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Joe Eszterhas

Joe Eszterhas

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: November 23, 1944 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Hungary Profession: screenwriter, journalist, producer, author

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

As one of the highest-paid and most notorious writers in 1990s Hollywood, Joe Eszterhas became that rare modern screenwriter who was able to lay claim to achieving auteur status. Eszterhas was less important for his talent - which some reviewers deemed rather dubious - than for his stature as a star writer in an industry that doted on high-profile actors and directors. With plots that tended to focus on love and betrayal, Eszterhas courted controversy almost from the start when he made his debut with "F.I.S.T." (1978) and begrudgingly sharing screenwriting credit with star Sylvester Stallone. He had his first major hit with the paper-thin but memorable "Flashdance" (1983), before tackling more mature fare like "Betrayed" (1988) and "Music Box" (1989). But Eszterhas achieved a great deal of infamy with his most successful movie, the erotic thriller "Basic Instinct" (1992), which he sold for a whopping $3 million and pushed the envelope on sexual content while managing to generate protests for its alleged anti-gay sentiments. He continued to mine the depths of eroticism with "Sliver" (199) and "Jade" (1995), before his career was effectively destroyed by "Showgirls" (1995) and "Burn, Hollywood, Burn"...

As one of the highest-paid and most notorious writers in 1990s Hollywood, Joe Eszterhas became that rare modern screenwriter who was able to lay claim to achieving auteur status. Eszterhas was less important for his talent - which some reviewers deemed rather dubious - than for his stature as a star writer in an industry that doted on high-profile actors and directors. With plots that tended to focus on love and betrayal, Eszterhas courted controversy almost from the start when he made his debut with "F.I.S.T." (1978) and begrudgingly sharing screenwriting credit with star Sylvester Stallone. He had his first major hit with the paper-thin but memorable "Flashdance" (1983), before tackling more mature fare like "Betrayed" (1988) and "Music Box" (1989). But Eszterhas achieved a great deal of infamy with his most successful movie, the erotic thriller "Basic Instinct" (1992), which he sold for a whopping $3 million and pushed the envelope on sexual content while managing to generate protests for its alleged anti-gay sentiments. He continued to mine the depths of eroticism with "Sliver" (199) and "Jade" (1995), before his career was effectively destroyed by "Showgirls" (1995) and "Burn, Hollywood, Burn" (1998), widely considered to be two of the worst movies ever made. Regardless of his reputation as a purveyor of mediocrity, there was no doubt that Eszterhas became exceedingly rich from his efforts while also helping to bring screenwriters out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Burn, Hollywood, Burn (1997) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1945:
Emmigrated from Hungary; spent time in refugee camps
:
His mother's schizophrenia became serious when he was 13
:
Began career as reporter for newspapers in Dayton, OH and Cleveland, OH
:
Mother died when he was 23
1971:
Fired by Cleveland's <i>The Plain Dealer</i> after he criticized his editors in <i>The Evergreen Review</i>
1971:
Became a political correspondent for <i>Rolling Stone</i>; served as senior editor from 1971-75
1974:
Published a book entitled <i>Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse</i>, which was nominated for the National Book Award; received a call from an agent at United Artists who found his prose "cinematic"
1974:
Sued along with <i>The Plain Dealer</i> by the victim of a bridge collapse for implying he had interviewed the victim's mother when he had not; <i>The Plain Dealer</i> ordered to pay $60,000
1978:
Feature debut, received story credit and co-scripted (with Sylvester Stallone) the labor drama "F.I.S.T." under the mentorship of director Norman Jewison
1983:
As film's writer, clashed with director Adrian Lyne over the ending of "Flashdance"
1983:
Wrote first draft of a semi-autobiographical film based on his childhood in Cleveland; script eventually became "Telling Lies in America" (1997)
1985:
Clashed with Columbia studio head Frank Price over the ending of "Jagged Edge"
1988:
First film as executive producer, "Betrayed"; also wrote screenplay
1989:
Left his representative at Mike Ovitz's Creative Artists Agency for agent (and longtime friend) Guy McElwaine at International Creative Management; claimed that he was subsequently threatened by Ovitz
1990:
Paid a then-record $3 million for his screenplay "Basic Instinct"
1992:
Initially sided with gay and lesbian protesters over the supposedly homophobic elements in the film of his screenplay for "Basic Instinct"; recanted after seeing the final cut of the film
1993:
Agreed to rewrite the ending of "Sliver" after the original conclusion tested baldly; version used was not all his
1994:
Savoy Pictures purchased his screenplay "Foreplay" for $3.5 million plus 2.5 percent of the gross including a percentage of soundtrack sales; such deals were usually reserved for elite movie stars and directors
1995:
Wrote the critically panned erotic drama "Showgirls," directed by Paul Verhoeven
1995:
Penned the script for crime drama "Jade," starring David Caruso, Linda Fiorentino and Chazz Palminteri
1997:
Penned the script for "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn"; director Arthur Hiller clashed with Eszterhas and removed his name from the film
2006:
Credited with creating characters that inspired the sequel "Basic Instinct 2"
2006:
Co-wrote Hungarian historical drama "Children of Glory"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Ohio State University: Columbus , Ohio -

