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David Fincher Talking About Zodiac Is So Personal (to Me)

Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac

Zodiac is easily my favorite film by David Fincher. A cast filled with incredible actors tackling the still-unsolved murders that happened in the San Francisco area in the late ’60s, the movie is what I think spawned my love of true crime documentaries and films. I, much like Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal), became fascinated with trying to solve the mystery, and thus, my love of Zodiac began.

That’s not to say that I don’t think David Fincher has other movies that are not gold-tier—quite the contrary. He’s easily one of my favorite directors, and The Social Network and Gone Girl are high up on the list. Zodiac will just forever own my heart. Now though, Fincher has looked back on some of his career while answering some questions about it for Empire Online, and there was one thing about Zodiac in particular that stuck out to me.

Fincher brought up Zodiac when talking about his show Mindhunter:

I suppose Mindhunter is an extension of a lot of the thinking about what makes a scene, or what makes drama, that I had about Zodiac. In trying to take something that probably would’ve been a pretty good five-hour movie and get it down to two hours and 45 minutes, we kind of made it too long on one hand and not deep enough on another. I think the criteria for me is if something is very narratively focused it’s probably good, fertile ground for growing a movie. And if something is much more about getting to know the people and seeing their hypocrisies and foibles and strengths and weaknesses, then probably television. I mean … perhaps Fight Club. I think Chuck Palahniuk’s characters are so rich and dense and layered and faceted. Certainly 80 per cent of his other writings would make amazing mini-series, if nothing else.

While talking about how it helped with Mindhunter, I’m stuck more on the fact that Fincher thought Zodiac could have easily been a longer film. It’s already an unusually long movie! Sure, I would have taken another two+ hours of it, but that’s just because there is something about the movie that I still try to unpack even after the last thirteen years.

There is a moment in the Q&A where they talk about the idea of something being Fincher-esque, which has come to describe many in their approaches to certain types of stories, but I think that Zodiac is maybe the most Fincher of them all. It has the humor in the midst of the darkness that has become something of his signature, and it does, in a lot of ways, bleed into Mindhunter, and maybe that’s because it’s also dealing with serial killers, but it’s also probably why I love Mindhunter. (Because it reminds me of Zodiac, not the serial killer part.)

If David Fincher wanted to write an entire novel based on Zodiac, I’d read it front to back many times over, but alas, I shall thrive in this brief quote about how it has continued to inspire his work and that, for now, will have to do.

(image: Paramount Pictures)

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Rachel is an I, Tonya stan who used to have a poster of Frank Sinatra on her wall as a kid. She loves superheroes, weird musicals, and wants Robert Downey Jr. to release a new album. She is Leslie Knope and she's okay with that. At least she gets to live in New York City though!