Clevelander Joe Eszterhas, Hollywood screenwriter more famous for being a dickhead than anything else, has a new memoir out about his complete change of life brought about by cancer of the larnyx, among other things. I’m glad he stopped smoking and drinking – good for him – but when the stark choice is certain death or change of lifestyle I am hesitant to heap too much praise on he who doesn’t choose death. Nonetheless:
- Joe Eszterhas, the bearded, burly bad-boy author of films “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls,” and once one of Hollywood’s highest-paid screenwriters, has given up drinking, quit smoking and found God.
And he says he owes it all to a bout with throat cancer.
“I think it probably saved my life,” Eszterhas, 59, said in a croaky baritone voice of the malignant tumor that cost him 80 percent of his larynx nearly three years ago.
Now in remission, a kinder, gentler — and thinner — Eszterhas was back in Los Angeles recently to hawk his newly published memoir, “Hollywood Animal.”
The 736-page tome, published by Alfred A. Knopf, is laced with colorful, ribald vignettes of his halcyon Hollywood escapades, including a one-night romp with “Basic Instinct” star Sharon Stone and his notoriously nasty falling out with ex-superagent Michael Ovitz.
….One passage recounts that Sylvester Stallone threatened to quit the movie “F.I.S.T.” (Eszterhas’ first film) because he didn’t want his character to die at the end.
Another recalls the novel way in which Michael Eisner, then head of Paramount Pictures, cast the film “Flashdance.” According to Eszterhas, Eisner herded some 200 Teamsters and stagehands into a screening room to watch the audition reels of three candidates for the lead role — Jennifer Beals, Demi Moore and New York model Leslie Wing — then told the men he wanted to know one thing: Which of the three women would they most want to have sex with? Beals got the part.
Eszterhas also reveals that perhaps the single most memorable scene from all his movies — Stone’s pantyless leg-crossing in “Basic Instinct” — was never in his script. It was added by the director, Paul Verhoven.
Interlaced with tales of Hollywood hubris and excess, much of it his own, Eszterhas writes about his childhood as a young Hungarian immigrant growing up in Cleveland after World War II and the impact of his mother’s schizophrenia.
Decades later he faced the shocking revelation of his father’s wartime past as a Nazi sympathizer and author of anti-Semitic propaganda — a disclosure that Eszterhas insists was coincidental to the release of his 1989 courtroom drama “The Music Box,” about an American lawyer defending her Hungarian-born father against charges of war crimes.
….Surgery removed the tumor. But doctors told Eszterhas that any chance of survival required him to give up “two of the dearest things in my life” — alcohol and cigarettes.
“I realized I was in the greatest fight of my life, and the enemy I was fighting was really inside me,” he recounted in a Beverly Hills hotel room, echoing a line from his book.
He ultimately prevailed, substituting copious quantities of carrot juice, antioxidants and vitamins for the half bottle of gin and three bottles of wine he had become accustomed to imbibing each day. In place of his four-pack-a-day cigarette habit, Eszterhas now walks 5 miles daily.
….That book capped a retreat from Hollywood following a string of film flops, including “Sliver,” “Showgirls,” “Jade” and “An Alan Smithee (news) Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn.” [Reuters]
Man has that guy been involved with a lot of really crappy movies.