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Hollywood Animal: A Memoir Hardcover – January 27, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author/screenwriter Eszterhas introduces readers to the ultimate in Hollywood animal thinking when he quotes an unnamed Oscar-winning producer as saying, "the only time I’ll root for anybody to be a success is if he or she has cancer, and I know for certain that the cancer is terminal." Eszterhas’s book is unabashedly vulgar, a brutally revealing blend of sex and greed that goes much further than Peter Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures (Forecasts, Jan. 5) in exposing Hollywood’s dark side. Eszterhas refers to himself as "insufferable" for coveting success and money, but as the horrifying anecdotes unfold, he mounts a dynamic defense of screenwriters who have been treated like "discarded hookers... not invited to premieres of their own movies, cheated of residual payments." Salacious details mingle with explosions of temper, and Eszterhas isn’t afraid to take potshots at William Goldman, Ron Bass, Robert Towne and other screenwriters he believes have compromised too heavily with the system. A particularly absorbing story centers on Sylvester Stallone, who starred in F.I.S.T. and then tried to take credit for Eszterhas’s script. Even more shocking is producer Marty Ransohoff’s relentless criticism of Glenn Close during the filming of Jagged Edge, which made the actress throw Ransohoff and his daughter (who was not involved in the movie) off the set. Just as readers begin to drown in an ocean of gossip, Eszterhas introduces two dramatic plots: his battle with throat cancer and the discovery that his father was an outspokenly anti-Semitic former Nazi. This electrifying section overshadows the Hollywood material and deserves a book of its own. It makes an argument readers will immediately pick up on: that animalistic behavior is just as savagely prevalent outside Hollywood studio gates.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sleaze and more sleaze. But don't we love it? Hollywood insider stuff par excellence, from a well-known and contentious screenwriter. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (January 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375413553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375413551
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is so much more than a Hollwyood tell-all. For one thing, it's just terrifically written-- not "terrifically written for a Hollywood hack," but "terrifically written," period. Eszterhas' style is succinct, surprising and vivid. Some think he's boasting that he admires Salinger, Faulkner and Hemingway-- but Eszterhas writes terrific prose. He seems to be speaking directly, but his details are surprising and vivid. I haven't read his journalism, but I bet his articles were great.
He alternates chapters about Hollywood (which are yes, fascinating and appalling) with chapters called "flashback" about his dirt-poor and often difficult childhood as Hungarian immigrant in Cleveland, and brief, italicized sections called "close-ups" that are portraits of unnamed Hollywood personalities (a poolcleaner, a vice president, an actress).
It's a long book, but because of the way it's structured, it's a quick read (well, it took me a few weeks to get through it, but each time I'd pick it up I'd read 60-70 pages before I could bear to put it down). Ezsterhas includes verbatim hatchet-letters he's written to agents and producers who've offended him-- including one hilarious letter to Mike Ovitz that sets off a feud that is a running theme throughout the book. And while Ezsterhas is articulate and hilarious, any reader-- including apparently Ezsterhas himself-- can see that he's also defensive, arrogant and difficult as hell.
You can't help liking him anyway.
Even as he recounts episodes of cheating on his first wife. Even as he recounts painful alienations from friends and family that he is at least partially responsible for.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Every life is intrinsically interesting; every life has its tremendous highs and abysmal lows. But very few people can tell their own story. First of all you need a photographic memory, and Joe Eszterhas has it. Next you need an ability not to write chronologically, because nothing is as deadly as "the next day I did something different." Eszterhas has the utterly brilliant ability to write in intellectual sequence: one idea comes up, it is dealt with fully, from all autobiographical angles, and then we segue into the next idea. Each idea is a topper. I thought by page 100 that I had already read a tremendous book; what could possibly be left? Well, each new 100 pages topped the previous ones. But the trick is not to get ahead of your autobiographical story. In other words, life's ordinary sequences must not skip around, in the sense that what you find out now can take away from any surprise in finding it out later. This is incredibly hard to mesh with intellectual sequencing. Thus, although Eszterhas skips around in periods through his life, nevertheless he preserves a rough chronological order that is more satisfying than real chronology because it is artistic. Finally, if you have all these attributes, you still have to write good prose. Eszterhas is no Nabokov, he is no Christopher Hitchens. In short, you don't see his words, you see through them. He is a master of the unobtrusive word, the unobtrusive sentence. It's like looking at a film; no one seems to be "explaining" it to you. Eszterhas uses performatives with ease. Of course, he's one of the most successful screenwriters of all time. Actually, the theatre lost a great playwright when he went to Hollywood.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I have listened to the CD of this book, all the comments pertain to that edition.

I picked up this CD from the public library before a long road trip. I had no idea who this man was or who most of the other "larger than life" stars were. The story, I found out, is fascinating, well-written and Scott Brick's delivery helps to bring out Eszterhas' personality. The author himself ... I can't stand. Or can I?

This is a story of transformation and redemption and the trick is - as another reviewer has commented - indeed, for the writer not to get ahead of himself, but leave things to be discovered, let the complexity of his personality peel away like layers of an onion.

In a series of flashbacks that show Joe as a Hungarian boy and ones that show him as an American man, we witness how a scared, geeky, immigrant boy with quite a temper becomes first a successful millionaire Hollywood screenwriter who learns to play the Hollywood game of power, then gains some perspective via the experience of throat cancer, finding God and learning to value less glamorous things such as being able to breathe while walking. Obvious things apparently take a long time to understand if there is a lot of money, drugs and pussy on the other side.

Honesty and integrity are at the core of his tale in Hollywood (defending his script from changes, incursions into his creative freedom even when the odds are against him) and I rooted for him as a screenwriter right through his fight with Ovitz where he puts his career on the line.

Honesty and integrity are missing from most his private life, where he cheats on his wife every chance he gets and identifies "strains" in his marriage as he is working to hack it apart.
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