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Joe Eszterhas Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (27) | Personal Quotes (15) | Salary (10)

Overview (2)

Date of Birth 23 November 1944Csakanydoroszlo, Hungary
Birth NameJózsef Eszterhás

Mini Bio (1)

Joe Eszterhas was born on November 23, 1944 in Csakanydoroszlo, Hungary as József Eszterhás. He is a writer and producer, known for Basic Instinct (1992), Nowhere to Run (1993) and Flashdance (1983). He has been married to Naomi Baka since July 30, 1994. They have four children. He was previously married to Geraldine Javer.

Spouse (2)

Naomi Baka (30 July 1994 - present) (4 children)
Geraldine Javer (1972 - 1994) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Characters named after baseball players

Trivia (27)

Prior to writing for "Rolling Stone" and breaking into films, he worked as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Former co-workers at the paper have suggested the move to screenwriting was a wise choice, since "Joe was always more interested in fiction."
Has repeatedly made public statements blasting the "talent" of Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino has not only acknowledged said statements, but has gone on to praise Eszterhas and his infamous 1995 film Showgirls (1995).
His non-fiction book "Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse" was nominated for a National Book Award in 1975. The book ended up indirectly leading to Eszterhas' career as a screenwriter. It was read by Marcia Nasatir, an executive at United Artists who considered the book cinematic. She contacted Eszterhas and asked him if he was interested in writing screenplays. Eszterhas then came up with the story for F.I.S.T (1978) which the studio proceeded to greenlight.
In 1995, when his scripts for both Jade (1995) and Showgirls (1995) were nominated for Worst Screenplay, The Razzie Awards re-named the category in his "Dis-Honor" -- It was henceforth called "The Joe Eszterhas Dis-Honorarial Worst Screenplay Award." Eszterhas then went on to "win" his "own" Award for both Showgirls (1995) and 1998's An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997).
Treated for throat cancer, apparently prognosis is good - he blames cigarette smoking for his disease.
Graduate of Cleveland Cathedral Latin High School.
Family moved from Hungary to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was 6 years old.
Received upwards of $4 million in the mid-1990s for two scripts, a comedy called Male Pattern Baldness and a Russian mob tale titled Evil Empire. Neither film has been made. Male Pattern Baldness was a dark, satirical comedy about a man in Cleveland fighting against the forces of political correctness. The script was purchased by Paramount for $2m up front plus another $2m upon commencement of principal photography. Betty Thomas and Mark Illsley were both attached to direct at various points before the project was shelved by Paramount.
His $3 million paycheck for Basic Instinct (1992) in 1990 was the highest amount of money every paid for a screenplay at that time. However, Eszterhas was eclipsed in 1996 by Shane Black ($4 million for The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)) and again in 2002 by M. Night Shyamalan ($5 million for Signs (2002)).
His father, Istvan, authored more than 30 Hungarian historical novels.
Legendary, prolific screenwriter Joe Eszterhas has had 17 screenplays produced, and as of 2006, has at least 25 unproduced scripts and treatments collecting dust on Hollywood shelves.
He lost four-fifths of his larynx in an operation for cancer. (November 2003)
Wrote a book about the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair, called "American Rhapsody".
Eszterhas wrote Music Box (1989) in 1989 which is about a daughter whose father she defends against war crimes turns out to be guilty. Within a few years Eszterhas' real father turned out to be charged with the same crimes, anti-semitic propaganda in Hungary.
In "Hollywood Animal: A Memoir," Eszterhas claims that Sherry Lansing, the boss of Paramount Pictures, asked him to issue a statement that he supported Paramount's hiring of William Friedkin as director for his Jade (1995) script. Friedkin was Lansing's husband, and she wanted protection from charges of nepotism. He issued the statement. In truth, Eszterhas did not want the former Oscar-winner, whom he considered a washed-up has-been, to direct the picture, but deferred to Lansing's wishes. Friedkin subsequently assured Eszterhas that he would "not change a comma" of Eszterhas' script, but when Eszterhas saw the completed film, there were so many changes to his original screenplay that he demanded that his name be removed from the film. Sherry Lansing placated Eszterhas by giving him a blind script commitment deal with Paramount worth $2-4m.
Born on exactly the same day as James Toback.
Jenö Mate sponsored his family's immigration from Europe.
Initially handwrites all his scripts, then types them up on an Olivetti manual typewriter using his middle fingers. He wonders what he will do when he runs out of ribbons for the typewriter, as he doesn't know how to use a computer and hits the keys too hard to correctly work an electric typewriter.
In 1980, he set a record for the sale of a spec script when he sold an as-yet-unproduced script called City Hall to Warner Bros for $500,000. He later set a new record when his screenplay for Big Shots (1987) was bought by Lorimar for $1.25m. He set a further record for a spec script when he sold his screenplay for Basic Instinct (1992) to Carolco for $3m. In 1994, in a landmark deal, his script Foreplay, a dark comedy about serial killers, was purchased by Savoy Pictures for $1m up front plus another $4m when the film was made. Eszterhas was further entitled to 2½% of Savoy's income from the film and 1% of the soundtrack sales. The film has never been produced.
In 1994, he sold a 4 page outline of what eventually became One Night Stand (1997) to New Line for $4m. Adrian Lyne was originally attached to direct the finished script but dropped out. New Line then made a deal with Mike Figgis to direct. Although the studio was happy with Eszterhas' script, it allowed Figgis, who had just had a big hit with Leaving Las Vegas (1995), to do a rewrite. The rewrite was so radical that Eszterhas no longer recognised the script as his own and he took his name off the film.
In 1990 he wrote a script for United Artists called Sacred Cows, a black comedy about a US President running for re-election who is caught having sex with a cow. Due to the controversial subject-matter, the script has never been produced but over the years a number of directors have either been interested in or attached to direct the film, including Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, David Anspaugh, Michael Lehmann, Blake Edwards, Milos Forman, Jim Abrahams, Betty Thomas and Tony Bill.
In 2002, he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times apologizing for the glamorization of smoking in Basic Instinct (1992).
One reason that his screenplay for Basic Instinct (1992) finally sold for a record-setting $3m dollar was that a bidding war had started over the script between Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna, who both wanted to make the movie from their respective studios. Kassar eventually won.
In 1981 he wrote a spec script called Platinum about a cop investigating the death of his rock and roll singer brother, and finding himself out of his element in the process. The script failed to be bought by any studio or production company, the general consensus being that it was "too dark".
In 1995 he wrote a biopic of Otis Redding called Blaze of Glory. The script was purchased by Universal for $1.25m but remains unproduced. Eszterhas was the last person to interview Redding before his death in a plane crash in 1967.
Keeps a relatively low profile, having abandoned Hollywood for a quiet life in suburban Ohio.
Wrote and published his memoirs called "Hollywood Animal". [February 2004]

