- (Photo: AP Images / Ron Schwane, File)
The man behind “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” will have his memoirs published next week to share with the world how one of America’s most notorious screenwriters turned his life around since finding God.
After years of smut and violence, Joe Eszterhas says he found God one hot summer day in 2001 as he desperately battled to survive throat cancer and his addictions to alcohol and cigarettes.
“I didn’t even really know how to pray,” Eszterhas writes in his upcoming book Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith.
“I didn’t know what to say, so one of the first things I said was ‘I’m sorry. I’ve acted like a colossal A-hole. I’m really, really sorry. I don’t deserve to be forgiven, but please try to forgive me.’”
Prior to his conversion, Eszterhas was the “Shakespeare of the Jerry Springer crowd,” writing dark, sexually graphic, and violent films like "Basic Instinct," "Jagged Edge," and "Jade."
“Eszterhas is reminiscent of Playboy's Hugh Hefner: They share the same exaggerated sense of importance, the same pontificating humorlessness about their ridiculous jobs,” wrote Slate magazine’s David Plotz back in 1998 – a decade before he became the magazine’s editor. “Hefner published pictures of naked women and believed himself a radical. Eszterhas writes movies about naked women and believes himself an artist.”
In the late 1990s, however, Eszterhas gave up the Hollywood lifestyle, and moved with his wife and four sons to a small suburb of Cleveland, where one month later he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
In their effort to prolong Eszterhas’ life, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic removed 80 percent of his larynx, put a tracheotomy tube in his throat, and told him he must quit drinking and smoking immediately.
While Eszterhas wanted to change his ways, after a lifetime of wild living, the 56-year-old Hungarian native knew it would be a struggle to do so. And it was.
In the summer of 2001, Eszterhas reached a breaking point and for the first time since he was a child, he prayed for God’s help.
"I was going crazy. I was jittery. I twitched. I trembled. I had no patience for anything. … Every single nerve ending was demanding a drink and a cigarette," he writes in Crossbearer.
After his prayer, however, he felt an overwhelming peace.
It was "an absolutely overwhelming experience," he recalled to the Toledo Blade earlier this month.
Eszterhas went from doubting if he could make it through life without tobacco and alcohol to knowing that he could "defeat myself and win."
"Frankly my life changed from the moment God entered my heart. I'm not interested in the darkness anymore," he told the Blade.
Eszterhas has reportedly turned down hefty offers to write scripts for movies with sinister plots and dark themes like the 16 other ones he wrote that made it to the screen – some paying as much as $3 million a script.
"I've got four gorgeous boys, a wife I adore, I love being alive, and I love and enjoy every moment of my life. My view has brightened and I don't want to go back into that dark place," he said.
Notably, however, four years earlier, Eszterhas had published Hollywood Animal: A Memoir, a best-selling, raw, salacious tell-all in which he described in shameless detail his sexcapades with Hollywood actresses and nasty battles with Hollywood execs.
The timing of the screenwriter’s first memoir, which was released less than three years after his conversion, has raised some eyebrows.
“I am in no position to cast doubts on someone else's conversion. At all,” commented author Kris Rasmussen in “Idol Chatter,” Beliefnet.com’s religion and pop culture blog. “But what does have my curiosity piqued is the timeline the new book mentions. It notes his religious awakening as taking place in 2001. But … ‘Hollywood Animal’ was released in 2004. So I just can't help but wonder how someone who had returned to his Catholic faith then decided to go ahead and peddle a book that threw numerous people under the metaphorical bus.”
But Rasmussen, who is a contributing author for CCM and Relevant magazines, said such unanswered questions have accomplished their objective.
“I am sure I will be checking the book out this fall,” he wrote back in June.
According to the description for his latest memoir, Eszterhas “reveals a fresh and completely unexpected new chapter of his life“ in Crossbearer.
“With surprising tenderness and a willingness to bare even weaknesses and mistakes, Joe Eszterhas has written a startling personal story about faith, values, family and love,” it adds.
The 256-page hardcover book is set for a Sept. 2 publication.