×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Pretty Woman’: Looking Back at Julia Roberts’ Star-Making Role

On March 21, 1990, Touchstone Pictures previewed “Pretty Woman” at the Avco Westwood near UCLA, two days before its national launch. Variety columnist Army Archerd reported that laughter drowned out much of the dialogue and young Julia Roberts “is headed for heavy stardom.” In retrospect, that seems like a pretty safe prediction, but Roberts was not well known when she was cast in the film. (She had completed her role as Sally Fields’ daughter in “Steel Magnolias,” but the film hadn’t been released yet). Roberts was only cast in “Pretty Woman” after numerous other actresses had passed on the role, including Meg Ryan, Karen Allen, Molly Ringwald, Diane Lane and Michelle Pfeiffer.

And the project began with a much darker tone; in J.F. Lawton’s original screenplay, streetwalker Vivian (Roberts) agrees to give up cocaine for her week with banker Edward (Richard Gere), but at the end he dumps her back on the street and drives off.

But Disney execs thought Vivian’s Cinderella transformation would work better as a romantic comedy. Garry Marshall was signed to direct and Gere and Roberts were eventually cast.

Five months after the movie’s debut, Walt Disney Studios took out an ad in Variety proclaiming that on Aug. 25, “Pretty Woman” had become the highest-grossing film in the studio’s 67-year-history. On Dec. 31, Variety reported that the top three domestic films of the calendar year were “Ghost,” “Pretty Woman,” and “Home Alone.” Globally, “Pretty Woman” earned more than $460 million.

Roberts received her first Oscar nom for 1989’s “Steel Magnolias,” as supporting actress. She scored her second bid the following year, as the lead for “Pretty Woman.”

And Gere has a unique distinction. Though he’s been doing great film work for 40 years, he’s never scored an Oscar nomination himself, though he consistently makes his co-stars look good. Four of his leading ladies earned a best-actress Oscar nomination in roles opposite Gere: Debra Winger (“An Officer and a Gentleman”), Roberts, Renee Zellweger (“Chicago”) and Diane Lane (“Unfaithful”). Plus, five other actors were nominated in Gere films: Tuesday Weld, Louis Gossett Jr., Edward Norton, Cate Blanchett, and eventual Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Judy & Punch review

    Damon Herriman Stands Out as 'The Nightingale' and 'Lambs of God' Lead AACTA Nominations

    Dark thriller, “The Nightingale” and miniseries “Lambs of God” lead the pack at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards. In nominations announced on Wednesday, they picked up 15 and 18 nods, respectively. Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale” was one of six films nominated in the best film category. With others including Mirrah Foulkes’ [...]

  • Cardi B

    Cardi B Joins Vin Diesel in 'Fast & Furious 9'

    Cardi B has joined the cast of Universal’s “Fast & Furious 9” in an undisclosed role. It’s the rapper’s first movie part since her role as the stripper Diamond in STX’s drama “Hustlers.” Vin Diesel disclosed the casting Tuesday in a post on his Instagram account with a video that showed him and Cardi B [...]

  • James Wan

    Film News Roundup: James Wan's Horror Thriller 'Malignant' Gets August Release

    In today’s film news roundup, James Wan’s “Malignant” gets a late-summer release, a Rita Hayworth documentary is shooting and Women in Animation have announced diversity awards winners. RELEASE DATE Warner Bros. has set an Aug. 14 release date for James Wan’s horror thriller “Malignant.” Wan will direct the movie, based on a story by Wan [...]

  • Michael Shannon Benedict Cumberbatch Tuppence Middleton

    How Martin Scorsese Saved 'Current War' From Harvey Weinstein

    Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon finally gets to release his version of his long-in-the-making “The Current War.” The film, about the competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, was originally set to be distributed by the Weinstein Company after Harvey Weinstein recut it, much to Gomez-Rejon’s chagrin. To make matters worse, Weinstein premiered the movie at the [...]

  • 42west logo

    42West Co-CEO Allan Mayer Hospitalized After Car Accident

    42West Co-CEO Allan Mayer is in the hospital due to injuries from an Oct. 17 car accident, Variety has confirmed. The public relations firm described the crash as “serious” and said that he had surgery on Oct. 20 to help repair multiple broken bones. “Allan and his family thank everyone for the outpouring of love and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content