Hollywood Animal: A Memoir

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He spent his earliest years in post WWII–refugee camps. He came to America and grew up in Cleveland—stealing cars, rolling drunks, battling priests, nearly going to jail. He became the screenwriter of the worldwide 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 ...
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Hollywood Animal

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He spent his earliest years in post WWII–refugee camps. He came to America and grew up in Cleveland—stealing cars, rolling drunks, battling priests, nearly going to jail. He became the screenwriter of the worldwide 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.

Joe Eszterhas is a complex and paradoxical figure: part outlaw and outsider combined with equal parts romantic and moralist. More than one person has called him “the devil.” He has been referred to as “the most reviled man in America.” But Time asked, “If Shakespeare were alive today, would his name be Joe Eszterhas?” and he was the first screenwriter picked as one of the movie industry’s 100 Most Powerful People. Although he is often accused of sexism and misogyny, his wife is his best friend and equal partner. Considered an apostle of sex and violence, he is a churchgoer who believes in the power of prayer. For many years the ultimate symbol of Hollywood excess, he has moved his family to Ohio and immersed himself in the midwestern lifestyle he so values.

Controversial, fearless, extremely talented, and totally unpredictable, the author of the best-selling American Rhapsody and National Book Award nominee Charlie Simpson’s Apocalypse has surprised us yet again: he has written a memoir like no other.

On one level, Hollywood Animal is a shocking and often devastating look inside the movie business. It intimately explores the concept of fame and gives us a never-before-seen look at the famous. Eszterhas reveals the fights, the deals, the extortions, the backstabbing, and the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll world that is Hollywood.

But there are many more levels to this extraordinary work. It is the story of a street kid who survives a life filled with obstacles and pain . . . a chronicle of a love affair that is sensual, glorious, and unending . . . an excruciatingly detailed look at a man facing down the greatest enemy he’s ever fought: the cancer inside him . . . and perhaps most important, Hollywood Animal is the heartbreaking story of a father and son that defines the concepts of love and betrayal.

This is a book that will shock you and make you laugh, anger you and move you to tears. It is pure Joe Eszterhas—a raw, spine-chilling celebration of the human spirit.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The story about Mr. Eszterhas and his father, buried at the heart of Hollywood Animal, is a powerful and affecting one. — Michiko Kakutani
Library Journal
It's a long way from a German refugee camp to Hollywood, where Hungarian-born screenwriter Eszterhas (e.g., Basic Instinct) has befriended Michael Douglas, Sherry Lansing, and plenty of others discussed here. With a 200,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The highest-rolling screenwriter in Hollywood history tells all. Eszterhas gives the big picture up front: He's repeatedly set records for the biggest payments for the screenplays for phenoms (Jagged Edge, Basic Instinct) and bombs (Showgirls, Jade) that have gone on to gross over a billion dollars; he's "the only screenwriter . . . who had groupies"; and a lot of qualified judges think he's the devil. "I don't mean to sound insufferable, but . . ." he compares himself to Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner ("Compare myself to other screenwriters? Say what?"). Behind the self-aggrandizing headlines is the story of a kid rescued from Hungary's postwar refugee camps to land in Cleveland, where he battled the brothers at his Catholic school and lied to his parents about bogus honors. But his life becomes far more arresting the moment he arrives in Hollywood and starts dishing dirt on everybody from Michael Ovitz to himself. Eszterhas is brutally candid about his early years as a screenwriter, when his price soared even though his scripts were either unproduced or turned into duds like F.I.S.T. He's less candid about his shortcomings as writer (every failure is blamed on megalomaniac directors, poor casting, blinkered reviewers, or studio execs too stupid to see that every word in an Eszterhas script was golden), as husband (he embarrassingly reproduces the journals of his second wife, Naomi Baka, to confirm his version of the breakup of his first marriage, which just happened to fall apart as Naomi's bridegroom was running off with Basic Instinct star Sharon Stone), and as colleague (his often hilarious accounts of industry infighting infallibly vindicate his judgment at the expense ofeverybody else's). Precious little about filmmaking in these pages, but a great deal about deal-making and even more about getting back at your family, your childhood tormentors, and the Nazi Party. Eszterhas's memoir may be the longest gotcha ever penned. Agent: Ed Victor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739311318
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/20/2004
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 4 cassettes, 6 hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Joe Eszterhas lives in Bainbridge Township, Ohio, with his wife, Naomi, and their four sons. He has two grown children from his first marriage.
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Read an Excerpt


The King of Point Doom

KARCHY I wanna show off the car. I wanna show you off.

