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Aired January 29, 2004 - 08:45 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Soledad, Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas is a lot like some of the movies that made him famous, larger than life. The man behind blockbusters like "Basic Instinct," and "Flashdance" and "Jagged Edge," also legendary for his lifestyle. His life and death battle with throat cancer started a role reversal for him, directed toward Hollywood in an antismoking crusade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE ESZTERHAS, AUTHOR, "HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL": I've always glamorized smoking in my movies. I used to think smoking was so cool, but I got throat cancer. Maybe that's my punishment. Please, don't let Hollywood sucker you into smoking. Please, don't let people like me kill you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: He tells us the wild days are behind him now. But his new book is likely to open some old wounds. The book is called "Hollywood Animal," and Joe Eszterhas is with us now to talk about it.
ESZTERHAS: Thank you, Bill.
HEMMER: Nice to see you here in New York City.
ESZTERHAS: Always nice to see my fellow Ohioans.
HEMMER: That's right. Go Buckeyes.
Why write this book?
ESZTERHAS: Well, I felt that my illness said to me that if I was going to write my life story, I better start writing it. The book a story of a life beginning in refugee camps and going to back to Ohio. One part of that life is Hollywood. And the -- it's not a Hollywood tell-all, if you will; it's a very personal tell-all about my life and the things that I've done.
HEMMER: You know, Joe, from the title, though, "Hollywood Animal," it makes us kind look at the stories that you bring to life here. There's a picture of you a refugee out of Hungary, later immigrating to the U.S. Your father, you found out, was a Nazi sympathizer, but the thing that is going to get a lot of attention, the stories you talked about, Michael Ovitz, Sylvester Stallone, a one-night stand with Sharon Stone, why put that in there? ESZTERHAS: Well, to answer what the book is about to begin with, the -- you know, Hollywood is not used to reading about itself honestly. You know, Hollywood gets puff pieces and PR people handle all the publicity and the truth is pretty well managed. I would say that this is the anti-puff piece book. This is Hollywood with the kind of honesty that you've never read before.
HEMMER: Why do we need to know that?
ESZTERHAS: That particular thing?
ESZTERHAS: Because I come from a long literary tradition of people like Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, and Thomas Wolf and Jean Harlow, and Patty Jamski (ph) and Kim Novak and Ronald Mailer (ph) and Shelly Winters, so I certainly -- it's a kind of literary braggadoccio that I indulge in.
HEMMER: You have taken on Hollywood, and you've done this for years now, for glamorizing smoking in the movies. You've been effected by it quite personally and deeply. We can hear that in your throat every time we discuss this. Does it hurt your credibility when you're taking on Hollywood at the same time when you're dishing a little bit of dirt?
ESZTERHAS: I think what's remarkable about the book is its honesty. And I think when people read it, as "The New York Times," talking about the parts that they like, they said that it was powerful and effective, and moving. And I think when people read it, they will be inspired at the end of this long story, because I certainly don't shy from talking about the mistakes I made and the life that I'm now leading.
HEMMER: Let's talk about some of your films, do you mind? "Flashdance," you had a three-way tie between Demi Moore, Lesli Wing (ph) and Jennifer Beals. Beals wins out. What was it about her?
ESZTERHAS: The studio head at the time, Michael Eisner, went to the grips and the gaffers, and said, guys, I am going to show you three potential actresses for this movie, and you have to tell me which one of these women you'd love the most. And Jenny Beals one, and Michael Eisner cast her.
HEMMER: What was your favorite film, do you believe, screenplay? What do you like the most?
ESZTERHAS: You mean of my own on or others.
ESZTERHAS: It's tough to pick one, I like "Basic Instinct," but I also like "Telling Lies" and...
HEMMER: Really? Where does "Jagged Edge" rate on your list? ESZTERHAS: I like "Jagged Edge" a lot. It was a movie that nobody had any faith in. The studio didn't think it would be a hit, and it held on as No. 1 for, I think, seven weeks.
HEMMER: Wow, what a story it was, too. Your own personal life, you are married to your wife, Naomi. You live in Cleveland, Ohio, in the area anyway, southeast of town, Chagrin (ph) Falls, four kids.
But your own story with Naomi is quite interesting. She was married at the time you two got together. Is it true that she has helped draw you out of that Hollywood scene, and effectively saved your own life.
ESZTERHAS: Yes, absolutely. She is the great love of my life. I adore her. She has totally influenced my life in a great many ways. She's from Mansfield, Ohio. She's a very strong, smart and inspiring woman, and I am blessed to have her in my life.
HEMMER: Is the title appropriate, "Hollywood Animal?"
ESZTERHAS: Maybe it's ironic, but certainly some of the things I did were animalistic, kind of inhumane behaviors, so in that sense, it's very valid.
HEMMER: Good to see you in person.
ESZTERHAS: Thank you, Bill.
HEMMER: How is your health, by the way?
ESZTERHAS: I'm good, thank you.
HEMMER: Feel OK?
ESZTERHAS: I walk five miles a day, and praise God and knock on wood, I will be around in a while.
HEMMER: OK, thanks, Joe. Talk to you again.
ESZTERHAS: Thank you.
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