It’s been a long time since Sharon Stone flashed her talent on the screen in 1992’s Basic Instinct, but the film remains fixed in the popular imagination as an example of devilishly subversive post-noir. Its massive commercial success not only established its female lead as an icon, but also made its screenwriter – Joe Eszterhaz – the most sought after screenwriter in Hollywood. But of course Joe is just an abbreviation for József – and Eszterhaz derives from the House of Esterházy, one of Hungary’s oldest of aristocratic dynasties, the same family from which springs Hungarian novelist Péter Esterházy .
Long before he went on to pen the films that would pull in a staggering billion dollars in revenue, baby József could be found living in the sleepy Hungarian village Csákánydoroszló. But this was 1944 when Hungary was in the midst of World War Two. His parents emigrated – first to New York City, and then to a Hungarian enclave in Cleveland, Ohio. After completing his studies, Eszterhaz’s first proper job was working as a reporter for the newspaper the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a position he lost by refusing to promote the paper on a solo transatlantic boat trip. His first screenplay to be produced was the somewhat overlooked drama F.I.S.T, starring Sylvester Stallone and directed by Norman Jewison. From there he went on to pen films that would typify the 80’s aesthetic of highly sexualized thrillers: Jagged Edge, Jade, Betrayed, Sliver, and, of course, Basic Instinct.
Though a few flops slowed Eszterhaz’s output of produced films, he remains one of the most prolific and all-time bankable screenwriters in the history of Hollywood. Recently, his gaze has turned back to Hungary, his country of birth. The wonderful story of the 1956 Hungarian Olympic water polo team Children of Glory, was – though filmed in Hungarian – based on his screenplay, and released in 2006.
PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.