“What’s your name?”  “What do you want it to be?” 


  Garry Marshall . 1989 


“I would have ruined it…  probably brought the movie down. When I saw the movie, which I thought was terrific, I couldn’t see myself in that part.   Richard Gere really did it well. I didn’t feel I could have done that.”

“It’s strange to talk about vulnerability and innocence with a guy who’s played the foremost killers on the American screen,” said the director. “But he’s so pure and honest and artistic, it’s a little like Don Quixote walking through Hollywood.”

The original script was called 3,000 and the Wall Street corporate raider hiring a hooker for a week at $3,000 was…  Al Fuckin’ Pacino…!


“You and I are both such similar people,” he says.

“We both screw people for money.”


Vestron got lucky with Dirty Dozen but carelessly dropped Pretty Woman and  producer Gary W Goldstein was staggered to get a call from, of all studios, Disney. “Sure you got the right script?” But this was the new, adult (well, slightly) Mouse House off-shoot called Touchstone.  “Just perfect for us. Or will be when we get the right script” – constantly being re-thought, re-figured, dark, bleak, loud  then light, and  glossy.  Then, endless discussions about The End.  “He has to has to break her heart,” said writer JF Lawston, “or fall in love with her.”  Hey, it’s obvious. It’s Disney here.

During four years of gestation, Julia Roberts remained the hooker – once almost opposite Sean Connery. (They were later due for a (cancelled) re-make of The Ghost and Mrs Muir). Disney was just not sure about  her  even  though Pacino sadi the film would be a hit and Julia was just great! When word got out she was signing for something else – her Disney deal was settled before nightfall.

“I owe my career to Garry Marshall,” said! Roberts.  “There was no known reason for him to hire me… even he was puzzled by his decision.”  He was the creator of TV’s Happy Days and its spin-offs: Laverne and Shirley and, the birth of Robin Williams in Mork & Mindy


He was directing a mess of rewrites…

“I don’t know what movie we’re making.”


There were really only two roles in the the piece. Businessman Edward Lewis and hooker Vivian Ward.  Disney checked 18 guys and 42 women mostly from among the ladies, including at least two lesbians, up for The Accused, Cape Fear and The Terminator… and, like many of the men, Prizzi’s Honour.   

After Pacino and Roberts, the only other actual planned couple was Christophe(r) Lambert. and  Molly Ringwald.  He, she could take.  The script, not so much.  It made her uncomfortable. Besides, she had no ambiton to play a tart.  And yes, she later regretted  fleeing the coup!

Edward Lewis .  Once Pacino pulled out Warren Beatty was mentioned. But his movie  income still allowed him to be choosey. He had amassed  $30m – doubled by pal Nicholson with just one movie,  Batman.

Despite his creedo –  “If there was a pretty leading lady I’d do it no matter how bad the part was” –  Burt Reynolds fled friom this  Pretty Woman. Why? “Because I’m an idiot.” True! His role selections were lousy. Worse than George Raft’s. George  refused most of Bogart’s hits and now Reynolds admitted avoiding three Richard Gere roles. (Actually, four, but who’s counting).

John Travolta belonged to the same club of bad choices… He refused Edward, just as he had passed American Gigolo to Gere in 1978. Christopher Reeve had talks. And complained of unprofessionalism. Anyway,  he would not have been happy with director Marshall’s instructions to Gere…


 “In his movie, one of you moves. One of you doesn’t.

Guess which one you are?”


The Edward problem was he was way too selfish and manipulative.  Daniel Day-Lewis even called him evil. And the usual leading men didn’t want to risk their fan-bases.  Which men?  These men: Tom Berenger, Albert Brooks, Michel Douglas, Charles Grodin (!!), Liam Neeson, Sam Neil, Dennis Quaid, even Sting.  Oh and… Sylvester Stallone. Well, of course he refused.  He had to have the best body in a film.  He claimed to have refused three Gere films. (Actually, four, but who’s counting: American Gigolo, An Officer and Gentleman, The Cotton Club and Internal Affairs). “He’s prettier. I’m not a romantic lead. I look in the mirror: Jesus! This is crooked, that’s drooping, the voice sounds like a pallbearer.”

Oh and even Denzel Washington –  a casting idea that would  have been be seen as a racial slur, implying that only black tycoons bought women.  Four years later, Denzel and Julia (among the few stars best known by their first names)  co-starred in The Pelican Brief thriller.

Finally, it was Disney’s Jeff Katzenberg who phoned Gere. “I got this script – a cross between My Fair Lady and Wall Street.” Gere passed – until his agent, the legendary Ed Limato, begged him to change his mind Gere began to cave. Limato, after all,  was ‘the best of the best… the most respected agent of our time.”  Finally, during an office meeting with Julia, she passed a Post-it. Across the desk to him.   “Please say yes.”  He was so touched, he said Yes.”

Vivian Ward . “The early draft I saw didn’t work on the page,” said the very literate Meg Ryan, an ex-journalism student at  NYU. “The film turned out well  because of  Julia,  not because of the script. She elevated it. But listen, I have to look at things the way they read. We all do.”

Luscious Valeria Golino found herself in a terrible place….  Second! “It was awful. At least I wasn’t 25th!?The fact that I am foreigner didn’t help. It helped me get there because my accent was charming, but when it came to be between Julia Roberts and me. She was American. We did the last reading the same day. We had three scenes and I saw her a couple of times in the corridor coming towards me, I was dressed the same and we would be like, ‘Hey! Hi!’ and in my head I was like: Oh shit! I knew I’d lost it when I saw her! I was beautiful, too, but she was perfect for that comedy. I always had more melancholia, something different.  (By 201o, she was directing ).

