Richard Gere and Julia Roberts were among the stars who joined in a special celebration honoring legendary director, producer and screenwriter Garry Marshall, who passed away in 2016 at age 81. The two-hour tribute, The Happy Days of Garry Marshall, debuted May 12 on ABC at 8 p.m.
Gere and Roberts famously teamed up on two of Marshall’s most popular films: 1990’s Pretty Woman and 1999’s Runaway Bride. The two have sizzling on-camera chemistry, which Marshall himself discussed in an interview years later. That chemistry has sparked rumors of a real-life romance over the years, but they are false.
Roberts and Gere have never dated and both are happily married to other people. Gere tied the knot with Spanish activist Alejandra Silva in 2018 and the couple has two young children together. Roberts has been married to cinematographer Daniel Moder since 2002 and they have three children.
Here’s what you need to know:
Roberts Had to Persuade Gere to Join the ‘Pretty Woman’ Cast
Julia Roberts had to audition twice for the role of prostitute Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman. She was originally awarded the part when the script was still in its initial, much darker, form. The movie would have depicted Vivian as a drug addict and the ending involved Vivian being kicked out of the leading man’s car with the money he owed her.
But after the script was sold to Disney, it was turned into more of a fairy-tale story. Garry Marshall came on as the director and restarted the casting process. Actresses Michelle Pfeiffer and Diane Lane were both tapped for the leading role but turned down the offers. Marshall eventually recast Roberts for the part.
But finding the perfect Edward Lewis was more of a challenge. Roberts did screen-tests with at least 10 different actors. Burt Reynolds and Al Pacino both declined the role. Roberts and Marshall finally targeted Richard Gere for the role but he turned them down multiple times.
Roberts explained how she finally convinced Gere to be her Pretty Woman co-star during a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly Radio. She and Marshall flew to New York to meet with Gere at the actor’s apartment. (Roberts added she thought that was weird at the time that she was allowed to know Gere’s home address).
The three of them talked for a while before Marshall decided to allow Roberts and Gere to talk one-on-one. Roberts explained:
[Gere’s] a very serious actor and he had very specific thoughts about the movie and the part and what worked and what didn’t work for him. And I think I just nodded and smiled a lot and agreed with everything he said. And I just said, “You have to do this movie. If you don’t do this movie and it falls apart and I lose this job, it would be terrible.” And I kind of pleaded with him in a very real way. Then all three of us went out to dinner and had a great time. And he changed all of our lives forever by agreeing to do this movie.
That discussion also involved a post-it note. Marshall called to ask how their solo chat was going. While Gere was on the phone with Marshall, Roberts held up a Post-It with the words “Please say yes” written on it. Gere told Marshall, “I just said yes.”
Marshall: ‘You Can Fake Anything In This Business Except Chemistry’ & ‘Richard & Julia Had Great Chemistry’
Roberts was only 21 years old when she starred in Pretty Woman, while Gere was about 40. Director Garry Marshall explained to the Huffington Post in 2012 that Roberts had been nervous about filming the love scenes but that Gere was instrumental in helping to calm her down. Marshall also responded to a question about whether Gere and Roberts ever had an off-camera romantic relationship:
We don’t talk about that! I don’t know, but they did get along quite well. You see, you can fake anything in this business except chemistry and when two people kiss, the audience knows if there’s chemistry or not and Richard and Julia had great chemistry.
In 2015, the Pretty Woman cast reunited on the TODAY show to commemorate the movie’s 25th anniversary. Gere touched on his chemistry with Roberts during the interview, recalling that when he first met Roberts in the office of his apartment, he was “mesmerized.” Gere remembered, “I just remember you sitting across from my desk… and I was so mesmerized, I don’t remember Garry. I just remember the girl.” Marshall also explained during that interview that he chose to leave Gere and Roberts alone because he could already see the pair had chemistry.
Roberts and Gere both said they faced questions about whether there would ever be a sequel to Pretty Woman. As Gere put it during a 1999 interview, it was a scary proposition for anyone involved in the original project because “Do you really want to beg for lightning to strike twice?”
But Gere and Roberts did ultimately reunite with Marshall for Runaway Bride. Gere told E! News the script made him laugh out loud and he thought it was a solid piece. But he said that having Marshall at the helm as the director was a crucial reason why he agreed to the film. “Frankly, I don’t know if I would have done it without Garry,” Gere said.
Roberts agreed with that assessment. She said she and Gere called Marshall and pleaded with him to join the project. Gere said the three of them were initially a little nervous about working together again because it was unclear whether they could create the same magic as Pretty Woman. But Gere said their nerves went away after he and Roberts started rehearsing the script together because they realized the chemistry was still there.