Birthplace: Csakanydoroszko, Hungary
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Screenwriter, Journalist
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Showgirls, Basic Instinct
In a town where writers often get short shrift, Joe Eszterhas was Hollywood's highest paid golden boy. He got $3 million up front for his Basic Instinct screenplay, and some say he basically invented the "erotic thriller", commingling sex and violence for cinematic entertainment.
His mother was a devoutly Christian woman, and a schizophrenic. His father was a successful Hungarian novelist, who also wrote anti-Semitic propaganda during World War II. Eszterhas spent his earliest years in a "displaced-persons camp" with his family, near the Hungarian-Austrian border, until his family immigrated to America. They settled in a Hungarian neighborhood in Cleveland. Eszterhas attended Ohio State University, and worked as a reporter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer and later Rolling Stone. His first book, Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse (1974), was well-received by critics and quickly optioned for a film, but it was never made. His successes include Flashdance, Jagged Edge, Basic Instinct, and Music Box. His not-so-successful films include Showgirls, Checking Out, Bob Dylan's Hearts of Fire, Jean-Claude Van Damme's Nowhere to Run, and An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn.
By most accounts, Eszterhas is a colossal prick. When a nun waved a Coca-Cola bottle at him in high school, he punched her. When director Arthur Hiller had a "heated exchange" over Eszterhas's re-cut of Hiller's An Alan Smithee Film, Eszterhas said Hiller "should offer to kiss my ass in Times Square for saving this film". When Senator Bob Dole criticized the film industry for excessive sex and violence, Eszterhas responded that no R-rated movie could approach the obscenity of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush administrations.
Eszterhas says he was drunk every day of his life after the age of 14. He was also a lifelong four-pack-a-day smoker, until he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2001. At that point he left Hollywood, moved home to Ohio, stopped drinking, stopped smoking, and says he "made a deal with God" -- as long as he was allowed to live, he'd dedicate his life to helping people kick the tobacco habit. Eszterhas's cancer is in remission, after 80% of his larynx was surgically removed. Now he walks five miles a day, drinks carrot juice, and goes to church every Sunday. He's founded "Join Joe", an anti-smoking group, and uses his organization to speak out against Hollywood's glamorization of cigarettes -- a staple in many of Eszterhas's films.
His memoir, Hollywood Animal, was published in 2004, as a final sneer at Hollywood. It recounts all his feuds in grand detail, and was of course a best-seller. As yet, there's been no offer to make it into a movie.
Father: Istvan Eszterhas (Hungarian novelist)
Mother: Maria Biro Eszterhas (housewife)
Wife: Gerri Javor (m. 1972, div. 1994)
Son: Steven Eszterhas (hip-hop DJ)
Daughter: Suzanne Eszterhas (photographer)
Wife: Naomi Baca Macdonald (m. 30-Jun-1994)
Son: Joseph Jeremiah Eszterhas
Son: Nicholas Pompeo Eszterhas
High School: Cleveland Cathedral Latin High School, Cleveland, OH
University: Ohio University, Athens, OH (dropped out)
Rolling Stone Reporter (1970s)
The Cleveland Plain Dealer Reporter (1960s)
Hungarian Ancestry Paternal
Risk Factors: Former Smoker, Alcoholism
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (29-Sep-1997) · Himself
Author of books:
Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation At Kent State (1970)
Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse (1974)
Hollywood Animal: A Memoir (2004, memoir)
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