Nine out of ten mothers agree: Pretty Woman is a great movie. It’s a heartwarming tale about a woman of the night who meets a nice rich man, and he teaches her how to have self-respect, or something. I hate to break it to you, moms, but Pretty Woman is actually a nasty film with terrible lessons for women and a sensitized misrepresentation of prostitutes — the reason they don’t kiss on the mouth has nothing to do with things getting too personal; they just don’t want to risk getting an STD.
In case you’re more of a Notting Hill gal or Runaway Bride guy, here’s the plot of Pretty Woman:
Generic Rich Person Richard Gere hires Prostitute Julia Roberts to stay with him for a week. She starts wearing “suitable clothing.” Roy Orbison montage. Evil Jason Alexander learns what Prostitute Julia Roberts does for a living and tries to buy her services. Generic Rich Person Richard Gere falls in love with Prostitute Julia Roberts. Evil Jason Alexander tries to rape Prostitute Julia Roberts. Prostitute Julia Roberts makes a plan to leave Los Angeles to earn her GED in San Francisco, but before she can depart, Generic Rich Person Richard Gere makes a grand gesture and convinces her to stay. They live happily ever after.
It’s typical Hollywood romance nonsense, a way to make the audience sigh “awww” when they should groan “ewww.” But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Pretty Woman‘s original ending is less romantic-comedy than dark drama with a gross name: $3,000, referring to how much it costs to hire Roberts’ Vivian Ward for the week. The script came courtesy of J.F. Lawton, who also wrote such classics as Under Siege (!), Blankman (!!), and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (?), but was given once-overs by Robert Garland, Stephen Metcalfe, and Barbara Benedek, as well as director Garry Marshall, who sensitized much of Lawton’s work.
“Garry was a little nervous about making the ending too upbeat, because the script was well respected in Hollywood and he didn’t want to be accused of being the guy who turned it into fluff,” remembered Lawton, who was asked to do another draft of the script. “I did two drafts that made it more of a love story – they got together at the end. I took out the fact that he had a girlfriend he was cheating on with her and a few other things, and Disney’s reaction was that I’d gone too far, lightened it up too much.” Lawton was fired and another writer, Stephen Metcalfe, was hired to do a fourth draft, and Robert Garland for a fifth, and Barbara Benedek for a sixth. “Garry Marshall had a bunch of writers punching up material, one-liner people. At that point I threw up my hands. I heard rumors they were thinking of hiring me back, but that never happened,” Lawton added. (Via)
The website Liz Tells Frank has a nice breakdown of some of the changes:
-Vivian likes “white rocks,” and spends like the first six pages of the script working the streets and buying drugs.
-Edward doesn’t drink because, AND I QUOTE, “my liver rotted away.”
-Vivian kisses on the mouth right from the start.
-Vivian agrees to be Edward’s lady companion for the week originally for $2,000.
She successfully negotiates up to $3,000 after he tells her she’s not allowed to smoke crack while she stays with him. This is referred to as “hardship pay” by Edward.
-Vivian’s gotten some manners, but still uses the N-word on page 109.
-The ending: Edward and Vivian leave the hotel together in a limo, first to travel from Beverly Hills to Hollywood to drop Vivian off, and then off to LAX to send Edward back to New York.
-Vivian throws a temper tantrum over having to return the rented fur coat, which is of course really about how Edward is going back to his girlfriend in New York and while Vivian developed real feelings for Edward, he does not reciprocate.
-He literally puts her $3,000 in the gutter after she throws herself out of the limo.
But then she and her best friend Kit…go to Disneyland.
Instead of being rescued by a white knight, Vivian goes to a theme park and probably hits the white stuff later that night. Here’s how Roberts described the original screenplay:
“A really dark and depressing, horrible, terrible story about two horrible people and my character was this drug addict, a bad-tempered, foulmouthed, ill-humored, poorly educated hooker who had this week-long experience with a foulmouthed, ill-tempered, bad-humored, very wealthy, handsome but horrible man and it was just a grisly, ugly story about these two people.” (Via)
Pretty Woman eventually grossed over $463 million worldwide and turned Julia Roberts into America’s Sweetheart (the person, as well as the terrible film), so Garry Marshall & Co. were probably right to get rid of all the “Vivian drops the n-bomb” scenes. But I still want a cut of the film that resembles Lawton’s original script, if only to see where Roberts, who turned 47 today, would be now. Would her predominantly female fanbase still adore her if she played a proud “foulmouthed” hooker, and not the escort with a heart of gold and a million dollar laugh?
Probably not, especially in my version, where her hand gets chopped off.