Eszterhas is the big-name Hollywood screenwriter who wrote films like Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, Jade, Showgirls and Flashdance, among many others.
He's notorious for his bullish temperament, personally colourful life, and his huge earnings. Said to be the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood, I thought his life would be an interesting insight into the workings of the movie biz. What I didn't expect was a book that was more exciting and thrilling to read than any of Eszterhas's films!
Hollywood Animal more than lives up to its name.
It's the biography of a man who lived (and by all accounts, still lives) a larger-than-life life in the world's most sadistic, masochistic, brutal creative enclave. Well, technically, he doesn't live in Hollywood, he only works there, but you get my point: The book exposes more sordid stories of drugs, sex, money-grabbing deals, and other shenanigans in Hollywood than any dozen biographies of movie stars or directors.
Eszterhas grabs his life story, as well as the story of the hundreds of big-name directors, producers, stars, studio heads, agents, and other people he interacted with over a thirty-year career, and throws it at you in small bite-sized portions, short paragraphs set off by white space, like little sound-bites.
The shocks keep coming at you so fast you just can't put the book down. I started to read a page or two and ended up with half the book done, at 3 in the morning, and I still had to force myself to put it down.
I won't spell out any of the incidents and anecdotes mentioned in the book, there are just too many to even count, but let me tell you, if you want a book that shows you Hollywood with no holds barred, this is the one.
Be warned: it's very explicit in its language, contents, details. Which is partly why it's hugely fun to read. Probably the best 'Hollywood Insiders' story I've read since Julia Phillips' You'll Never Eat Lunch and William Goldman's Adventures In The Screen Trade.
In the end, though, it's a tragic, heartbreaking book. Because it bares the ugliest part of the American dream... or should I say, American nightmare? It left me puzzling, why would anyone want to work in such a terrible place? For the money? Surely no amount of money is worth such humiliation? As a sometime screenwriter myself, I thought the Indian film industry was pretty awful. I know better now. If Eszterhas's experience (and the experiences of other screenwriters, directors, actors, producers, etc) I've read about in books like this one are any indication, then I wouldn't work in the movie biz no matter how much it paid.