Molly Ringwald turned down lead role in Pretty Woman because it was ‘icky’

Molly Ringwald has revealed that she turned down the lead role in the 1990 romcom Pretty Woman.

The role – of sex worker Vivian Ward, who falls in love with a rich client played by Richard Gere – eventually became a star-making turn for Julia Roberts.

The film, which landed Roberts an Oscar nomination, was a hit, but nonetheless faced criticism for its depiction of sex work.

Speaking to The Guardian, Ringwald praised the “wonderful” performance by Roberts, but described the film itself as “icky”.

“Julia Roberts was wonderful in it, but I didn’t really like the story. Even then, I felt like there was something icky about it,” she said.

At the time, Ringwald was best known for her role in teen films such as The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles, and was struggling to break into adult roles.

She had been rejected for a role in the classic 1991 crime film Silence of the Lambs, as well as 1988’s Working Girl.

Mike Nichols, director of Working Girl, is said to have told her: “She really needs to be at that moment where you feel the pain.

“You have your whole life ahead of you – nobody’s going to believe that of you.”

In 2020, The Independent’s Annie Lord compiled a list of ways in which Pretty Woman had aged poorly.

Among the complaints were the film’s problematic handling of sexual assault, the suggestion that all sex workers want to be “saved”, and the uniformly negative depiction of blonde women.