Roberts or not, various other girls were seen and,  usually, shouted their way out of the role. 


For Jennifer Jason Leigh:

“The script was so dark, I couldn’t believe

Disney was making it. And, of course, they didn’t.

Instead, they turned it into a recruiting film…

the Top Gun of prostitution.”


Garry Marshall got another earful when he contacted The Eyeful. “The script  infuriated  me,”  Darryl  Hannah  told  him.  “On  a very specific level,  this was a love story.  But it’s not. It’s not!  It’s a kick in the teeth to the whole idea of moving along the women’s movement… ” [Unlike her stripper in Dancing At The Blue Iguana, 2000.  Or her Whore in 2004].

“What the film had to say was incredibly, subliminally irresponsible and destructive.  I told Garry that telling girls that being a prostitute while deciding on a career is OK because you might meet your Prince Charming was just unbelievable. It was so, so disturbing.”

An amazed Garry Marshall showed his age.  “I always thought Pretty Woman was Pygmalion.” Or, then again, My Fair Lady, with only one song.

After such denunciations, it was surprising that  the upright Jodie Foster should  be interested in Ms Ward.  Well, Foster had won her Oscar the year before for The Accused, and  probably saw Vivian as being the chance of a double.

Sarah Jessica Parker simply disliked Vivian . You could see why when she  became Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City on TV.   SJP does not do sexy.  Or, not well.  Without trying, her Sex co-star, Kristin Davis, did it better, just not enough impress Marshall.

Kim Basinger, Bo Derek  and Madonna were the most obvious notions as opposed to Carrie Fisher putting Princess Leia on the streets! Diane Lane came close (for the darker version with Pacino) except for her crowded diary, including three other movies with Richard Gere. Lori Petty  actually preferred Cadillac Man – huh and hah!  Elisabeth Shue went on to be Oscar-nominated for another hooker in Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas in 1995.

At 24, Brooke Shields  was looking for a mature role.  Without success.  Having lost Body Doubleand Prizzi’s Honour, she auditioned for Vivian.. Marshall was not so  enthusiastic and Shields felt this was the biggest loss in her career.

Garry Marshall had the grace, at least,  to drop Drew Barrymore, and Winona Ryder  for being too young.  At 14 and 18.  So was Uma Thurman, at 19, despite her erotic breakthrough in Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons.  

Also in contention were… the  Arquette sisters, Patricia and Rosanna, Justine Bateman, Lorraine Bracco, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Connelly, Jamie Lee Curtis, Joan Cusack (!),Geena Davis, Laura Dern, Bridget Fonda, Melanie Griffith, Heather Locklear, Lori Loughlin, Kelly McGillis, Demi Moore, Tatum O’Neal, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annabella Sciorra, Mary Steenburgen, Sharon Stone (three years before the raunchier Basic Instinct), Emma Thompson (!!!), Marisa Tomei, Kathleen Turner and Debra Winger,

Oh yes, and Marshall  lost Jennifer Jason Leigh by making another asinine, macho  mistake.  He believed the hooker “had been doing this for so long, she’s having fun!”

“Fun?” yelled Leigh. “What can be fun about getting in a car with some 60-year-old and giving him a blow job?”

Kit . Demi Moore rejected Laura San Giacomo’s fine cameo because… well, she wasn’t Vivian, was she.  And  Roy Orbsion wasn’t singing about Kit!

Garry Marshall – remember him?  “I don’t know what movie we’re making.” – had a 57 day schedule and only six people signed on Day One – 119 more to find. ”I’ll look ‘em up as we go along, ” he said, cooler than cucumbers. He wasn’t worried. He had his lucky charm amiong the fuirst people casts: Hector Elizondo. He’s in so many Marshall movies, that his credit in the 1993 Exit To Eden read: As Usual… Hector Elizondo. “Pretty Woman was the easiest job I’ve ever done. I just wore the right toupee!”.

Only one thing the director as adament about – Jason Alexander was not going to be Richard Gere’s lawyer, Stuckey. “He made it clear I was not The Guy,” recalled Jason on the Netflix show, The Movies That Made Us, 2021.  Indeed, Garry said their punch-up would look Gere was beating up a dwarf – and, as Jason pointed out, “Disney was very protective of dwarfs!”

Nothing, however, would stop his agent from pestering Marshall with the same question: What about Jason”? Until Garry blew her off with:”If you say that name again, I… will…  fire…  you!? 

Cool or not, shambolic was the word for the Marshall shooting method, making things up as they struggled along.  “Do it faster, slower, funnier,” order4 Marshall. Not forgetting his finest line to Jason: “Talk about shoes!”

“It was a great film but it was complete mania,” reported Alexander. “I thought this thing wil; never see the light of day.  Straight to video!  No one was confident that we had the story.” 

Editor Priscilla Nedd-Friendly saved the day even though the rushes never mached the script. Katzenburg chose the new title – and, naturaly, also secured rights for the the classic rock song to go with it. Woman cost  $14m  and made made $11 the first  weekend. Home and dry! It wound up making $432m and remains (in 2021) Hollywood’s most successful rom-com.  

Oh yes and the adament Garry Marshall adored Jason Alexander and suggested him to a  guy for his series about nothing.  Seinfeld!