'Pretty Woman' at 30: Richard Gere recalls initial reaction to role, 'Just put a suit on a goat'

Richard Gere would’ve been happy to let Pretty Woman walk on by when the project first came to him in the late ’80s. First of all, the broad comedy about a business transaction-turned-romance between a corporate raider and Hollywood prostitute (Julia Roberts) just wasn’t his cup of tea.

“It’s not my kind of movie, it wasn’t what I was looking for,” Gere told Yahoo Entertainment about the beloved film, which was released 30 years ago, on March 23, 1990, during a 2017 episode of Role Recall (watch in full below).

And as a veteran of stage and artier screen drama like Days of Heaven, American Gigolo, and The Cotton Club, Gere didn’t find the part of the well-dressed Wall Streeter Edward Lewis either meaty or multi-dimensional. “I remember I kept saying, ‘Just put a suit on a goat and put him out there.’ It’s about the suit more than anything else,” said Gere.

Ironically, J.F. Lawton’s original screenplay for the film, called Three Thousand, was a grittier, darker drama, much more a commentary on class and economic imbalance than swoony love story. It would’ve been the type of prestige project that fit right in on Gere’s CV before Disney bought it and rom-com-ified it during the development process.

Gere, of course, ultimately gave in, largely due to two people: his leading lady on the rise, Roberts, and the beloved late director Garry Marshall. “I liked Garry Marshall very much,” Gere said. “Garry was a smart, generous, kind person. He was a very special person. You wanted to be around him. And you wanted to take a ride with him.”

Roberts was not yet a major name, with only few credits like Satisfaction and Mystic Pizza on her résumé. “Julia, obviously, was just bursting with magic,” said Gere, who recalled meeting with her at his New York office at the urging of Marshall. “It was just undeniable that she had this thing. And the camera obviously loved her.”

It sure did: Pretty Woman became one of the most successful films of 1990, and remains one of the most popular rom-coms of all time.

This story was originally published April 17, 2017.

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