Director David Fincher on the making of ‘Zodiac’

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‘Zodiac’ is released soon as a director’s cut on DVD. David Fincher tells Tom Huddleston about directing this true story of a US serial killer investigation

David Fincher’s epic thriller ‘Zodiac’ is more than just an account of a police investigation. It’s also perhaps the finest ‘journalist procedural’ movie since ‘All the President’s Men’, depicting in gripping detail the discoveries and disappointments inherent to any investigative newsmaking venture. Steeped in the iconic style and frenzy of a 1970s newspaper office, the film follows cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he loses himself in obsession over the infamous Zodiac case.

‘I thought it’d be great to make a newspaper movie in the guise of a serial killer movie,’ Fincher enthuses. But while he enjoyed the investigative aspect of the script for ‘Zodiac’, the 46-year-old director of ‘Seven’ and ‘Fight Club’ recognises the pitfalls in making a movie centred on a journalist.

‘Aside from having to work extra hard to generate sympathy?’ he laughs. ‘No, even really good movies about journalism use the character as a kind of shorthand. A lot of people use it just to make things easier. But what Jamie [Vanderbilt, the screenwriter] has done, and what Graysmith described [in his book], is a guy who’s a cartoonist; he’s not in on anything. His particular vantage point is not that special. And I liked that.’

According to Fincher, the Zodiac case was an important turning point in the relationship between the American media and the police. ‘If we hadn’t had Zodiac, you wouldn’t have the kinds of policies you have today with regards to what you’re allowed to tell the press. They learned the hard way.’

He also recognises that the police and media often worked against one another on the Zodiac case. ‘I won’t say that the case was botched, because I think the people who worked on it deserve better. It was about trying to control the flow of information and in some cases keep stuff back. It’s tragic that it turned out the way it did. But I think that in that time and place,it was destined to happen.’

Zodiac’ is a mystery movie with no solution. ‘This may be my particular perversity, but for me, those films are the most interesting. I don’t think we’ll ever know the answers.’

So does Fincher suffer from the kind of obsessive behaviour that crippled and galvanised reporters like Graysmith? He’s currently editing his new film, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, for a Christmas Day release in the US. ‘I don’t think of myself as obsessive,’ he says uncertainly. ‘But you only get so many hours to make a movie. If you want to make it as good as you can, you may have to stay late.’

Zodiac: The Director’s Cut’ is released on Sept 29.

Author: Tom Huddleston



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