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Is Joe Eszterhas A Plagiarist?


Wacko Joe Eszterhas has been called plenty of things — often alongside rather flowery descriptors — but no one has ever called the Hollywood screenwriter responsible for Basic Instinct and Showgirls a plagiarist.

Until today.

New York magazine’s Vulture blog has turned up some unattributed passages in Eszterhas’ Devil’s Guide to Hollywood (St. Martin’s Press) that appear to have been lifted from writer Shaun Considine‘s Mad as Hell, an out-of-print 1994 biography of screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky.


On page 176 of The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, Eszterhas quotes Chayefsky on dialogue: “I’d like to find a tape recorder as clever as I am in dialogue. The whole labor of writing is to make it look like it just came off the top of your head.”

The quote appears on page 122 of Mad as Hell.

On page 90 of The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, Eszterhas quotes the writer J.P. Miller on Chayefsky:

Paddy was an extraordinarily good human manipulator. He knew his way around a scrap as very few writers do. Most writers, if they get into a fight or a bad situation on a movie, call their agents. But Paddy knew Hollywood and he wouldn’t back down. He would go head to head with anybody — and at the same time he had this incredible writer’s sensitivity. That’s a rare combination which many of us don’t have. He was that rare breed of talent and fighter.

The same passage appears on page 105 of Mad as Hell.

No word from St. Martin’s Press or the Eszterhas camp. Yet.

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