The best bits of Hollywood Animal.

Reading between the lines.
Feb. 3 2004 12:01 PM

The Condensed Joe Eszterhas

Slate reads Hollywood Animal so you don't have to.

Book cover

"I was the schlub, the leper, the maggot, the nigger," Joe Eszterhas writes in his new book, Hollywood Animal, "… the screenwriter for Christ's sake as star!" That bon mot sums up everything you need to know about Eszterhas, the man who wrote Basic Instinct, Showgirls, and other crucial additions to American cinema. Hollywood Animal is the Basic Instinct of autobiographies: a few titillating episodes buried under piles and piles of bilious nonsense. In Slate's continuing effort to save you from reading big, long books of questionable merit, we have assembled a guide to Eszterhas' juiciest bits.

Begin Hollywood Animal by turning to Page 4. Read about how producer Bob Evans, finding himself enamored with an Eszterhas script, sent the writer a woman with a congratulatory note tucked into her vagina. Stop reading after Eszterhas admits, "The note smelled fantastic." Now skip to Page 35, and read Eszterhas' admission that Sharon Stone's famous leg-crossing scene in Basic Instinct wasn't in his script. The idea came from director Paul Verhoeven, who later partnered with Eszterhas on Showgirls.

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Skip the next 137 pages. Pick back up on Page 172, in the chapter called "Michael Eisner Pimps the Teamsters." During preproduction on the movie Flashdance, Paramount chose three candidates for the lead role: Leslie Wing, Demi Moore, and Jennifer Beals. Eisner, then head of the studio, gathers more than 200 union members in a screening room and shows them footage of all three. "I want to know one thing from you guys after you've seen it," he shrieks. "I want to know which of these three young women you'd most want to fuck." Beals gets the part.

Now turn to Page 252 and read the chapter about Eszterhas' fight with superagent Michael Ovitz. When Eszterhas attempts to fire Ovitz, the agent responds, "My foot soldiers who go up and down Wilshire Boulevard each day will blow your brains out." An Ovitz deputy later tells Eszterhas, "Mike's going to put you into the fucking ground." (Ovitz denies making threats.) Eszterhas writes Ovitz a scathing letter that leaks to the newspapers. Then he embarrasses Ovitz by selling his script for Basic Instinct—originally titled Love Hurts—for a record $3 million.

Flip to Page 337, on which Eszterhas details his one-night fling with Sharon Stone. They romp at her house in the Valley; he says "her body was doughy, too much peanut butter and Wonder Bread maybe." At the end of the evening, Eszterhas returns to his hotel suite across town. Stone wakes up in a panic, walks out her front door, and ambles down the street with a butcher knife. Neighborhood security personnel shepherd her back inside.

Only 400 more pages to go! Let's skip around:

Page 204-6: Eszterhas receives a panicky phone call from Richard Marquand, director of Return of the Jedi. Eszterhas finds the director naked in a suite at the Westwood Marquis, clapped in handcuffs and sporting an erection. A woman has tied up Marquand and run off with his wallet.

Page 310: Spies tell Eszterhas that Michael Douglas punched out Paul Verhoeven on the set of Basic Instinct, sending him to the hospital. Verhoeven denies it.

Page 346-7: As he prepares to check into rehab, Bob Evans brings along a briefcase full of photos of naked women and a "huge" dildo, which he chucks out the car window en route. (This last act is the book's only evidence that Evans has a sense of shame.)

Page 347-8: Evans buys hundreds of lotto tickets in a futile attempt to win a $70 million jackpot. He exclaims, "Not one fucking winner in the bunch. I'm the unluckiest Jew that ever lived!"

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