Last Updated: August 7, 2023
Richest CelebritiesAuthors
Net Worth:
$25 Million
Date of Birth:
Nov 23, 1944 (78 years old)
Place of Birth:
Screenwriter, Writer, Film Producer, Journalist
💰 Compare Joe Eszterhas' Net Worth

What is Joe Eszterhas' Net Worth and Salary?

Joe Eszterhas is a Hungarian-American writer and producer who has a net worth of $25 million. Joe Eszterhas first made his mark in the 1980s with the screenplay for "Flashdance" (1983), which became a massive hit. His unique style, combining grit and eroticism, led him to work on films like "Jagged Edge" (1985) and "Basic Instinct" (1992). The latter was particularly controversial but financially successful, solidifying Eszterhas's reputation as a master of the thriller genre. He continued to pen high-profile projects such as "Showgirls" (1995), though this film was widely panned by critics and became infamous for its explicit content.

Highest Paid Screenwriter

At his peak, Joe Eszterhas was the highest-paid screenwriter in the world. Over the course of his career he earned roughly $30 million selling scripts for dozens of movies, many of which were never produced! He earned 90% of these earnings just in the 1990s alone! And, keep in mind, that $30 million figure does not include back-end royalties on box office profits.

At his absolute peak, Joe could earn $4 million just for the rights to a screenplay. And these screenplays would sometimes be just four page summaries of a potential future screenplay.

Below is a summary of some of Joe Eszterhas' biggest career paydays and salaries:

In 1982 Joe earned $275,000 for his screenplay for what became "Flashdance." A year later he sold his screenplay for what became "Jagged Edge" for $500,000.

In 1990 he sold a script for a movie (that eventually became "Basic Instinct") for a record-smashing $3 million. After adjusting for inflation, that was the same was making $7 million in today's dollars.

Eszterhas' sale of Basic Instinct for $3 million shattered that record, and helped to usher in a new era of high-paying spec deals in Hollywood. The success of Basic Instinct also helped to make Eszterhas one of the most in-demand screenwriters in Hollywood at the time.

In 1990 he sold a script called "Sacred Cows" to MGM for $500,000. He would have earned an additional $250,000 if the film had been produced. It was shelved.

He then earned $600,000 for a script called "Original Sin." He would have earned an additional $900,000 if the film had been produced. It was shelved.

In 1994 Joe earned $1 million for his screenplay "Sliver." This film was made and turned out to be a moderate box office success, generating $116 million.

Joe earned $2 million for a screenplay called "Reliable Sources" that wasn't made.

The year 1995 would prove to be Joe's career pinnacle. That year two of his films, "Jade" and "Showgirls" were released to very mixed reactions and performance. But Joe didn't care either way. He earned $4 million for "Jade" and $3.75 million for "Showgirls."

Joe would go on to make $4 million for what became "One Night Stand," $2 million for an un-produced comedy called "Male Pattern Baldness," $1 million for an un-produced script called "Foreplay" and $1 million for an un-produced script called "Gangland."

Box Office Numbers

To date, Joe's movies have generated over $1 billion at global box office. "Basic Instinct" is his biggest hit, bringing in a little over $400 million in 1992. Here is a bulleted-list of Joe's box office performance:

  • Flashdance (1983): $200.9 million
  • Jagged Edge (1985): $104.3 million
  • Basic Instinct (1992): $403.7 million
  • Sliver (1993): $81.2 million
  • Jade (1995): $91.5 million
  • Showgirls (1995): $19.3 million
  • Telling Lies in America (1997): $275.2 thousand

Early Life

Joe Eszterhas was born on November 23, 1944 in Csákánydoroszló, Hungary to parents Maria and Istvan Eszterhas who both followed the Roman Catholic faith. He was born during World War II and lived as a child in a refugee camp in Allied-occupied Austria. The family later moved to the United States, living first in Pittsburgh before later settling in Cleveland in 1950. He attended high school there and then enrolled at Ohio University. After winning a writing competition in 1966  sponsored by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, he decided to pursue a career in writing.

Early Writing Career

Eszterhaus began his career working at the "Dayton Journal Herald" and then began working at "The Plain Dealer" in Cleveland where he was one of the first reporters to cover the Kent State shootings in 1970. He and fellow "The Plain Dealer" journalist, Michael Roberts, spent the next three months reporting on the story and their work was published as the book "Thirteen Seconds: Confrontation at Kent State." He later joined the staff of "Rolling Stone."

In 1974, Eszterhas became a National Book Award nominee for his nonfiction work, "Charlie Simpson's Apocalypse." A studio executive read the book and contacted him to tell him the book was very cinematic and suggested he could be a screenwriter. This motivated him to change careers and start writing scripts.

Film Career

Eszterhas' first produced screenplay was "F.I.S.T.' and was directed by Norman Jewison. He also contributed to the script of 1983 film "Flashdance" and wrote the screenplays for "Jagged Edge" and "Betrayed."

