Before Flashdance, reporter-turned-screenwriter Eszterhas had completed one produced screenplay, for Sylvester Stallone’s blue-collar drama F.I.S.T. With Flashdance, he started writing about strong and sexy women in difficult circumstances, stories that often bordered on the pulpy or exploitative – defense attorney Glenn Close falling in love with her killer client in Jagged Edge, Debra Winger infiltrating a group of white supremacists in Betrayed, Jessica Lange discovering that her father may have been a Nazi war criminal in Music Box.
Eventually, Eszterhas crossed the line into full-blown exploitation – and became the most well-paid screenwriter in Hollywood as a result. He wrote Sharon Stone’s erotic thrillers Basic Instinct and Sliver, then found his Waterloo with Showgirls – essentially, Flashdance with nipples and catfights. His career has never fully recovered, though he tried to write a screenplay about ancient Jewish heroes the Maccabees for Mel Gibson to direct. For perhaps obvious reasons, that didn’t work out, though it did yield a book by the Eszterhas about the failed partnership, titled Heaven and Mel. In his own Hollywood misadventures, the 68-year-old screenwriter may have found his most outrageous yarn yet.