Washington Post
August 10, 2002

Eszterhas Has Cancer, Blasts Film Smoking

By Joe Milicia
Associated Press

CLEVELAND, Aug. 9 — Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, a longtime smoker, said today that he has throat cancer and apologized for glamorizing cigarettes in his movies."

Eszterhas, whose credits include "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls," accused the rest of the film industry, too, of promoting smoking, and urged it to quit.

"My hands are bloody, so are Hollywood's," he wrote in an emotional op-ed piece in the New York Times.

Smoking was an integral part of many of my screenplays because I was a militant smoker. It was part of a bad boy image I'd cultivated for a long time — smoking, drinking, partying, rock'n'roll," he wrote.

"Smoking, I once believed, was every person's right... I don't think smoking is every person's right anymore. I think smoking should be as illegal as heroin."

Eszterhas, 57, said he was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago. Much of his larynx is gone, he wrote, and he has difficulty speaking and being understood.

Eszterhas, who grew up in Cleveland, was spending the day with family and was unavailable for comment.

He has stopped smoking and drinking since his cancer was diagnosed, and he now walks five miles a day and attends church on Sunday, he wrote.

He concluded: "I don't wish my fate upon anyone in Hollywood, but I beg that Hollywood stop imposing it upon millions of others."

Larry Deutchman, an executive with Entertainment Industries Council, a group founded by film and TV companies to monitor social issues, applauded Eszterhas's remarks, but said he didn't think Hollywood in general was guilty of glamorizing smoking.

"If he looks at his work and wishes he had done otherwise, I respect that and think it's terrific," Deutchman said. "But to blame the industry as if there's a conspiracy to promote tobacco use, I think, might be a little unfair."