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ZODIAC

The Paper Chase
He was the ultimate bogey man.

"If you grew up there, at that time, you had this childhood fear that you kind of insinuated yourself into it. What if it was our bus? What if he showed up in our neighborhood? You create even more drama about it when you're a kid because that is what kids do. I grew up in Marin and now I know the geography of where the crimes took place, but when you're in grade school, children don't think about that. They think, `He's going to show up at our school.'”

Welcome to David Fincher's second-grade nightmare.

Like many children who grew up in the Bay area in the early `70s, director David Fincher, then 7, was spellbound by the invisible monster known only as the Zodiac.

"I remember as kids talking about the killer calling in on the Dunbar Show. In 1974, we moved away and I remember realizing that other places, other people knew about the Zodiac killer,” Fincher recalls. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that three decades later he would be asked to envision a film that would prompt him to: Retrace the killer's steps with several of the officers who tracked the most notorious killer of his youth; Comb through 10,000 pages of documents and evidence; Interview the victims who survived, the loved ones of those who didn't and the relatives of a prime suspect. At that time, that prime suspect was a former teacher turned pedophile, fired and imprisoned for fondling grade school children.

Fincher too would succumb to the need to know; a need that fueled a young San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist's obsession to unravel the mystery of a murderer. Robert Graysmith would channel that obsession into two books, the bestseller Zodiac and follow-up Zodiac Unmasked, recounting in minute detail every fact and tormented nuance of the unproven for those closest to the investigations in four jurisdictions, his derisive yet engaging colleague Paul Avery and himself. 

"Robert Graysmith knew he was a guy on the sidelines of this story. He wanted to be a part of it and he made himself a part of it,” says Fincher. "He was doing it on his own time because he wasn't a reporter. It was Robert who went after it and after everybody else had pretty much walked away. Everything we included in the movie, we used from what Robert gave us. But, we had police reports and we backed everything up with documentation, our own interviews and evidence. Even when we did our own interviews, we would talk to two people. One would confirm some aspects of it and another would deny it. Plus, so much time had passed, memories are affected and the different telling of the stories change perception. So when there was any doubt we always went with the police reports. The one thing about the Zodiac story too is there are so many people out there who are convinced Robert is wrong about some things and that their version or interpretation is right and there are so many myths that sprang up so you have to keep all of that in mind when you are dealing with the story of Zodiac. That is why we chose to tell the story the way we did, through Robert's eyes. My goal was to capture the truth of those books.” 

In short, capturing "Zodiac” proved a massive undertaking. 

"When you begin an adaptation, the only thing you can be sure of is you're gonna end up throwing out 5/6ths of your source material for the simple fact that you can't fit it all in,” explains screenwriter-producer James (Jamie) Vanderbilt. "Add to that the facts that the movie is based on two books, as well as a ton of interviews. The one thing we had going for us is that the movie is about these guys who get sucked down the rabbit hole of the Zodiac case, Graysmith in particular, but also the detectives and a reporter. The dearth of information worked for us, because there was always another conversation to be had, theory to be discussed, suspect to

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