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.
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.
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.
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".