizzie McGuire.
  • In The Sweetest Thing, the scene in which Gere gives Roberts the diamond necklace and snaps it closed on her fingers is parodied by Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate.
  • In Shrek 2, Pretty Woman was mentioned on a list of fairy tales when The Fairy Godmother told Shrek that fairy tales do not have ogres. The Producer of Shrek 2, Jeffrey Katzenberg, was the Disney executive that guided Pretty Woman.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Marge Simpson mistakenly confuses Erin Brockovich (a character Roberts played in the film of the same name) with Pretty Woman.
  • In the romantic film spoof Date Movie (2006) the scene in which Roberts walks around Beverly Hills to "Oh, Pretty Woman" is parodied. However, instead of Roberts' character being a female, it is reversed to a male.
  • In the 30 Rock episode "Black Tie", Jack gives Liz a necklace and snaps the box down on her fingers. Instead of laughing like Vivian does in the film, Liz angrily yells at him for hurting her hand. Both Liz and Vivian were wearing a red dress in the scene.
  • In the beginning scenes of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, the main characters Romy and Michele are watching this movie on TV and making fun of the scene where Vivian is being scorned by saleswomen in a boutique.
  • In the movie She's All That, Rachael Leigh Cook's character utters the line, "I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman … except for that whole hooker thing".
  • Pretty Woman has been mentioned twice on the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. First, the youngest child Ashley wants to know about sex, and when it is suggested that they give her a realistic portrayal of relationships, her ditzy older sister Hilary suggests renting Pretty Woman. Next, Little T's agent says that before he came along, Pretty Woman was named Attractive Woman.
  • In an episode of Chappelle's Show, Dave Chappelle comically depicts the real way a story such as Pretty Woman would have gone in a parody of the film.
  • In a season 5 episode of Family Guy, there is a flashback in which Peter is dressed like Julia Roberts in the red dress when she receives the necklace.
  • In an episode of the second series of Extras, Ricky Gervais and Ashley Jensen encounter a similar (and even more embarrassing) experience to Vivian while buying a dress for the television BAFTAs; the allusion is made clear by the use of Roy Orbison's title song in the sequence.
  • In the episode "Carpe Noctem" of Angel, Cordelia Chase makes a remark about Julia Roberts and Pretty Woman, saying "the next time Julia Roberts does a realistic movie about hookers, it should be called Pretty Skanky Woman!"
  • In the 21 March 2008 episode of Emmerdale, Katie Sugden says she feels like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, because Grayson Sinclair has been buying her expensive maternity clothes as she carries his and his wife's baby. Though she is not a prostitute in a formal sense she is being kept by Grayson and is having adulterous sex with him.
  • A Bollywood movie Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001), starring Salmaan Khan, Rani Mukerji, and Preity Zinta, has similar plot elements, but a different major story focus. The idea of a prostitute falling in love for a rich businessman, including similarities such as the businessman's associate attempting to rape the prostitute, the prostitute being thrown out of a fashion store, etc prevail.
  • The film Dumb and Dumber parodies the scene when Vivian is on her shopping spree.
  • In the "A Chorus Lie" episode of Will and Grace, Will remarks "God! This is so embarrassing. Here I am thinking I'm Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, and meanwhile I'm Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!"
  • Stand-up comedian John Pinette references the film in his 2006 concert and DVD, I'm Starving, when he has to buy his own shoes in order to prepare for the role of Edna Turnblad in the Broadway production of Hairspray, stating "I'll go on Rodeo, they'll treat me like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I'll come back crying, 'I have money, I have money!'"
  • In the episode "Slumber party" of the first season of Beverly Hills 90210 Donna mentioned the film.





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