Friday, October 09, 2015

Book review - "Hollywood Animal" by Joe Eszterhaus (2004)

Eszterhaus hasn't really mattered as a screenwriter in the 21st century, but his memoirs are among the most entertaining of any Hollywood writer - I'd rank it up there with the works of William Goldman (whom Eszterhaus admits to being jealous of and to be honest so he should be).

Eszterhaus is appalling on many levels - his rampant ego, constant bragging about script sales and marching in civil rights demonstrations, the endless, endless talk about his sex life, the appalling way he treated his first wife, he and his not particularly nice sounding second wife (they quote her diary from the time she met and fell in love with Eszterhaus despite him being married).

But it's got to be said he goes hard on himself, is self deprecating enough times about his ego, writes about his first wife with great sympathy (she comes out of this book very well) and it's extremely well written - it's a real page turner that completely gripped me.

He does have a fantastic story to tell- a refugee from Hungary; teen life in Cleveland; a journalist father who he idolised who turned out to be an anti-Semite propagandist during the war; a mother who went mad; working on Rolling Stone in the glory days; getting into Hollywood via writing FIST and learning how to navigate the Hollywood jungle; becoming a highly regarded writer with few actual credits, then breaking through with Flashdance and Jagged Edge and becoming a superstar with Basic Instinct; a highly publicised battle with Michael Ovitz; leaving his wife for his best friend's wife who had just been dumped by said best friend for Sharon Stone; writing screenplays for large fees that were either not filmed, ruined, or turned into crap (Showgirls); discovering he had throat cancer and becoming a militant anti smoker.

Eszterhaus' talents as a screenwriter were limited - he was really only good at one type of film, the sexy thriller, and he would frequently reuse the same plot (person falls in love with someone who they think is a crazy killer, comes to believe they're innocent, then realises they're guilty). You look at his credits and there's nothing like say All the Presidents Men on it. But he wrote some great scripts, and he is a first rate memoirist and this is a lot of fun.

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