When someone says the words "Joe Eszterhas," one of two images likely pops to mind: Sharon Stone uncrossing her legs in Basic Instinct, and Elizabeth Berkley pole-dancing in Showgirls. But Eszterhas, who wrote both of those films and many others, is about so much more than women in various states of undress.
The ultimate popcorn movie scribe, Eszterhas was also at one time one of the most powerful screenwriters in Hollywood, with massive hits like Flashdance, Basic Instinct and The Jagged Edge to his credit. Of course, no one can score every time, and Eszterhas' resume also includes the failure Jade and well as the massive bomb-turned-cult artifact that is Showgirls.
In his book, Eszterhas discusses his movies and his life, starting with his childhood in Hungarian refugee camps to his
Hollywood battles. And whether or not you agree with Eszterhas' choices or like his
movies, you've got to give it to the guy: he doesn't hold back. He's
seemingly frank about his role in the dissolution of his first
marriage, his drinking, his carousing, his jealousies and his
failings. Though he's quick to point out when a director or studio or
someone else "ruined" one of his films, you tend to believe him, as he
is also quick to point out good ideas by same (the famous moment in
the uncrossed legs scene in Basic Instinct, he confirms, was not in
But beyond Hollywood gossip, Eszterhas' memoir is valuable
for his stories about his family, from the mother who succumbed to
mental and physical illness to the beloved father who nurtured and
encouraged him throughout his childhood. Perhaps the book's most
shocking revelation has little to do with screenwriting, but is rather
about a secret, kept by Eszterhas' father for decades, that eerily
mirrors the plot of Eszterhas' thriller Music Box.
Hollywood Animal is a fascinating portrait of a major
Hollywood figure, warts and all.
Though you don't always agree with Eszterhas, you often find yourself
admiring his frankness and his guts. Love him or hate him, he's a true