In 1989, Eszterhas planned to leave Creative Artists Agency, where he had been represented, because his friend, Guy McElwiane, was restarting his own agency. Michael Ovitz, then the chairman of CAA, threatened to prevent CAA actors from acting in Eszterhas's future projects. Eszterhas then wrote a letter to Ovitz and blasted him for his tactics. Copies of the letter were circulated around Hollywood and as a result, the powerful agency lost some of the power it had on the entertainment industry.

A spec script that Eszterhas wrote originally titled "Love Hurts" became the subject of a bidding war amongst the various production companies in Hollywood. It eventually sold for a then-record $3 million in 1990. That's the same as $7 million in today's dollars after adjusting for inflation. The project later materialized into the film "Basic Instinct," directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas. It was released in 1992 and earned more than $400 million at the box office. The success of the film led Eszterhaus to become one of the most sought-after screenwriters at the time.

The following year, Eszterhas re-teamed with "Basic Instinct" star Sharon Stone for the film "Silver." However, the film was not nearly as successful. He then wrote the screenplay for "Showgirls." The film debuted in 1995 and was seen as both a critical and financial disaster. It won the year's Golden Raspberry Award for "Worst Screenplay." However, despite the negative press, the film enjoyed a cult following when released on video and generated over $100 million from video rentals. It became one of MGM's top twenty all-time bestsellers. Soon after "Showgirls" was released, another of Eszterhas's films, "Jade," was released to more negative reviews. Due to the back to back box-office bombs, Eszterhas's reputation as one of the highest-paid screenwriters took a hit.

Joe Eszterhas


In 1997, Eszterhas produced two films, both of which he wrote: "Telling Lies in America" and "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn." The former film was a massive failure and won several Golden Raspberry Awards including "Worst Picture," "Worst Screenplay," and "Worst New Star." The failure of the film affected Eszterhas's career. None of the screenplays he wrote between 1997 and 2006 were produced.

In 2006, he did achieve some success for "Children of Glory," a Hungarian language film based upon his screenplay. The film focuses on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the Blood in the Water match at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The film was entered by invitation in the official section at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival.

Eszterhas also has written several best-selling books, including "Hollywood Animal," an autobiography about politics in Hollywood and "Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith" in 2008.

Personal Life

Like the characters in his films, Joe has had a turbulent personal life.

In 1972 Joe Eszterhas married Geraldine "Geri" Javer. They had two children together over the course of the marriage. They divorced in 1994 after the following bizarre circumstances had occurred:

In 1992, during the filming of Joe's movie "Sliver", Joe introduced the film's star Sharon Stone to his friend Bill MacDonald, who was also one of the film's producers. After knowing Bill for a matter of days, Sharon informed him that she was in love and that her psychic had told her that she and Bill were actually lovers from a previous life. Unfortunately for Sharon, Bill was recently married to his partner of 10 years, a woman named Naomi Baka. They had been married for five months but Sharon's lure proved irresistible and MacDonald ended the marriage with Naomi. Distraught, Naomi briefly moved back to her parents' house in Ohio where she learned she was pregnant. She lost the baby to a miscarriage.

In the wake of her life being turned upside down, Naomi Baka moved in with Joe and Geri Eszterhas at their home in the upscale Northern California town of Belvedere in the city of Tiburon in tony Marin County, California. She vacationed with Joe, Geri and their two sons to exotic locations like Maui. They spent holidays together. And at some point Joe and Naomi began an affair and fell in love.

Joe and Geri divorced in 1994. That year, he married Naomi Baka. They had four sons together. Joe and Naomi live in the Cleveland suburb of Bainbridge Township, Ohio as he had wanted to raise his children there rather than Malibu, California, where he had lived before.

Sharon Stone and Bill MacDonald became engaged but broke up in 1994. She reportedly returned his engagement ring via FedEx.

When Eszterhas was 45 years old, he found out that his father had concealed his World War II collaboration in Hungary's Arrow Cross Party government after the German occupation of Hungary. He had organized book burnings and produced anti-Semitic propaganda. After discovering this, he cut his father out of his life entirely, never reconciling before his father's death in 2001. He later expressed some regret at not seeing his father before he died.

Eszterhas has described himself as an independent centrist and has previously supported Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Ross Perot, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. He is also a supporter of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.

Ohio Mansion

Joe's Ohio property was purchased in 2001 for $975,000. The 5+ acre property is worth around $1.5 million today.

Joe Eszterhas Earnings

  • One Night Stand
    $4 Million
  • Jade
    $2.5 Million
  • Showgirls
    $2 Million
  • Sliver
    $1 Million
  • Basic Instinct
    $3 Million
  • Big Shots
    $1.3 Million
  • Jagged Edge
    $500 Thousand
  • Flashdance
    $275 Thousand
All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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