DINEY Why do you have to show off all the time?

KARCHY I ain't got that much to show.

Telling Lies in America


My great-grandfather grew up a poor kid in a tiny village in Hungary. He was about to be drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army and he fled to America.He worked as a miner in Pennsylvania for a while but didn't like the work. He went out to the American West and became a stagecoach robber.He became wealthy.He rode with Black Bart and Jesse James.

I grew up a poor kid in the refugee camps of Austria and on the West Side of Cleveland, Ohio. I worked as a furniture mover, a disc jockey, and a newspaper reporter, but I didn't like the work. I went out to the American West and became a screenwriter.

I rode with a whole lot of famous hombres.

I sold screenplays in Hollywood for record amounts of money.

My agent, Guy McElwaine, referred to these sales as "bank heists."

My wife, Naomi, wore a leather strap of silver bullets around one of her cowboy boots when I met her.

And when she knew she had fallen in love with me, she gave me the strap of silver bullets and tied them around one of my cowboy boots.

The day I married her, I wore her silver bullets.

. . .

My great-grandfather took his fortune and went back to the village in Hungary where he had grown up.Old crones wearing black babushkas said they saw him through the cellar windows of his castle playing cards by candlelight with the devil.

He had sold his soul to the devil in the American West and was trying to win it back now.

When I was a screenwriter in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Free Press wrote that I had sold my soul to the devil.

A columnist in South Dakota wrote that I was "in the devil's employ."

A Canadian magazine wrote that I was "a devil living in Malibu."

My hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, wrote about me with a headline that said, "Eszterhas -- Ordinary Joe or Satan's Agent?"

A cartoon in Entertainment Weekly showed the devil's hand on my shoulder and these words: "December 31, 1999 -- The Devil Takes Formal Possession of Joe Eszterhas' Soul."

A secretary at Paramount who liked to wear Blessed Virgin Mary T-shirts had a vision of me.

I was ascending from the putrid steam of a black-water pond.

And shortly after her vision, during the making of the movie Sliver, the actor Billy Baldwin and I were walking down Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles heading into a bar owned by the actor Tony Danza's brother.

A bag lady approached us, took one look at me, made the sign of the cross, and turned around and ran in the other direction.

"Wow!" Billy Baldwin said, "maybe you are the devil."

That secretary who liked to wear Blessed Virgin Mary T-shirts and said I was the devil worked for the producer Robert Evans.

My friend Robert Evans, as everyone in Hollywood knows, really is the devil.

Evans, the...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2004

    No mo' Joe.

    I eagerly cracked the cover of this big book while on a beach vacation, but am sad to say I ended up finding it tiresome. Eszterhas's account of his childhood in Cleveland was interesting, but his Hollywood chapters wore on me because he seems to be so relentlessly self-congratulatory. In every situation he bests everyone, - is the smartest, most moral, toughest, the hippest, best writer, etc. None of his screenplays yielded what I consider to be quality, memorable films. His unbridled egotism seems unjustified and annoying. I got just plain sick of the guy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2004

    Excellent reading

    Very very good reading. Never a boring moment. You feel like you are right next to Joe through his many trials and tribulations. The screenwriter shows you his serious as well as his sensitive side.He is an excellent writer. Over 700 pages of excitingly fun reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2004

    One good thing!

    Something great came out of buying this truly mediocre book. I found another book, one that succeeds in every way this one fails. Where 'Hollywood Animal' made me yawn, Grant Jarrett's 'More Towels,' an irreverant memoir about Jarrett's twenty years in the music business, drew me in and made me laugh out loud. Both books are about unlikeable characters, but Jarrett is able to make you care about him. You root for him in spite of his failings as a human being and as a musician. You feel a part of his strange world and you laugh hard as he loses control of his life. And Jarrett can write. If you want to hear more of the same about Hollywood written in a style that will lull you to sleep, read 'Hollywood Animal.' If you want to read a memorable memoir written by a talented writer, try 'More Towels.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2004

    Best work!

    Didn't read any of books or screenplays....seen most of movies...This is by far most interesting work....His memoirs provided non-stop entertainment and reading pleasure....'FACT IS STRANGER THAN FICTION' HOLD TRUE HERE!

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