×

‘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.

Popular on Variety

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.

More Film

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    '1917,' 'Succession' Among Top PGA Award Winners

    “1917” continued its string of major awards season wins on Saturday night, earning the Producers Guild of America award for best picture. Coupled with its win for best picture, drama at the Golden Globes, the WWI movie is officially the front runner for Oscar’s top prize. “It’s a film that is a tribute to all [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho, Jane Rosenthal, David

    Netflix Praised by 'The Irishman,' 'Marriage Story' Filmmakers at Producers Guild Panel

    Streaming giant Netflix received strong support from filmmakers behind “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” at the Producers Guild of America’s nominees panel on Saturday at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Jane Rosenthal, one of “The Irishman” producers, said Netflix embraced the vision that she and Martin Scorsese had for the $170 million film. [...]

  • Gabriel Harel on MyFFF ‘The Night

    Gabriel Harel Discusses Dystopic Parable ‘The Night of the Plastic Bags’

    With his first short film, the animated “Yùl and the Snake,” Gabriel Harel won Europe’s Cartoon d’Or for the continent’s best animated short film, given at the 2016 Cartoon Forum in Toulouse. Now, Harel’s awaited sophomore effort, the animated “The Night of the Plastic Bags,” competes at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, and is available on a swathe [...]

  • MyFrenchFilmFestival: Profiling Benjamin Crotty’s Short ‘Nicolas

    ‘The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin’: Nationalism Wrapped in Charisma

    Winner of Locarno’s Signs of Life section, Benjamin Crotty’s “The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin” has enjoyed more than 12 months of festival success and critical acclaim as it reaches the end of its festival run at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival. A modern take on one of France’s most influential yet widely unknown characters, the film headlines [...]

  • Alexander Ludwig

    Alexander Ludwig on Sharing his Recovery Journey, Playing the 'Bad Boys' Tech Guy

    With his towering height and stature, Alexander Ludwig looks every bit the action star, first appearing as Cato in “The Hunger Games,” and more recently as fierce Norse Viking chief Bjorn Ironside on History Channel’s “Vikings” and in “Bad Boys for Life,” the third installment of the “Bad Boys” franchise, with Will Smith and Martin [...]

  • Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Scores Big With $66 Million Launch

    “Bad Boys for Life” is showing plenty of power at the North American box office with an impressive  launch of around $66 million at 3,740 venues over the four-day holiday weekend. Sony’s sequel to 1995’s “Bad Boys” and 2003’s “Bad Boys II” far exceeded the studio’s pre-release forecasts of a $38 million weekend. The film, [...]

  • A Bump Along the Way Movie

    'A Bump Along the Way': Film Review

    While “Derry Girls” continues to be the last word in young, raucous female rebellion on the Emerald Isle, “A Bump Along the Way” has a little something to add. Sin the same Northern Irish city as the hit Netflix sitcom, but shedding the ’90s nostalgia for the Snapchat age, Shelly Love’s appealing, unassuming debut feature [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content