How ‘Pretty Woman’ Went From Dark And Gritty To The Ultimate Romantic Comedy

Pretty Woman was released 25 years ago today (we are ever aging, ever inching closer to death and ever — *jewelry box snaps shut on hand* HAHAHAHAHA, wait, sorry what was I saying?), and in its honor Vanity Fair has the backstory on its original premise and ending. What became the ultimate romantic comedy actually began as a dark, gritty script in the vein of Wall Street that could have starred Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Screenwriter J.F. Lawton was struggling in Hollywood, writing scripts about ninjas. He decided people would take him more seriously if he wrote something serious. First, he wrote Red Sneakers, the story of “a one-legged lesbian standup comic who was an alcoholic,” then 3,000, the script that would become Pretty Woman.

Inspired by Wall Street and the financial fat-cats of the ’80s who were killing small businesses, Lawton decided to tell that story from the perspective of someone affected by these greedy deeds — and he decided upon a prostitute.

Lawton’s original script still contains many of the classic beats and scenes that people remember from the final film, including a trip to the opera, a series of bad shopping experiences, and that fancy dinner with the kind-hearted businessman whose company he is trying to raid. The characters are mostly the same, even Vivian’s best friend Kit, while the character who would become Jason Alexander’s Stuckey is simply known as William. But the tone and ending are completely different, and it’s mostly a relief when Vivian and Edward don’t end up together, even though the story ends on a decidedly down note. 3,000 ends with Kit and Vivian on a bus bound for Disneyland—that the film would eventually be produced by Disney is yet another odd bit to a complicated story—with Kit anticipating a fun day financed by Vivian’s week with Edward, as Vivian “stares out emptily ahead.” That’s it. That’s all.

Hardly the “Cinder-f*ckin’-rella” ending we now know. And that’s because the movie, which was originally produced by Vestron, got taken over by Disney. When Disney brought in Garry Marshall, the film got a happy ending — one that resulted in a happy ending for everyone, with a gross of $178 million. And Lawton is hardly bitter.

“I was thrilled! That’s the other side of it, is that I’m supposed to be the wounded artist in all of this who painted the da Vinci or whatever and then they slashed it. I was a guy who was writing ninja movies and trying to get a job. If you’re an architect and you design a cabin for the woods, and somebody says, ‘We want to make it into a skyscraper’ . . . the fact that Disney came in and wanted to do it as a big-budget movie with a major director was a great thing.”

That’s a Cinderella story.

Source: Vanity Fair