This Story Shows Why Julia Roberts Was Perfect For 'Pretty Woman'

by S. Atkinson
Buena Vista Pictures

There you were, thinking it was just another Wednesday, instead of the historic day that Julia Roberts wins People magazine's Most Beautiful Woman for the fifth time. But this isn't just important for the 49-year-old; it's also important for film fans, because the actor opened up about her iconic movie. Apparently, Roberts had no idea how successful Pretty Woman was when it premiered. No, seriously.

The auburn-haired actor brought it up because she won the award for the first time the year after she'd appeared in the romantic comedy alongside Richard Gere. “People say, ‘Oh, when Pretty Woman came out it must have really changed your life,’ and it’s kind of become this joke, but the truth is I was out of town when Pretty Woman came out," she said. "I was in another movie in this tiny little town that was showing Star Wars in its first run. I remember reading… ‘Pretty Woman came out this weekend and made this much money’ and I thought, ‘Is that a lot of money? Is that good? Is that great?’ I didn’t really know."

Say what? If you've ever watched the 119 minute slice of pure celluloid beauty that is the film in question, you'll know just how watchable it is from the very first second. You find yourself being drawn in almost despite yourself.

It's testimony to just how new the star was in the industry that she didn't know that $11,280,591 (how much Pretty Woman made on opening weekend, domestically) was an intense amount of money, though, in her defense, this was her first major success. If you're unimpressed, bear in mind that this was 1990; this figure adjusted for inflation would be equal to approximately $21 million nowadays. This was huge. A few months after the film's release, Walt Disney Studios took out an ad in Variety proclaiming that this was the highest-grossing film in the studio's almost 70 year history. And if Roberts hadn't recognized her own excellence in the film, others did: she received her second Academy Award nomination for playing Vivian Ward.

Her' reaction to the film's success is, in a strange sort of way, not entirely surprising. It's in line with her onscreen presence and the way her bubbly, down-to-earth aura distracts you from her model-like looks. Somehow, despite her photogenic appearance, she's always been strongest playing girl-next-door roles, whether Erin Brockovich, the gutsy single mom and legal clerk taking on a vast gas and electricity company, or Daisy, a waitress in a pizza joint in Mystic Pizza. In this way, her being out of town, (rather than at a glitzy premiere) when one of the biggest films of the '90s dropped and learning about the news from something she read (rather than via her high-powered agent) seems entirely appropriate.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the Pretty Woman star was skeptical about how much money the film could make since so many actors before her had passed on playing Vivian: stars like Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, and Molly Ringwald were all allegedly offered the part first. But it's now hard to imagine anyone other than Roberts in the role.

So, if you're at a loose end for something to watch tonight, you know what movie to go for. Celebrate one of the world's most beautiful — and humble — women in the most appropriate way possible.