Why Julia Roberts Got ‘Hives’ Filming Intimate Scenes on Cult-Fave RomCom ‘Pretty Woman’

Filming sex scenes has a long history in Hollywood, and stories keep being told about embarrassing situations occurring in the heat of the moment. While some stories are hilarious, others often make fans realize the actors/actresses involved were a little uncomfortable from the beginning.

One of those is Julia Roberts, despite playing one of the most iconic movie prostitutes of the 1990s in Pretty Woman. She’s admitted those intimate scenes with Richard Gere were not as passionately easy as they appear on the screen.

It’s worth going back and seeing how nervous she was filming that movie in 1989-90. In recent years, the things she said she experienced might make everyone view Pretty Woman with different eyes the next time it’s seen on cable.

Some might question whether playing a prostitute is the best career choice

Julia Roberts speaks onstage
Julia Roberts | Kevin Winter/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

While Pretty Woman made Julia Roberts a superstar after only making two films earlier, the old cliche of actresses playing prostitutes to gain stardom held true for years. Maybe this isn’t the case now (as much anyway), but Roberts said she was a little nervous about playing Vivian Ward.

Making it even more ironic is Vivian was a Hollywood prostitute, giving an uncomfortable meta element. Nevertheless, Julia Roberts was a clean-living star, and she made it known the role kind of went against her values.

What’s most interesting is Roberts probably wouldn’t have taken the role at all had the original script stayed intact. Reportedly, it was going to be a much darker movie about sex workers in Tinseltown.

It’s still a little amazing Disney’s Jeffrey Katzenberg ordered it to be rewritten into a modern-day fairy tale.

Such as it was, Roberts had to act out some scenes with Gere she wasn’t comfortable doing. Being a relative newbie in Hollywood would make any actress feel like they’re possibly degrading themselves. More established actresses who first auditioned for Vivian felt the role was beneath them.

Roberts breaking out into hives from being nervous during her love scenes

Julie Roberts always has to talk about Pretty Woman in every interview she does since it continues being referenced. With the film celebrating its 30th anniversary this March, she’ll likely be discussing more this year than ever.

Recently, she noted how nervous she really was when the intimate scenes had to be done with Gere. She let those scenes bother her so much, she broke out into hives just before the scenes were shot. After a while, it got to the point where the crew started feeling more nervous for her than the other way around.

Anyone who’s experienced hives knows it’s a rash usually triggered by food allergies, medications, or stress. In Roberts’ case, it was apparently stress, unless she had some foods she was eating she didn’t know she was allergic to.

Yes, it was all a little awkward for her, even though she says the actors and crew all became like a close family. As a result, they rooted her on when she felt nervous.

What other things has Roberts said about filming ‘Pretty Woman’?

Roberts’ hives story wasn’t known until more recent years. Now fans probably wonder what more she’ll reveal about filming the movie as the 30th anniversary approaches.

One other thing she did reveal last summer on NBC’s Today was she was originally attached to the gritty version of the script. It was called 3000 then and had Gere’s character dumping Vivian in the streets at the end. Roberts said “she had no business being in a film like that”, yet she would have been had the film gone ahead.

Thanks to the production company behind it being shut down, it transferred over to Disney and Garry Marshall for the revamp. After all these years, Roberts said she’d still never do a movie that gritty, something fans are likely glad to hear as proof an actress doesn’t have to play a prostitute to win an Oscar.