Josef Eszterhas (born November 23, 1944) is a controversial Hungarian-American screenwriter who is perhaps best known for his work on the films Basic Instinct and Showgirls. He is the son of Istvan Eszterhas, a Hungarian novelist.
His first screenplay to be produced was F.I.S.T., which was directed by Norman Jewison. Most of the screenplay was rewritten by Sylvester Stallone. He then contributed to the script of 1983's highly successful Flashdance. Most of Eszterhas's other work in the 1980s was in relatively low-profile films.
Eszterhas came back into the limelight in 1992, writing the screenplay for Basic Instinct. He was accused of being homophobic and misogynistic; nevertheless, he was paid $3 million for the screenplay (the highest amount of money paid for a screenplay until 1996). In 1995 he wrote Showgirls, which was directed by Basic Instinct's director, Paul Verhoeven. His screenplay was seen to confirm the earlier accusations of mysogyny, and he won that year's Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screenplay.
He then turned his eye to producing, making two films in 1997 (both of which he wrote). The first one, Telling Lies in America, was generally well-regarded with critics and audiences, but was not a great success. The second was the infamous flop, An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn which won several Golden Raspberry awards, of which Eszterhas won two–another Worst Screenplay, the other for Worst Supporting Actor (for a cameo, in which he described himself as a "penile implant").
None of Eszterhas's screenplays have been produced since 1997; however, he currently has nine undeveloped screenplays, which have sold for a combined total of around $20 million. He has also wrote several novels.
He has been married twice, has five children, and is currently recovering from throat cancer.