He spent his earliest years in post-World War Two refugee camps. He came to America and grew up in Cleveland - stealing cars, rolling drinks, battling priests, nearly going to jail. He became the screenwriter of the world-wide hits Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge and Flashdance. He also wrote the legendary disasters Showgirls and Jade. The rebellion never ended, even as his films went on to gross more than a billion dollars at the box office and he became the most famous - or infamous - screenwriter in Hollywood.
Author/screenwriter Eszterhas introduces readers to the ultimate in Hollywood animal thinking when he quotes an unnamed Oscar-winning producer as saying,"the only time I'll root for anybody to be a success is if he or she has cancer, and I know for certain that the cancer is terminal." Eszterhas's book is unabashedly vulgar, a brutally revealing blend of sex and greed that goes much further than Peter Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures (Forecasts, Jan. 5) in exposing Hollywood's dark side. Eszterhas refers to himself as"insufferable" for coveting success and money, but as the horrifying anecdotes unfold, he mounts a dynamic defense of screenwriters who have been treated like"discarded hookers... not invited to premieres of their own movies, cheated of residual payments." Salacious details mingle with explosions of temper, and Eszterhas isn't afraid to take potshots at William Goldman, Ron Bass, Robert Towne and other screenwriters he believes have compromised too heavily with the system. A particularly absorbing story centers on Sylvester Stallone, who starred in F.I.S.T. and then tried to take credit for Eszterhas's script. Even more shocking is producer Marty Ransohoff's relentless criticism of Glenn Close during the filming of Jagged Edge, which made the actress throw Ransohoff and his daughter (who was not involved in the movie) off the set. Just as readers begin to drown in an ocean of gossip, Eszterhas introduces two dramatic plots: his battle with throat cancer and the discovery that his father was an outspokenly anti-Semitic former Nazi. This electrifying section overshadows the Hollywood material and deserves a book of its own. It makes an argument readers will immediately pick up on: that animalistic behavior is just as savagely prevalent outside Hollywood studio gates.