Monday, October 30, 2006

The Devil's Guide To Hollywood

Joe Eszterhas has been a screenwriting legend for many years. He brooked no crap from anyone, including the bellicose Mike Ovitz, who terrorized show business and threatened Joe’s life when Joe fired him. Joe is a polarizing force and people either love him or hate him. He once took a dogon fighting stick and bashed in the conference room table of someone who was trying to mess with his script. Eszterhas’s screenplay Basic Instinct earned him three million dollars and he was once paid four million dollars for a four page outline.

He left Hollywood years ago and moved to Ohio after marrying Naomi, the ex-wife of one of his best friends, who had famously dumped Naomi for Sharon Stone who then dumped him. Joe got throat cancer, gave up cigarettes and drinking and swore off screenwriting. But he’s finally back in the game and hopefully his Showgirls and Sliver days are far behind him and he has another Flashdance and Jagged Edge left. His solipsistic world view notwithstanding, the book is a great read. Along with Shane Black, Joe remains one of the highest paid screenwriters in Hollywood history. He does not believe in plastic surgery, obviously.

Here are some quotes from his new book, The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood:

“One man wrote War and Peace. Thirty-five screenwriters wrote The Flintstones.”

“With the exception of Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson, there are few stars able to play super macho parts today. Many of Hollywood’s top male movie stars are either gay or bisexual.”

“Milton Berle said ‘Don’t tell jokes only the band laughs at.’”

“Knowing nothing about writing a play, Paddy Chayefsky taught himself playwriting by sitting down at the typewriter and copying Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour word for word. He said, ‘I studied every line of it and kept asking myself, Why did she write this particular line?”

“Even though I had nothing to do with the sequel to Basic Instinct, The Arkansas Times wrote in its review of it: ‘It’s the kind of movie that makes me wish Joe Eszterhas’s mother had left a few more dry cleaning bags around when he was a kid.’”

“William Goldman said there hasn’t been a truly famous writer since Hemingway. He was at a Knicks game last year when Norman Mailer was introduced to the crowd. Half a dozen people around him said, ‘Who?’ and one guy went so far to as to ask, ‘Who did he play for?’”

“At the 66th Academy Awards, a screenwriter hired an airplane that towed a banner behind it proclaiming WORLD’S FUNNIEST SCRIPT, along with a phone number. It didn’t do him any good, the script remains unsold.”

“If a studio has flown you to LA for a meeting and is picking up your hotel bill don’t put any drinks you may have had in the bar on it. A studio accountant will let the executive in charge of your project know how many drinks you had. If you had more than a few, the studio will decide that you have a drinking problem and will not hire you for the project.”

“Michael Douglas had a full-rupture hissy fit over the ending of Basic Instinct. He wanted to blow Sharon Stone away at the end. He said the film lacked redemption and would fail at the box office. The studio didn’t like the script’s ambiguous ending either, and the only reason it stood is because the director, Paul Verhoeven, wouldn’t allow the film to be focus-grouped. The focus group would certainly have voted down the ambiguous ending.”

“There has always been the issue of ageism directed toward screenwriters, directors, producers and actors in Hollywood. An agent set up a meeting for a screenwriter with a studio executive.
The agent says, ‘How old are you?’
The screenwriter says, ‘I’m 28.’
The agent says, ‘Let’s make it 23.’”

End of chat.


  1. Excellent quotes.

    I was reminded the other day of just how pandering & uncreative certain studios can be when I saw an ad for the new slapstick holiday film "Deck the Halls." I didn't like the movie the first time I saw it, when it was called Christmas with the Kranks, Jingle All the Way, and Christmas Vacation. Barf.

  2. You are a fucking genius. Can you write a film review for me? It doesn't have to be long. Or a book review or anything? I want to put it on my new website thing.

  3. If I was a fucking genius I'd be married by now.