Aside from Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, there were several other actors considered for the role of Vivian Ward and Edward Lewis in . Directed by Garry Marshall, the 1990 romantic comedy was a defining film of the genre. However, getting it off the ground and into production was no easy feat as the project hit several snags before filming even began, including in the casting stage.
The original script was written by J.F. Lawton titled 3000. At this point, Pretty Woman was still a dark drama about a Hollywood prostitute who gets into a relationship with some hotshot businessman. Unlike the film, however, their dynamic was much more complex, as the flick more explicitly tackled controversial themes, including Vivian being addicted to cocaine. Once Disney acquired the rights to the film and tapped Marshall, who's mostly known for comedies, its tone changed. The House of Mouse's ex-president Jeffrey Katzenberg insisted that it was reworked into a more fairytale-like story, which was eventually the case.
Pretty Woman became widely successful at the box office, becoming the third-highest-grossing film of 1990. Despite its unrealistic story, Gere and Roberts' chemistry was so electric that viewers couldn't help but root for them. However, before the pair locked their roles, there was a long list of other actors who were offered the lead characters. For Edward, Marshall had a string of stars in mind such as Christopher Reeve, Daniel Day-Lewis, Kevin Kline, Denzel Washington, Albert Brooks, Burt Reynolds, John Travolta, Liam Neeson, Sting, Sam Neill, Charles Grodin, Christopher Lambert and Michael Douglas. The part was also offered to, who even went as far as reading with Roberts. While he had a positive response to the script, he turned it down, explaining that the project wasn't for him. Gere was previously contacted to play Edward, but he also already turned it down; he didn't like that the character was toxic and manipulative in its early drafts as revealed in Netflix's . Co-producer Gary W. Goldstein was convinced that Gere should play Edward, however. Fortunately, after Disney and Marshall boarded Pretty Woman, they set up one more meeting with Gere where Roberts adorably begged him to do the project, and so he did.
Interestingly, like Edward, the filmmakers were quickly drawn to Roberts playing Vivian. But due to the tumultuous pre-production process for the movie, she wasn't locked right away. the script for the , the actress was already attached to it, but the House of Mouse wanted to cast a more prominent actress in the lead since Roberts was essentially an unknown at that point. Marshall originally wanted Karen Allen, and Meg Ryan was also among his top picks but, when both passed on it, they held open screenings. Many actresses were in the running for the part as casting director Dori Zuckerman recalled. Laura Dern, Demi Moore, Marisa Tomei, Anabelle Sciorra, Lorraine Bracco, Michelle Pfeiffer, Valeria Golino, Patricia Arquette, and Mary Steenburgen all either came in or considered. Molly Ringwald turned it down because she didn't want to play a prostitute, meanwhile,and Jennifer Connelly were rejected because they were too young. Diane Lane almost got the role before the script was reworked, but she couldn't do it because of scheduling conflicts. Eventually, the studio was backed into a corner when they almost lost Roberts to another project.
Suffice to say, everything worked for the best. Despite all the hurdles Pretty Woman went through, the roles of Vivian and Edward had always been meant to land with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. At this point, it's impossible to even imagine how the movie would've turned out had they not been cast. In any case, the fact that the pair reunited to do another rom-com classic, , is proof that they were very effective as a couple.