Prior to writing for "Rolling Stone" and breaking into films, he worked as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Former co-workers at the paper have suggested the move to screenwriting was a wise choice, since "Joe was always more interested in fiction."
Has repeatedly made public statements blasting the "talent" of Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino has not only acknowledged said statements, but has gone on to praise Eszterhas and his infamous 1995 film Showgirls (1995).
His non-fiction book "Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse" was nominated for a National Book Award in 1975. The book ended up indirectly leading to Eszterhas' career as a screenwriter. It was read by Marcia Nasatir, an executive at United Artists who considered the book cinematic. She contacted Eszterhas and asked him if he was interested in writing screenplays. Eszterhas then came up with the story for F.I.S.T. (1978) which the studio proceeded to greenlight.
In 1995, when his scripts for both Jade (1995) and Showgirls (1995) were nominated for Worst Screenplay, The Razzie Awards re-named the category in his "Dis-Honor" -- It was henceforth called "The Joe Eszterhas Dis-Honorarial Worst Screenplay Award." Eszterhas then went on to "win" his "own" Award for both Showgirls (1995) and 1998's An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997).
He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2000. He blamed his illness on years of heavy drinking and smoking four packs of Salem cigarettes a day.
Graduate of Cleveland Cathedral Latin High School.
Family moved from Hungary to Cleveland, Ohio, when he was 6 years old.
Received upwards of $4 million in the mid-1990s for two scripts, a comedy called "Male Pattern Baldness" and a Russian mob tale titled "Evil Empire." Neither film has been made. "Male Pattern Baldness" was a dark, satirical comedy about a man in Cleveland fighting against the forces of political correctness. The script was purchased by Paramount for $2 million upfront, plus $2 million more upon commencement of principal photography. Betty Thomas and Mark Illsley have both been attached to direct at various points before the project was shelved by Paramount.
His $3 million paycheck for Basic Instinct (1992) in 1990 was the highest amount of money ever paid for a screenplay until that time. However, Eszterhas was eclipsed in 1996 by Shane Black (who received $4 million for The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)), and again in 2002 by M. Night Shyamalan (who was paid $5 million for Signs (2002)).
His father, Istvan, authored more than thirty Hungarian historical novels.
Legendary, prolific screenwriter Joe Eszterhas has had 17 screenplays produced, and as of 2006, has at least 25 unproduced scripts and treatments collecting dust on Hollywood shelves.
He lost four-fifths of his larynx in an operation for cancer. [November 2003]
Wrote a book about the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair, called "American Rhapsody".
Eszterhas wrote Music Box (1989) in 1989 which is about a daughter whose father she defends against war crimes turns out to be guilty. Within a few years Eszterhas' real father turned out to be charged with the same crimes, anti-semitic propaganda in Hungary.
In "Hollywood Animal: A Memoir," Eszterhas claims that Sherry Lansing, the boss of Paramount Pictures, asked him to issue a statement that he supported Paramount's hiring of William Friedkin as director for his Jade (1995) script. Friedkin was Lansing's husband, and she wanted protection from charges of nepotism. He issued the statement. In truth, Eszterhas did not want the former Oscar-winner, whom he considered a washed-up has-been, to direct the picture, but deferred to Lansing's wishes. Friedkin subsequently assured Eszterhas that he would "not change a comma" of Eszterhas' script, but when Eszterhas saw the completed film, there were so many changes to his original screenplay that he demanded that his name be removed from the film. Sherry Lansing placated Eszterhas by giving him a blind script commitment deal with Paramount worth $2-4m.
Born on exactly the same day as James Toback.
Jeno Mate sponsored his family's immigration from Europe.
Initially handwrites all his scripts, then types them up on an Olivetti manual typewriter using his middle fingers. He wonders what he will do when he runs out of ribbons for the typewriter, as he doesn't know how to use a computer and hits the keys too hard to correctly work an electric typewriter.
In 1980, he set a record for the sale of a spec script when he sold an as-yet-unproduced script called "City Hall" to Warner Bros for $500,000. He later set a new record when his screenplay for Big Shots (1987) was bought by Lorimar for $1.25 million. He set a further record for a spec script when he sold his screenplay for Basic Instinct (1992) to Carolco for $3 million. In 1994, in a landmark deal, his script "Foreplay," a dark comedy about serial killers, was purchased by Savoy Pictures for $1 million upfront, plus another $4 million when the film was made. Eszterhas was further entitled to 2½% of Savoy's income from the film and 1% of the soundtrack sales. The film has never been produced.
In 1994, he sold a four-page outline of what eventually became One Night Stand (1997) to New Line for $4m. Adrian Lyne was originally attached to direct the finished script but dropped out. New Line then made a deal with Mike Figgis to direct. Although the studio was happy with Eszterhas' script, it allowed Figgis, who had just had a big hit with Leaving Las Vegas (1995), to do a rewrite. The rewrite was so radical that Eszterhas no longer recognized the script as his own and he took his name off the film.
In 1990 he wrote a script for United Artists called Sacred Cows, a black comedy about a US President running for re-election who is caught having sex with a cow. Due to the controversial subject-matter, the script has never been produced but over the years a number of directors have either been interested in or attached to direct the film, including Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, David Anspaugh, Michael Lehmann, Blake Edwards, Milos Forman, Jim Abrahams, Betty Thomas and Tony Bill.
In 2002, he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times apologizing for the glamorization of smoking in his movies.
One reason that his screenplay for Basic Instinct (1992) finally sold for a record-setting $3 million was the bidding war between Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna, which started because each of them wanted to make the movie from their respective studios. Kassar eventually won.
In 1981 he wrote a spec script called "Platinum," about a cop investigating the death of his rock singer brother, and finding himself out of his element in the process. The script failed to be bought by any studio or production company, the general consensus being that it was "too dark".
In 1995 he wrote a biopic of Otis Redding called "Blaze of Glory." The script was purchased by Universal for $1.25 million but remains unproduced as of 2018. Eszterhas was the last person to interview Redding before his death in a plane crash in 1967.
Keeps a relatively low profile, having abandoned Hollywood for a quiet life in suburban Ohio. 
Wrote and published his memoirs called "Hollywood Animal". [February 2004]
In 2012 he wrote a book about working with Mel Gibson and his experiences with anti-Semitism entitled "Heaven and Mel".
Three of his films - Jagged Edge (1985), Basic Instinct (1992) and Jade (1995) - are murder mysteries set in San Francisco, CA, with the protagonist in each tempted to fall in love with the prime suspect.