‘Zodiac’ case reopened at screening

Director David Fincher talks about crime drama

“This is a newspaper movie, not a serial-killer movie,” emphasized “Zodiac” director David Fincher, responding to the inevitable comparisons to his previous procedural about a multiple murderer, 1995’s Oscar-nommed “Seven.”

“Zodiac” producer Brad Fischer followed up Fincher’s comments by referencing another film set in a big-city newsroom. “It’s more in the vein of ‘All the President’s Men’ then anything else as far as the precedent. It’s about these people who become consumed by this obsession and how it destroys their lives.”

The two men were joined by the crime drama’s screenwriter, James Vanderbilt, at the Q&A session following Thursday’s Variety screening of the director’s cut version of “Zodiac”at the Arclight .

Bay Area native Fincher wanted to be as historically accurate as possible in recreating the San Francisco of 1969 and into the early ’70s, a city that for him was very different than the image conjured in the popular imagination.

“This was not Haight Ashbury, this was not the hippie San Francisco. My dad worked in the Time-Life building so this was guys in two-piece suits,” said Fincher about the dress code at the San Francisco Chronicle.

For Fincher, whose father was a journalist, historical accuracy was paramount in bringing the story of the Zodiac killer to the bigscreen. The 138-page script was mostly based on former Chronicle cartoonist and true-crime author Robert Graysmith’s book “Zodiac Unmasked: the Identity of America’s Most Elusive Serial Killer.” (Jake Gyllenhaal plays this character in the film.)

However, Fincher didn’t just want to rely on the book, instead opting for field research.

“After we sent David the screenplay which was very much a straight adaptation of the book, David said this is great, my hats off to you guys for taking all this stuff and stuffing it into 138 pages,” said Fischer. “And he says let’s put the script away and let’s go up to the Bay Area, let’s find all these people, many of whom are materially involved in the investigation and are still alive, and let’s talk to them. Let’s find them and see what their perspectives are because they’re going to be dramatized on screen and we’d like to do this with as much authenticity and journalistic integrity as possible.”

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