Hollywood insider’s tips for screenwriters

2010-05-05 00:00


The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood

Joe Eszterhas


DON’T you just love synchronicity? I’d just been told by my agent to read the script for Basic Instinct, which he cites as a perfect example of commercial film writing when this book landed on my desk.

The scriptwriter for the film Basic Instinct, which I hated for its flagrant shock tactics when I saw it on the big screen, happens to be Joe Eszterhas, so I was pleased to get this book.

I dived into it with much anticipation but was disappointed. Eszterhas spends three pages in his preface denigrating Robert McKee, the scriptwriting guru who rules Hollywood with his definitive book on scriptwriting, Story.

I’m not the greatest fan of McKee but I’ve found elements of his book useful when teaching students. It’s strange that Eszterhas takes so much time to prove why he thinks McKee isn’t good enough to teach film ­writing but doesn’t bother to explain what film writing is.

The 379 pages are filled with anecdotes about his life as one of Hollywood’s highest paid scriptwriters. These quotes and inside stories are interesting in themselves but they don’t live up to his claim in the preface that, in contrast to McKee, his book is “about making money” writing for film.

Eszterhas is a bit of a “rogue elephant” in the world of screenwriting as he’s fond of telling us. He is also fond of telling us how much money he’s made for each script. He also describes the vicious world of Hollywood producers, studios and their misogynistic ­attitude towards women in general. He can’t help listing the stars he’s slept with and who has had affairs with whom in this incestuous world.

His approach to making deals is belligerent to say the least: grab your producers or directors by the short and curlies and don’t let go until they give you what you want.

This is still an interesting read as one can’t help enjoying the snippets of gossip ­conveyed in the anecdotes. The book reflects Eszterhas’s own misogynistic attitude but this should be no surprise from the writer of Showgirls, which is little more than soft porn.

The book doesn’t teach much about writing screenplays but it does make me realise that I’ve been far too soft with producers in my career thus far. I wonder, though, how far I’d get as a woman with Eszterhas’s kick-ass attitude.

With all its faults this book is still a fascinating look at the world of Hollywood filmmaking.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Graphic Designer

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Creative Sourcing
R7 000 - R9 000 Per Month

Junior Chef

Century City
Pro Placements Recruitment Agency
R8 000 - R9 000 Per Month

Back End Developer / PHP Developer (Junior & Mid-Level) - Wanted

Cape Town Northern Suburbs
Persona Staff
R2 500 - R8 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.