20 Surprising Facts About Pretty Woman

Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista Pictures / Buena Vista Pictures

“What’s your dream?” Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman was all about big dreams—Hollywood-sized dreams, in fact—so it seems especially fitting that the 1990 romantic comedy became a smash hit, launching the career of starlet Julia Roberts and forever injecting the idea of the “hooker with a heart of gold” into the pop culture vernacular.


Screenwriter J.F. Lawton’s original script, which was titled 3000, wasn’t a love story—and it didn’t have a happy ending. Instead of a rom-com about two very different people finding love, it was a grittier tale about two damaged individuals who spent a week together that ends in tears and zero hope for a balcony-set reunion scene.


As dark as 3000 was, it ended with Vivian and her best pal Kit headed to The Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland. That scene was ultimately cut after the film was restyled as a rom-com, but it proved to be weirdly prescient about the feature’s future—the movie was eventually produced by Disney.


Although Lawton is the only credited screenwriter on the project—which means he contributed more than half of its content—other scribes took a pass at it in order to turn it into the beloved gem it is today, including Stephen Metcalfe (Cousins), Robert Garland (No Way Out), and Barbara Benedek (The Big Chill).

4. Julia Roberts was interested in the film from the very beginning.

No, really! Lawton’s first version of the story—the darker 3000—was a well-regarded script that was set to be made as it was, before its production company went belly up. Even in its grittier incarnation, the up-and-coming Roberts was interested in the role of Vivian. She was always going to be the pretty woman.

5. Roberts tested against a variety of Hollywood leading men.

They included Sam Neill, Tom Conti, and Charles Grodin. Of course it was Richard Gere who eventually snagged the part of Edward Lewis.

6. The film really was shot at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

It was mostly a matter of convenience; it was the only hotel in Beverly Hills that would allow Marshall to film both inside and outside. (Fans of the movie can book a "Pretty Woman for a Day" stay at the hotel.) Additional scenes were filmed at the nearby Ambassador Hotel—the same Ambassador Hotel where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968—which was demolished in 2005.

7. It's the fourth highest grossing romantic comedy in American history.

With a box office total take of just over $178.4 million, Pretty Woman trails only My Big Fat Greek Wedding, What Women Want, and Hitch, which means it’s still the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the nineties (There’s Something About Mary, which opened in 1998, is just behind it with $176,484,651).

8. Pretty Woman is classified as a “Cinderella Complex” film.

Online box office resource Box Office Mojo places the film within the "Cinderella Complex" category, a genre that also includes Ever After, She’s All That, and The Devil Wears Prada. Pretty Woman is considered the second highest grossing film within the category, right behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

9. Even the original screenplay includes that infamous shopping scene.

One element of the film that remained intact over the course of its many script changes is the scene in which some rude saleswomen at a Beverly Hills boutique refuse to sell to Vivian because they don't think she can afford anything. In 3000, Vivian also goes back to the shop to show off her wares after a more successful shopping excursion, but she doesn’t use that seminal “Big mistake!” line.

10. A woman added in one of the film’s most important final lines.

Producer Laura Ziskin is often credited with turning the film into a fairytale, and while that’s exactly not true (again, there were at least four writers on this feature alone), she did contribute one of the film’s final lines: “She saves him right back,” delivered by an emboldened Vivian on a scuzzy fire escape, after Edward comes to, well, rescue her.

11. That’s not Julia Roberts on the film’s poster.

Although Roberts sports a very familiar outfit on the film’s classic poster, you may notice that the colors of her dress are all wrong (pink and black, instead of white and blue). But there’s something else that’s not quite right: that body does not belong to Roberts! Body double Shelley Michelle posed for the pic, and Roberts’ head was later superimposed onto Michelle's body.

12. The opera that Vivian and Edward attend is La Traviata.

It’s the opera that made Vivian almost pee her pants, it was so good! But it’s also an opera that’s oddly reflective of the story at hand, because La Traviata is also about a prostitute who falls in love with a rich gentleman. That tale ends tragically, however, with courtesan Violetta falling ill with tuberculosis, singing one last song, and dying in her lover’s arms.

13. A lot of would-be stars turned down the film.

They included Jennifer Connelly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daryl Hannah, Al Pacino, Albert Brooks, Burt Reynolds, and Jeff Bridges. Big mistake. Big! Huge!

14. Director Garry Marshall appears in a cameo. Sort of.

Remember that homeless man that Edward asks for directions early on in the film, before getting hopelessly lost in Hollywood? That’s not Marshall, but it is his voice!

15. The red dress Vivian wears to the opera was designed by Marilyn Vance-Straker.

Vance-Straker also designed costumes for films like Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

16. Prince’s “Kiss” does not appear on the film’s soundtrack.

Even though Vivian memorably sings along to the song in the hotel’s massive bathtub—complete with kissing sounds—Prince’s “Kiss” doesn’t actually appear on the film’s soundtrack.

17. But the song from which the film takes its title does.

That would be “Oh, Pretty Woman,” by Roy Orbison.

18. The film was nominated for four Golden Globes.

And Roberts actually won for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, beating out Mia Farrow, Andie MacDowell, Demi Moore, and even Meryl Streep! Though Roberts was still a relative newcomer at the time, the award marked her second consecutive Golden Globe; she took home the Best Supporting Actress award one year earlier for Steel Magnolias. Roberts also scored an Oscar nod for her role in Pretty Woman.

19. Vivian’s borrowed necklace was worth a quarter of a million dollars.

The necklace was loaned to the production for filming purposes, and it came complete with its very own security guard, who reportedly stood directly behind Marshall the entire time it was being used on screen.

20. The film’s fancy restaurant scene was shot at a real restaurant.

Back then, the downtown Los Angeles restaurant was called Rex II Ristorante, though it’s now known as Cicada (in the film, it was called The Voltaire). The restaurant has appeared in a number of movies, including Indecent Proposal and Bruce Almighty. Patrons can actually request "The Pretty Woman Table."