Joe Eszterhas wrote “Basic Instinct” in 13 days and sold it for $4 million

“Basic Instinct,” a 1992 film written by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Paul Verhoeven, was one of the most controversial productions of the era. We talked to screenwriter Joe Eszterhas about how the film, which has attracted great attention even years later and is described as a “neo-noir masterpiece” with its groundbreaking depictions of sexuality in mainstream Hollywood cinema, came about.
◊ Where are you connecting from?

  • I’m connecting from Chagrin Falls, Cleveland.

◊ Do you think the movie would have had the same effect if Sharon Stone had not played in “Basic Instinct”?

  • I don’t think the movie would be the same without Sharon. Sharon was amazing, she was amazing. She has that ‘cute girl’ quality to her. It also has a kind of dark side. His performance in the movie was criticized and belittled. Because it was a very daring role on a sexual level. I cannot explain how important the movie was to him and how he worked for his role. I have read Sharon’s book. He wrote that the audience made fun of him while his nomination was read at the Golden Globes. She told that she was very upset about this. She didn’t deserve this. However, the movie is still trending on the internet and is really watched a lot. I can tell from the checks coming home that the interest is still very high.

◊ When women like Sharon Stone who have the courage to defend themselves against society speak up, there is an air of contempt in the industry. Why do you think? I’m curious about your opinion on this matter…

I think women in general are made militant when they’re outspoken, beautiful or not. I also think they are really humiliated. We still live in a society that doesn’t like outspoken, strong-willed women. That’s why I think the “Me Too” movement is tremendously necessary and has been a huge help to the country. Beautiful women are a bigger target. Do not forget; People are being pressured at different levels…
Joe Eszterhas wrote “Basic Instinct” in 13 days and sold it for $4 million

SHARON SAYS I CREATED HIM

◊ Are you meeting with Sharon Stone?

  • Sharon and I are good friends. She sometimes jokes and says I created it, she says. She is such a unique and dynamic creature that I couldn’t have created her. But I wrote a good character for him, I can say that.

◊ Stone has a very high IQ, right?

  • Yeah, he’s very smart. I have been a victim of his high IQ many times. (She Laughs she) she So I know her intelligence very well.

“Basic Instinct,” a 1992 film written by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Paul Verhoeven, was one of the most controversial productions of the era. We talked to screenwriter Joe Eszterhas about how the film, which has attracted great attention even years later and is described as a “neo-noir masterpiece” with its groundbreaking depictions of sexuality in mainstream Hollywood cinema, came about.
◊ Where are you connecting from?

  • I’m connecting from Chagrin Falls, Cleveland.

◊ Do you think the movie would have had the same effect if Sharon Stone had not played in “Basic Instinct”?

  • I don’t think the movie would be the same without Sharon. Sharon was amazing, she was amazing. She has that ‘cute girl’ quality to her. It also has a kind of dark side. His performance in the movie was criticized and belittled. Because it was a very daring role on a sexual level. I cannot explain how important the movie was to him and how he worked for his role. I have read Sharon’s book. He wrote that the audience made fun of him while his nomination was read at the Golden Globes. She told that she was very upset about this. She didn’t deserve this. However, the movie is still trending on the internet and is really watched a lot. I can tell from the checks coming home that the interest is still very high.

◊ When women like Sharon Stone who have the courage to defend themselves against society speak up, there is an air of contempt in the industry. Why do you think? I’m curious about your opinion on this matter…

I think women in general are made militant when they’re outspoken, beautiful or not. I also think they are really humiliated. We still live in a society that doesn’t like outspoken, strong-willed women. That’s why I think the “Me Too” movement is tremendously necessary and has been a huge help to the country. Beautiful women are a bigger target. Do not forget; People are being pressured at different levels…

◊ Are you meeting with Sharon Stone?

  • Sharon and I are good friends. She sometimes jokes and says I created it, she says. She is such a unique and dynamic creature that I couldn’t have created her. But I wrote a good character for him, I can say that.

◊ Stone has a very high IQ, right?

  • Yeah, he’s very smart. I have been a victim of his high IQ many times. (She Laughs she) she So I know her intelligence very well.

Sharon Stone starred in this movie overnight.

I WROTE IN 13 DAYS AND SELL FOR 4 MILLION DOLLARS

◊ Can you tell us the story of writing “Basic Instinct”?

  • I wrote it in 13 days. I would wake up at 03:00 in the morning and write the lines of dialogue. I’ve never written that fast. On the 13th day, I sent the script to my then manager, Guy McKelwey. His first name wasn’t “Basic Instinct”. I named it “Love Hurts”. I was going to Damascus. “Change your name to ‘Basic Instinct’,” said a lightning bolt in my head as I walked out the door. I changed the name, then resubmitted the script. I sold it for 4 million dollars in 3 days.
    I wrote 18 movies, 30-odd screenplays and 7 books. The years I wrote about street crimes and the years I worked for Rolling Stone brought different characters to my life. I like to write different stories. There are also things I write for children. “Jade,” “Jagged Edge,” and “Basic Instinct” are the darker ones. I guess I wrote darker pieces when my first marriage broke up…

◊ I was also going to ask about this dark side of your stories. Take, for example, the movie “Jagged Edge” starring Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges. There’s another socialite and murder again… Do you have a special interest in murder, beautiful women and mystery?