Personal Quotes (15)

I've always had a great deal of confidence in the stories I tell. And I always can think of a lot of new stories to tell. I'm not frightened. But a lot of people in this town are frightened.
I have only one loyalty - to my writing. I never wanted to be the head of a studio or a producer, I just wanted to make sure that what I write is what appears on screen, to not have some idiot change it on its way to the screen. There sure as hell are some idiots in Hollywood. I think we would see better movies - and God, we see a lot of shitty movies these days - if writers would stand up for what they believe in with studio heads and the Michael Eisners of the world.
Screenwriters are supposed to be neither seen nor heard. I certainly violated that rule. Among others.
When I first started doing screenplays I was so frightened. I didn't know what I was doing when I began F.I.S.T (1978). Norman Jewison took me under his wing and taught me what he knew. But every morning for a year and a half, while I was writing that script, I'd get up and throw up. That's how the day began.
I like Basic Instinct (1992) very much. I liked Telling Lies in America (1997) a lot, and I liked Music Box (1989). I liked Jagged Edge (1985) very much and I liked Betrayed (1988). Flashdance (1983) I like but it's truncated. Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who consider themselves the great auteurs of the 20th century, took that picture away from Adrian Lyne and chopped it up. I should add that I'm one of the few people on this side of the world, maybe, who really likes An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997). I wrote a script called Pals with my friend Richard Marquand, who later died. It was about an escaped convict and the relationship he had with children. The script was taken and destroyed many years later by Jean-Claude Van Damme as Nowhere to Run (1993). It lost its sensitivity, it lost everything. I don't like to remember that movie.
[on Sliver (1993)] I'll never do another adaptation. I did this ending and we tested it and the audiences hated it. So I wrote three alternate endings. They shot two of them exactly at a time my personal life was exploding and I left the set. I hate the ending of that movie. They should have stuck to the original ending which was daring and provocative. You know, the last line, "Get a life"? I mean, my God, the notion that people think I wrote that last line is really horrifying.
When it's a original screenplay - and most of mine have been original screenplays - with characters created by you, the story created by you, and it's a single artistic vision from the beginning, where you sit down in a little room by yourself and make up this story, that is your story and your vision from the get-go. I differentiate with screenwriters who do adaptations of novels, for example, because that vision belongs to the novelist, in that case. With original screenplays, it comes out of your heart, soul and gut and it's then handed to a director. I view myself as the composer of a piece of music, and the director is the conductor working with other musicians - the editor, the makeup people, all the other technicians - in terms of presenting it up on stage.
[on his autobiography "Hollywood Animal"] It's a very odd feeling now that the book is out and people who have read it know everything about you. I felt that if I was going to write a book about my life, it should be very, very truthful. I remember reading John Huston's autobiography, and Huston was a larger-than-life figure who really lived an interesting, roller-coaster kind of life, and the book never gave any hint of the flavor of the life he led. It was written from kind of a superficial, Hollywood point of view, essentially filled, I think, with a lot of lies by omission. I didn't want to write that kind of book about my life. I wanted to write a book where my grandchildren could one day see it and say, "Okay, that's Grandpa. That's the life he led." For better or worse.
I've always been fascinated by the notion that we don't ever know one another - that lovers and family members may not really know their mates or parents. I played with that theme in Betrayed (1988), Music Box (1989), Jagged Edge (1985), Basic Instinct (1992) and Sliver (1993). According to the critics, though, screenwriters aren't allowed to have themes. However, novelists and directors are. But the critics said there was no theme to my work. I was, they said, "plagiarizing myself".
