Pretty Woman: The cute story of how Julia Roberts convinced Richard Gere to take the role

31 August 2023, 09:07

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman
Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Pretty Woman was the film that saw Julia Roberts become 'America's Sweetheart' and a true Hollywood icon alongside the suave Richard Gere.

The 1990 romcom won a legion of fans upon release, and it remains one of the greatest films of its genre ever made.

But it could have been very different indeed...

Julia Roberts won the role of struggling prostitute Vivian Ward, but just three days later she actually lost the job, because the film - originally titled 3,000 - had cast her soon before its original production company, Vestron Pictures, went out of business.

"This small movie company folded over the weekend, and by Monday, I didn’t have a job," Julia told Variety in 2019.

Initially, the film was going to be “a gritty art movie” with a “really heavy” ending. However, Disney ended up buying the film rights, brought in director Garry Marshall, and it transformed into the 1990 romantic comedy Pretty Woman.

Julia had to audition for the role again after Marshall came on boarrd, as he wanted to take a look at other Hollywood A-listers.

"Garry Marshall came on, and because he’s a great human being, he felt it would only be fair to meet me, since I had this job for three days and lost it," Julia explained.

Thankfully, she won him over, and Marshall avoided a big mistake. Huge.

Pretty Woman Necklace Scene

Writer JF Lawton later praised Richard Gere and Julia for putting their stamp on it, leading to a more happy ending than what was originally conceived.

"They had auditioned Al Pacino, they had auditioned Michelle Pfeiffer, and it would definitely have been a different movie if had it been Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer,” he told Vanity Fair.

"It might have been closer to the original script and maybe not have had a happy ending. But the chemistry between Julia and Gere, it is palpable on the screen, it was palpable in auditions. You can’t really see how it could end any other way, because they just light up with each other."

In fact, Julia was largely responsible for convincing Richard Gere to do the film. He explained that Marshall brought Julia to his New York City apartment and left them alone to chat.

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts reunited
Richard Gere and Julia Roberts reunited. Picture: Getty

"To be honest, I didn't know if I was doing this movie yet. She's across the desk, we're getting to know each other, we're flirty-flirty, nice-nice," Gere said in a 2015 cast reunion on the Today show.

"And [Marshall] calls up and it's kind of like, 'How's it going?' And I'm going, 'Yeah, yeah,' and she takes a piece of paper. She turns it around, and she pushes it to me. It said, 'Please say yes.' It was so sweet. And I was like [miming talking on the phone], 'I just said yes.'"

Marshall added: "The chemistry between Roberts and Gere was perfect. The actors brought such a lovability and charm that I didn’t think the audience would want a dark ending, and it didn’t hurt that I am from the school of happy endings."

Pretty Woman saw Julia earn a 1991 Academy Awards Best Actress nomination for the role, as well as a Golden Globe win.