  • I am fond of these subjects. I’ve thought a lot about this over the years… When I was younger, I was a reporter for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Previously, I reported on street crime for the Daily Journal Herald for several years. And in that process, I met many policemen, became very close to some of them.
    There was a very charismatic, attractive and intelligent cop. He was involved in three separate incidents. He shot three people. Two of the people he shot were dead. His nickname was “The Fireman”. As I got to know him, I began to realize that he liked to shoot. And the subject stuck in my head. At about the same time, I had an affair with a woman who was about 10 years older than me. It was nice. She was an intelligent and manipulative woman. She enjoyed manipulation, both intellectually and sexually. These two different characters combined in my head and influenced my stories.

I GROWED REALLY POOR AND MADE WEALTH FROM SCENARIOS

◊ You earned a record fee with the scenario of “Basic Instinct”. Whereas, those were the years when screenwriters weren’t paid high salaries, right?

  • I grew up really poor. When our refugee ship arrived in New York, we had a total of $5 from the International Relief Organization. I have never eaten watermelon. My father loved watermelon very much. We lived in a refugee camp in Allied-occupied Austria, and there were no watermelons in the camp. My father said one day, “I’ll buy you a watermelon”. The seller said the watermelon was $4.50 cents. All of a sudden we have 50 cents left…
    When I started writing a screenplay, 100 thousand dollars for a screenplay was a fortune for me. Then more money started coming in. $500,000 was the record price for a screenplay at the time. I sold “Big Shots”, one of my first scripts, at a good price. I couldn’t even imagine that money. Then “Basic Instinct”. Later, I had scenarios that I sold for 3-4 million dollars. It was miraculous, like it wasn’t real.
I LEARNED HOW TO DEAL WITH HOLLYWOOD ON THE WEST SIDE

◊ Let’s talk a little bit about your stamina against bullying in Hollywood. How to deal with the Hollywood ego?

I got the biggest training in how to deal with Hollywood growing up in a refugee district on the West Side, in Cleveland. I grew up in a tough neighborhood. I have been told many things because I am a refugee. This oppression gave me a lifetime of love for the oppressed, blacks, Jews, homosexuals.
As for the real thing that taught me how to deal with Hollywood… I had to pass by a place called Nate’s Diner every morning. All the weird guys used to hang out there. I had to pass by to get on the bus that would take me to the bilingual Hungarian school. I had to fight these guys there. I couldn’t bargain, sometimes I was beaten. It was there that I learned to fight and unite through negotiation. That’s basically but in different ways I’ve had a Hollywood career…

Starring Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas, “Basic Instinct” chronicles detective Nick Curran’s fiery relationship with his prime suspect, Catherine Tramell, who investigates the brutal murder of a wealthy rock star.

GUIDES TO BEING AMERICAN: BASEBALL, GIRLS, AND ROCK’N ROLL

◊ You were the senior editor of Rolling Stone magazine at the time of rock ‘n’ roll. How did your adventure begin?

I fell in love with rock and roll as a kid. When I came to this country, I was a Hungarian child who did not speak English. One of the guides to being American was baseball, the other was American girls, and the third was rock and roll.
I admired people like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Richie Havens. I worked as a DJ for a while. This led me to Rolling Stone magazine. When I went there in 1971, the magazine was the epitome of what they called “new journalism.”

It was a rebellious form of journalism that combined elements of fiction with elements of non-fiction. The Hungarian boy growing up in Cleveland suddenly finds himself in Rolling Stone magazine! “What kind of world is this?” I said. One day I went to the office, grandma a man with glasses was reading; Mick Jagger was sitting reading my posts!

◊ Then?

  • I started writing a screenplay and I was successful. One day I went to Memphis. I learned that Jerry Lee Lewis lives in a small town there. “I would love to meet him,” I said to my driver. My driver said, “Tom Cruise wants to meet him too, and so does Danny DeVito. “Everybody wants to meet Jerry Lee Lewis, so I don’t think you have much of a chance.” “Go ask,” I said. “I want to meet the man who wrote Basic Instinct,” Jerry said. It was an enjoyable 2 hour meeting. It was like the pinnacle of my dreams!
  • I’VE ALWAYS LOVED STRONG WOMEN

◊ When your movies “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” were released, the press split in two. One part interpreted it as “sexist”, the other part said you gave freedom to women, you set them free. What are you thinking?

  • Great question. I’ve always loved strong women. I like people who have charisma and can stand on their own two feet. I am not afraid of the opinions of those who do not think the same as me. Actually, those ideas helped me. One of the things I am proud of; The best actresses of our time have acted in my films.

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