[on Showgirls (1995)] From the beginning, when Paul [Verhoeven] and I went through the script, Paul laughed his head off and so did I. I never understood from the beginning how lines like, "How does it feel not to have anybody coming on to you anymore?" weren't funny. I went to see it three or four months after the release date, and it was packed with audiences that really laughed. I laughed as well and I laughed when I wrote those lines. You have no idea how many people have come up to me through the years and very quietly, nearly whispering, said, "Loved Showgirls. Loved Showgirls." Actually whispering so no one would hear them. I don't have any real problem with Showgirls. There are certainly things in it that misfired. If I had a chance, I would rewrite parts of the script, and the acting wasn't what I wanted it to be. At the end of the picture, she does turn her back on all of it. The final image is of her walking away from everything that's made her a star, and, in a sense, she cleanses herself. But to call it a deeply religious experience was not the smartest thing I've ever done.
I wrote Basic Instinct (1992) in a blind frenzy while listening almost non-stop to the Rolling Stones. I didn't outline the script and I didn't know my ending until I was almost two-thirds finished. It exploded out of my head - I kept hearing lines of dialogue and had to hurry to keep up with the voices I was hearing. I woke up at four in the morning and wrote lines of dialogue down. I wrote it in two shifts each day - from nine in the morning till one in the afternoon and from three in the afternoon to eight o'clock at night. From the time I began writing till the day my agent sold it at auction: thirteen days.
Anything that I write and I think anything that most screenwriters write, should come from your heart and gut and soul, otherwise it's not going to be very good. If you care about what you've written and if it does come from your heart, then I don't think you're going to tolerate people changing it or saying, "No, you have to do it this way", without at least getting into a gigantic brawl that takes them to the wall. You may not win that brawl, but the chances are good that you could back people off if you're willing to fight for what you've written. I think a screenplay is your creative baby and you have a responsibility to fight for it, as you would for your children, and those who advocate not doing that, I think, are betraying what a writer is all about.
[on One Night Stand (1997)] I had just come off Basic Instinct (1992) which was the hit movie of 1992. It ultimately grossed about $600 million around the world. When you have that kind of success with a movie, Hollywood literally hurls money at you. Executives think you've somehow grabbed magic - and they hope some of it will go into your next film. The finished film wasn't the outline or the script that I ultimately wrote. The director Mike Figgis re-wrote the script to the point where I only had one scene left. There was an entirely new plot about a man who had AIDS and his friendships. I said to the studio, New Line Pictures, "That's not my script. Take my name off it because it's not mine." The people there said, "Oh, for God's sake, don't do that. That will cause a real stink in town. We don't want you to criticize the movie before it gets out. Plus, we paid you four million bucks." I said, "Yes, you paid me four million, but you took what I'd written and turned it inside out. I won't criticize the movie, but I'm not giving any of that money back, thank you very much." It's an interesting case. Writers are re-written all the time, but scripts that sell for $4 million aren't usually completely re-written by a director who comes in and says, "I'm going to do a polish." Interestingly, the movie died a disaster.
We're trapped in a world of endless remakes of Batman or Iron Man or whoever the next man is. [2008]
I've always loved the notion of doing movies that provoke people, either move them in their hearts or disturb them, but when they leave the theater it sticks with them.

Salary (10)

F.I.S.T (1978) $80,000
Flashdance (1983) $275,000
Jagged Edge (1985) $500,000
Big Shots (1987) $1,250,000
Basic Instinct (1992) $3,000,000
Shinde mo ii (1992) $1 .5m
Sliver (1993) $1,000,000
Showgirls (1995) $2,000,000
Jade (1995) $2,500,000
One Night Stand (1997) $4,000,000

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