Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Saturday 9th October 2004

Hollywood Animal by Joe Eszterhas

Joe Eszterhas

Hutchinson, £18.99, pp.381

This book, which presents itself as a no-holds-barred account of Joe Eszterhas's reign as the toughest and most highly-paid screenwriter in Hollywood, is doubly misleading. To begin with, it's heavily censored; and, secondly, he isn't the fierce defender of his work that he purports to be. At least, not judging from the way he's allowed the lawyers to decimate this book.

Eszterhas revels in his image as a Hollywood bad-boy. When a lowly grip on the set of Betrayed, his 1988 film starring Debra Winger and Tom Berenger, suggests how the film's ending might be improved, the warrior-screenwriter punches him in the stomach. The director of another of his scripts receives a memo that's so eviscerating he suffers a heart attack while reading it. Eszterhas is such a tough guy, be wears a black T-shirt that bears the legend: "My inner child is a mean little fuck."

The screenwriter justifies this behaviour on the grounds that it's the only way he can force these Hollywood philistines to treat him with a little respect. Indeed, he goes further and argues that by refusing to allow his work to be "fucked with" he's standing up for writers everywhere: "I was the man who was single-handedly getting even for all the...stories about the million ways screenwriters were abused and humiliated in Hollywood...I was the rape victim come back as Charles Bronson in Death Wish."

I've no idea whether Eszterhas really is as fierce as he claims to be when defending his screenplays, but the way he's allowed the British edition of this book to be "fucked with" suggests not.

The main selling point of Hollywood Animal is that it contains hundreds of gossipy tales about various industry bigwigs that Eszterhas has worked with over the years--people such as Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas and Glen Close--but readers should be aware that this edition is very different from the American one.

Take the story of Eszterhas's one-night stand with Sharon Stone, supposedly his reward for "creating" this "Frankenstein's monster" by writing such a great part for her in Basic Instinct. The American edition contains the following verdict on the actress: "Her body was doughy, too much peanut butter and Wonder Bread maybe." No such description appears in the British edition.

Even more alarming are the cuts that have been made to Eszterhas's account of his feud with Mike Ovitz. This is a cause for real concern because the details that have been omitted are so widely known they form part of Hollywood lore. In what was probably the most talked-about show biz story of 1989, Eszterhas revealed that when he notified Ovitz of his intention to leave CAA, Ovitz said: "My foot soldiers who go up and down Wilshire Boulevard each day will blow your brains out."

Why is this quote--one of the most famous in Hollywood's history--missing from the British edition? Presumably, because the in-house lawyer at Hutchinson thought it was potentially libellous. Had Eszterhas been as protective of his writing as he claims to be, he could have pointed out that he made a note of his conversation with Ovitz less than a day afterwards and, even though this quote has appeared in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, the superagent has never sued. Admittedly, Britain's libel laws are a lot stricter than America's, but this detail was included in a story in the Sunday Telegraph earlier this year without triggering a lawsuit, not to mention the Times in 1999, the Guardian in 1995 and the Sunday Times in 1990.

It's a great shame that Eszterhas didn't stand up for himself on this occasion since--for once--he could have genuinely done some good. Every year, dozens of American books are published over here in heavily censored versions, a recent example being Autumn of the Moguls by Michael Wolff. So cautious are British publishers that Judy Bachrach's gossipy account of the rise and fall of Harold Evans and Tina Brown hasn't even appeared in this country. If Eszterhas had half the writerly pride he claims, he would have stood his ground and refused to budge. Alas, it seems this self-professed Hollywood animal is just a paper tiger.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share

Twitter RT @msjenniferjames: So 'Manchester Lesbians' physically blocked a group of women activists from a GRA meeting today AND LITERALLY ALL THE…  (7 minutes ago)


The shocking truth about Jordan Peterson by Wesley Yang -
The intellectual dark web by Bari Weiss -
How identity politics is harming the sciences by Heather Mac Donald -
The fall of the German Empire by Ross Douthat -
How Tom Wolfe became Tom Wolfe by Michael Lewis - Vanity Fair
The neuro-diversity case for free speech by Geoffrey Miller -
The Age of Outrage by Jonathan Haidt -
The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski -
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony -
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller -
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan -
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand -
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge -
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell -
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander -
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell -
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff -
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings -
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew -
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus -
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman -
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer -
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan -
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs -
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan -
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker -
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood -
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray -
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter -
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win -
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons -
Inside Westminster's free school -
Robert Conquest obit -
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that -


Andrew Lilico
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone


AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from

  • Buy the DVD from

  • IMdb Page on the film