Pretty Woman is an accessible blockbuster: a feel-good romantic comedy that made Julia Roberts into a Hollywood icon, and ushered in a new era of feel-good romantic comedies in the 1990s. Garry Marshall's influence was paramount to the film's success, and to this new era of romantic comedy. His expertise as a writer and a television producer equipped him to imbue Pretty Woman with a wholesome and cheerful charm, and make the more controversial themes of the movie palatable to a mass audience.
Garry Marshall had honed a talent for creating warm and human comedy in his work on network television. His TV writing credits stretched from Gomer Pyle to the Dick Van Dyke Show to the Odd Couple. Later, he created Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. Marshall was a versatile director and writer, and specialized in creating family-friendly fare, which would serve him in the development process with Pretty Woman.
The original title of the film's screenplay by J.F. Lawton was $3,000—the amount paid for a week of companionship with Vivian. The straightforwardness of such a title gives a fair indication of the early draft's mercenary tone. There was no fairy tale ending, and no redemption for either character. Instead, the film told a grittier story, with the prostitute dying of an overdose at the end. Disney bought the movie, even in these early grittier days of its inception, and Garry Marshall felt up to the task of humanizing such a tragic story, having recently directed the darker film Beaches.
However, as they got deeper into developing the film, all involved saw the drawbacks of telling such a bleak story. Many actresses turned down the role of Vivian, producer Laura Ziskin objected to $3000's bleak portrayal of women, and it was difficult to find the story's beating heart. Marshall knew the secret to touching the hearts of millions from his work on television, and when he saw the chemistry between his two stars, Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, and after receiving quite a bit of collaborative feedback, the team began to refashion the initial draft. Everyone came to agree that what the film needed was not a dark message, but a fairy tale ending. Richard Gere was Prince Chaming, Roberts was Cinderella, and they needed to end up together in the end. Marshall knew just how to do this, and his film is still widely regarded as one of the most iconic romantic comedies of recent years.