‘Pretty Woman’ Reunion: Iconic Rom-Com Was Originally Very Different Story, Cast Says 25 Years Later

The cast of Pretty Woman got together for a reunion Monday, and revealed that the iconic “chick flick” that set off a wave of similar feel-good films throughout the 1990s, was not originally supposed to be a romantic comedy, or “rom-com” as the Hollywood term became.

Pretty Woman, which turned a then little-known actress named Julia Roberts into a global superstar, was released into United States theaters exactly 25 years ago Monday, on March 23, 1990. Roberts at the time was just 22-years-old and known mainly for supporting roles in smaller, dramatic films such as 1988’s Mystic Pizza and 1989’s Steel Magnolias.

Though the latter film brought her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, it wasn’t until the massive box office success of Pretty Woman the following year that Hollywood firmly branded Julia Roberts as its favorite leading lady.

Pretty Woman was produced on a budget of $14 million — which would be about $40 million today, modest by Hollywood standards. But it went on to earn nearly $180 million at the domestic box office, and more than $460 million worldwide, making it the most successful romantic comedy in film industry history, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that the movie was rated R on its release.

But the Pretty Woman that charmed audiences a quarter-century ago was scripted as a radically different story, according to the cast, which held a reunion on Monday’s NBC Today Show, at which Roberts and leading man Richard Gere were joined by supporting stars Hector Elizondo and Laura Sam Giacomo.

The film that want on to become beloved by worldwide audiences features a Pygmalion-like tale of a wealthy businessman (Gere), who plucks a feisty prostitute (Roberts) off the street, and turns her into a refined society woman.

But the original screenplay was titled 3,000 and ended in grim fashion, with Gere’s character physically shoving Roberts out of his limo onto the street and throwing cash at her, contemptuously. The story was designed as a dark, cautionary tale about drug abuse.

But that all changed when Marshall came on board, and Disney Studios bought rights to the production.

Gere, who as recently as 2012 dismissed Pretty Woman as “silly,” admitted Monday that he was reluctant to play a character who he saw as lacking depth and merely “a suit.” But at one early meeting, Roberts herself persuaded him to change his mind.

“She’s across the desk and she takes a piece of paper, a Post-it, and she turns it around and she pushes it to me and she says ‘Please say yes,'” Gere recalled. “It was so sweet, and I said, ‘I just said yes.'”

Watch excerpts from the Pretty Woman reunion in the Today Show video, above.

[Image: Disney Co.]