While not everyone is a fan of the 1990 rom-com classic Pretty Woman, you’d be hard-pressed to knock it off a list of uplifting flicks.
To be fair, plot-wise, there’s not a lot to it. Julia Roberts’ unlikely prostitute Vivian Ward is suddenly and unexpectedly swept up from her cash-in-hand world of sex work – which she insists she runs on her own terms – and into the extravagant life of client Edward Lewis (Richard Gere). He’s a rich businessman with not a lot going on in the romance department and, inevitably, happily ever after ensues.
But it turns out that the original plot of Pretty Woman was a little more disturbing, as Gere explained to Variety in 2017. Although the actor admitted that he had never seen the original script for the film, he did say that “it does exist” and was called 3,000 – the amount Vivian earned for the week she spends with her client – and that part of Edward’s deal with her is that she stay off the cocaine she’s addicted to for the week they’re together.
“It was a dark movie,” Gere mused. “But I think Jeff Katzenberg saw something in it and didn’t want to make that movie, but he saw this other movie in it.”
In fact, the original story was a cautionary tale about sex work in Los Angeles and saw Roberts’ character dies from an overdose, rather than being smooched on a fire escape as the music swells.
Late director Garry Marshall and Walt Disney Studios president Katzenberg decided to set about turning it into the Roy Orbison-themed, shopping-montage-infused romance we’re familiar with today, but it wasn’t exactly a simple task.
“You think a movie like that is fun and breezy, someone writes a script you make the movie,” the actor explained. “We were continually rewriting and adding stuff and rethinking. We were all working hard to make it feel as breezy as it was, but still have some kind of mysterious undertow to it that would give it weight and longevity.”
In the end, the new version of Pretty Woman was a fairly sanitized tale that earned $463 million off its $14 million budget, and launched Julia Roberts’ career into the stratosphere, but it’s fascinating to think of what might have happened had things gone a different way.