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SCREENWRITER WHO PENNED MOVIES LIKE BASIC INSTINCT NOW TACKLING GUADALUPE
It is certainly going to be interesting to see how screenwriter Joe Eszterhas handles the script for a planned movie on the Virgin of Guadalupe.
It is going to be interesting because Eszterhas is a tough-as-nails, face-like-a-fist (a description he himself cites) type of fellow who wrote such unChristian or at least carnal movies as Basic Instinct, Flashdance, Jagged Edge, and Showgirls (along with thirteen others).
Time once called him "America's king of sex and violence," but now Eszterhas refuses to write scripts that promote sex and violence and has been seeking for a while to do a movie glorifying God.
This much can be said: the movie on Guadalupe, now in the works and announced in August, will make news and if it stays true to the actual story (which needs no embellishment) could turn out to be a potent testimony.
That won't be known, of course, for quite some time. What we can know, from Eszterhas's own conversion story, is that God can touch anyone. He is now an active Catholic.
And his conversion is significant because Joe was not only a hardcore big-time Hollywood type (one of the world's most influential screenwriters), but also a chain-smoking woman-chasing alcoholic who as standard practice smoked a couple packs of cigarettes and downed a quart of Jack Daniels or other hard liquor along with wine and beer each day (he prepared for early-morning appearances on Today by drinking an ice-cold bottle of wine just before going on).
So we get the picture (not to play on words): a guy who made millions in Hollywood but later contracted serious throat cancer and in his desperation to regain health and kick bad habits called out to God -- the same God Who in his own words he not only was guilty of ignoring and rejecting "but of trashing Him in my writings." He was anti-religious. He once said on national TV that all you had to do was take one letter out of "Mormon" to get "moron." He once sued when the principal at his daughter's high school objected to a t-shirt she wore of the Crucified Christ with the word "Joker" in big letters above His crown of thorns.
But along came cancer and desperation and the emptiness that is Hollywood and he called out to the Lord. "I'm suddenly back and talking to Him as though nothing had interrupted our relationship, saying, 'How ya doin', God? Haven't seen you in a while, what up? Everything cool?"
To his amazement, God answered.
And brought him back to Catholicism.
It was the religion his parents -- regular churchgoers who emigrated from Hungary -- had practiced, and their reverence, particularly his mother's devotion to Guadalupe, brought this very hardened (and still pretty hard) writer into Holy Angels Catholic Church in Bainbridge, Ohio, where he moved after fleeing Hollywood.
The influence of a mother -- and a father! Unfortunately, we can't carry the book, due to the harsh language (Joe is not yet ready to preach to the choir), but this is a good man beneath the crust of super-worldliness, if one who, like us all, still has far to go in his journey.
At church, some were startled when, during Mass, as crossbearer, Eszterhas came down the main aisle wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt.
"I wanted to demonstrate that you didn't have to be some goody-two-shoes twerp to believe in God and love Jesus," he writes. "I didn't think there was anything uncool, dorky, or nerdy about loving Jesus."
That is not what we mean about harsh language (it's one of the milder narratives), but he expresses what many others feel when he points out certain Church failings (such as the clergy-abuse scandals, which nearly chased him back out), and how "popular culture had wimpified Jesus. He had been reduced to a pious, fey, prattling sissy. His manhood had been taken from Him. Wrongly, of course."
Instead, points out Eszterhas, Jesus could be a very tough character Who threw out the moneychangers and faced Satan's desert temptations "in nearly Clint Eastwood terms."
An interesting take (again no pun intended) on the situation.
When the scandals caused Eszterhas and his wife to try a local non-denominational mega-church, he was impressed by the sermon ("now that is the kind of homily we need to hear every Sunday," he writes, in Crossbearer, referring to Catholic sermons that put him to sleep). "But something odd took place in the next few hours after we got home. Yes, that sermon had been great, but... as moving as the sermon had been, that's how empty the service itself had felt.
"I talked to [my wife] about it and she felt the same way, and we finally understood what we were feeling:
"We missed our little church. As we thought and talked about it, we realized it was the Mass that we missed. The Mass was our guiding prayer, not psalms from the Bible. Holy Communion was our prayer's climax, and there had been no Communion at the megachurch. We missed hosting the Body and Blood of Christ in our hearts and bodies."
This is the man who wrote Basic Instinct!
"We missed it so much," he goes on, "that we started making phone calls to see if any parish had a Mass that afternoon. The powerful sermon ultimately didn't matter. We needed Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, like two starved vampires needing to feed on Christ's Grace."
We will excuse his way with words as we see here a book that will not appeal to the devout and may even offend but that may be useful in converting others who have fallen away -- who are alcoholic or addicted to drugs or deeply immoral in any way.
How will a fellow like Eszterhas handle Guadalupe?
We'll find out in a year or two.
"I remembered that when I was a boy, my mother had told me to turn to the Virgin (and Saint Anthony of Padua) whenever I needed help," he says. "She prayed at the Blessed Virgin's side altar in any church she attended. Besides that, there were several aspects of the Guadalupe apparitions that were mind-boggling to me." One example: an atheist scientist who studied the image and concluded that "the elements that produced the colored patches on the cloth are unknown to all research."
Only a man of Eszterhas's standing can get such a movie like this done in a big way, for as he points out, quoting a producer, Hollywood executives get "very, very nervous at any mention of God. God has never been big in prime time."
True, Eszterhas believes in gay marriage. True, he still sounds like a very rough-and-tumble guy (tossing a script back in the face of one fellow who tried to show him his work at church). True, he still employs rude, coarse language (perhaps as a way to demonstrate that he is not a "nerd").
But God uses us all, and no one -- not even Joe Eszterhas, not anyone you know -- is beyond His reach.
[resources: new book on Guadalupe]
[resources: Michael H. Brown, retreat Minnesota and Retreat and Mass in New Jersey]
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