Notes

Eszterhas has earned nearly as much notoriety for his personal life as for his screenwriting. He introduced close friend and "Sliver" co-producer Bill MacDonald to star Sharon Stone in February 1993. The pair embarked on a whirlwind affair which broke up MacDonald's five-month-old marriage to Naomi Baka. MacDonald and Stone were engaged by March. (The releationship did not last however.) Joe and Gerri Eszterhas took the still distraught Baka along on their family vacation to Hawaii. Over the course of the outing, Joe and Naomi fell in love but did not act on their passion until after Joe had made a painful declaration to his wife and children. He then went to Naomi's adjoining room at the Four Seasons, announced his love and informed her that they were leaving. The pair moved across the island to the Ritz Carlton and their romance bloomed. They would eventually marry and have two children of their own.

Eszterhas was paid $2.4 million for the screenplay for the murder mystery "Jade" in the fall of 1992. That same season, he received a $1.5 million advance to begin writing "Showgirls".

"The quality most writers exhibit toward another is jealousy....I have heard from no writers congratulating me, not one. I have not heard from the Writers Guild...and I make a lot of money for them. They have my address."---Eszterhas quoted in "Man Behind Screenplay Calling Shots" by Tom Green, USA Today, June 1, 1994.

"I think we would see better movies--and God, we see a lot of s---ty movies these days--if writers would stand up for what they've written and if directors would stand up for what they believe in with studio heads and the Michael Eisners of the world." --Joe Eszterhas quoted in "Guts", an interview/profile in Entertainment Weekly, August 12, 1994.

"I like putting women in a situation where they don't take any s---, or they try not to. I've always thought the key to writing interesting women on screen is to treat them simply as human beings, make no differentiation in terms of what they want, the respect they want, the fact they fight for things, that they hurt, they cry, they bleed. Calling me a misogynist is not a fair overview of what I've done. I think I've gotten some of the best actresses of my generation into pictures, between Jessie [Jessica Lange] and [Glenn] Close and [Debra] Winger. These women are very attuned to who they are, to what they represent." --Joe Eszterhas quoted in "Guts", an interview/profile in Entertainment Weekly, August 12, 1994.

"I work in the Hollywood mainstream. Almost all of my pictures have been with the studios. . . . It may be a rarity for someone to speak up to protect his work. But I speak up within the confines of doing commerical, accessible work. My defiance is to do my own vision." --Eszterhas quoted in "Man Behind Screenplay Calling Shots" by Tom Green, USA Today, June 1, 1994.

After being a smoker for years, Eszterhas began an anti-smoking campaign aimed at stopping depictions in film. Eszterhas was also diagnosed with throat cancer. He had a New York Times op-ed piece on the subject in August of 2002.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Gerri Eszterhas. Married to Eszterhas for 24 years; mother of Steven and Suzanne Eszterhas.
wife:
Naomi Baca. Producer. Met on the set of "Sliver" (1993); formerly married to "Sliver" producer Bill MacDonald; mother of Joseph Jeremiah and Nicholas Pompeo Eszterhas; married July 30, 1994; second wife; nicknamed 'Guinea' by Eszterhas, due to her Italian ancestry, she calls him 'King'.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Istvan Eszterhas. Novelist. Born c. 1907; Catholic; author of more than 30 Hungarian historical novels.
mother:
Maria Biro. Schizophrenic; died when Eszterhas was 23.
son:
Steven Eszterhas. Born c. 1975; mother Gerri Eszterhas.
daughter:
Suzanne Eszterhas. Born c. 1977; mother Gerri Eszterhas.
son:
Joseph Jeremiah Eszterhas. Born March 11, 1994; mother Naomi Baca; attended his parents' wedding at five-months-old.
son:
Nicholas Pompeo Eszterhas. Born c. September 1995; mother Naomi Baca.
son:
John Law Eszterhas. Born September 27, 1997; mother Naomi Baca.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse"
"American Rhapsody" Alfred A. Knopf
"Hollywood Animal" Alfred A. Knopf

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