The author of the dark thrillers Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge and Showgirls is about to release a book unlike any script he has ever written. It is the story of his spiritual conversion from a party-lifestyle to one devoted to Christ and his family.
In his book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, the former senior editor of the Rolling Stone, Joe Eszterhas, explains his conversion.
Eszterhas grew up in refugee camps in Hungary during World War II before living in the back alleys of Cleveland. It was there that he worked as a police reporter racing to cover “countless shootings” and “urban riots,” he told the Toledo Blade.
At the time, his life was very dark—one filled with death, murder, crime and chaos. He describes his writing as equally dark and also “sexually graphic.”
During the summer of 2001, Eszterhas was diagnosed with throat cancer. His doctors worked to remove 80 per cent of his larynx and told him to immediately quit drinking and smoking. Eszterhas was 56. He lived a wild lifestyle and knew that changing his habits would not be easy.
On a day Eszterhas describes as “hellishly hot,” he was walking through a tree-lined neighborhood when he realized he had hit rock-bottom.
Eszterhas described his frame of mind: "I was going crazy. I was jittery. I twitched. I trembled. I had no patience for anything. … Every single nerve ending was demanding a drink and a cigarette.”
He sat on the curb and began to cry. In between fits of crying he began to pray, “Please God, help me.”
He hadn’t prayed since he was a child. "I couldn't believe I'd said it. I didn't know why I'd said it. I'd never said it before," he wrote.
God reached out His hand
Eszterhas was immediately overwhelmed with peace. His twitching stopped. He no longer trembled. He saw a "shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands."
Similar to Saul seeing a blinding light on his way to Damascus, Eszterhas had seen the light of Christ.
Eszterhas described the experience as “absolutely overwhelming."
He went from doubting if he could make it through life without tobacco and alcohol, to knowing that he could "defeat myself and win."
Living the Catholic Faith
Since his Damascus-like experience in 2001, he and his wife have attended Mass regularly at a local Catholic church.
In his book, Eszterhas frankly includes his opinions on the clerical sexual abuse scandals. Because of the abuse and cover-ups, Eszterhas describes his continued struggle to trust the Church. He explains that he and his wife decided that they could not, in good conscience, donate money to the church and they are paranoid to leave their sons alone with priests at catechetical classes.
The book also describes priests’ homilies as boring and pointless. In a search for more content and dynamism, Eszterhas attended a non-denominational mega-church. While the sermon was powerful, he left feeling empty without the Liturgy and Eucharist.
"It may have been a church full of pedophiles and criminals covering up other criminals' sins … it may have been a church riddled with hypocrisy, deceit, and corruption … but our mega-church experience taught us that we were captive Catholics," he wrote.
"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."
Today Eszterhas continues to receive large offers for movies with dark, sinister themes. However, he maintains he has “spent too much of his life exploring the dark side of humanity and does not want to go there anymore.”
"Frankly my life changed from the moment God entered my heart. I'm not interested in the darkness anymore. I've got four gorgeous boys, a wife I adore, I love being alive, and I love and enjoy every moment of my life. My view has brightened and I don't want to go back into that dark place."
Eszterhas' appreciation for life intensified even more last year when his surgeon told him another visit would not be necessary.
"He used the word 'cured,' a word that oncologists generally don't use," Eszterhas said. "He said I didn't have to come back for any checks, that my tissue had regenerated to the point where you cannot only not tell that there was ever any cancer there, but you can't tell that there had been any surgery there.
"Naomi and I were, of course, overwhelmed when he told us. I think it's truly a miraculous blessing."
Eszterhas was compelled to write his book as "a thank you to God" and "to tell the world what He has done for me."
His wife has consistently been supportive. When she finished his book, she gave it a hug saying, “That's how I feel. I'm very proud of it."