15 Things You Never Knew About David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’

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Underappreciated when it came out a decade ago, “Zodiac” is now widely considered David Fincher’s best film.

The 2007 drama, which chronicles the notorious San Francisco slayings of the late 1960s, is more than just another serial killer thriller from the director of “Seven” — it’s a meditation on the pursuit of truth, a quest that sometimes goes frustratingly unfulfilled. “Zodiac” also marked a career highlight for its trio of sleuths, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, a cast that would be difficult to assemble today without a truckload of cash and some superhero costumes.

Even for longtime Fincher fans who’ve seen “Zodiac” multiple times, the film itself offers some still-ambiguous mysteries. Perhaps we can put some of them to rest in the items below.
1. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt had been fascinated with the Zodiac case since his high school years, when he read “Zodiac,” cartoonist-turned-amateur-detective Robert Graysmith’s first book about the case. Vanderbilt finally met the author 16 years later at the premiere of “Auto Focus,” the true-crime thriller based on Graysmith’s book about the murder of “Hogan’s Heroes” star Bob Crane. He optioned the film rights to “Zodiac” and “Zodiac Unmasked,” Graysmith’s second book about the case.

2. Fincher took on the directing job because he had vivid childhood memories of the case, having grown up in the area. He says he remembers a police car trailing his school bus for a couple of weeks, and his father casually explaining later that the Zodiac had threatened to slaughter a busload of schoolchildren. He says he also remembers being “appalled” by watching “Dirty Harry” at age 12 and seeing the Zodiac case exploited as a plot device.
3. To be fair to the victims and suspects, Fincher insisted on bolstering Vanderbilt’s screenplay with fresh interviews of the surviving persons of interest in the case. Fincher’s investigators were so thorough that they found evidence that the detectives had missed, Graysmith told the New York Times. “He outdid the police,” the author said of Fincher and his team. “My hat’s off to them.”

4. The resulting script must have been pretty accurate, especially regarding Graysmith’s obsessiveness. When he read it, he said, “God, now I know why my wife divorced me.”
5. Fincher’s unlikely source of casting advice for this grim, gruesome tale was Jennifer Aniston. Asked to recommend some of the favorite leading men she’d worked with, the comic actress recommended Gyllenhaal (her “The Good Girl” co-star) and Ruffalo (who worked with her in “Rumor Has It”). Fincher approved of Gyllenhaal for the role of Graysmith, having liked him in “Donnie Darko.”

6. The director persuaded a reluctant Ruffalo to sign on to play detective David Toschi by assuring him he was having Vanderbilt’s screenplay rewritten to accommodate his more rigorous research. Downey completed the primary cast as crime reporter Paul Avery.
7. Initially, Fincher wanted Gary Oldman to play famed lawyer Melvin Belli. But despite burying him in latex to make him look more like the blustery attorney, Fincher felt Oldman still lacked the bulk the role required. (This was a decade before Oldman was finally bulky enough to play Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”) That’s how Brian Cox wound up playing Belli instead.

8. For Philip Baker Hall, who played the handwriting expert, “Zodiac” was actually his second film about the case. In 2005, he’d co-starred as a fictional police chief in “The Zodiac,” a low-budget, more loosely fictionalized drama about the unsolved murders.
9. Downey showed Fincher the four-straw trick and asked to perform it in a scene in the bar. But then, it took him 26 takes to get it right on film.

10. In real life, the bar where the reporters hung out wasn’t Morti’s, but the real tavern wouldn’t let its name be used in “Zodiac” because it depicts cocaine use taking place there.
11. All the blood shown in the movie was digitally added in post-production. Fincher said that adding the blood in post saved money and time — especially when it came to washing stains out of the costumes.

12. Fincher’s notorious perfectionism and insistence on shooting dozens of takes wore his three stars down. Gyllenhaal said he found it ego-deflating to hear Fincher order ten digital takes at a time to be deleted with a keystroke. Downey said he felt at times like strangling the director and compared the shoot to a gulag.

Ruffalo said an actor has to be willing to submit to Fincher and be open to his process. “You can put your expectations aside and have an experience that’s new and pushes and changes you,” Ruffalo said, “or hold onto what you think it should be and have a stubborn, immovable journey that’s filled with disappointment and anger.”
13. Not that Fincher wasn’t open to the occasional happy accident. That small burp by one of the victims was unintentional and unrehearsed, but Fincher thought it added to the scene’s realism, so he kept it.

14. Despite Fincher’s painstaking attention to detail, “Zodiac” came in on time and under budget, costing a reported $65 million. It earned $85 million in theaters worldwide, including $33 million in North America.
15. Of course, the movie couldn’t bring closure to the still-unsolved case, but that meant many viewers felt the film ended without resolution. Fincher’s response: “The people who say there’s no conclusion to the movie aren’t watching the same movie necessarily.”

‘The Flash’ Movie May Finally Have a New Director, or Two, in Marvel Writers

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Underoos, are you OK with this? And how about you, DC fans?

According to Variety, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are currently negotiating to direct “The Flash” standalone movie, “Flashpoint,” starring Ezra Miller.

Daley and Goldstein have several writing credits together — including “Horrible Bosses,” that sequel, and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” — and they directed the 2015 “Vacation” movie starring Ed Helms and Christina Applegate. (You may also recall Daley from his acting days as Sam Weir on “Freaks and Geeks,” and Dr. Lance Sweets on “Bones.”)

Variety’s director negotiation news is unconfirmed, since Warner Bros. declined to comment. If it’s true, it definitely suggests a more comedic tone for Barry Allen’s solo showcase. Will DC fans be into that? They take pride in the DCEU being different from the MCU. Then again, The Powers That Be would surely love to piggyback on the success of Marvel’s $$$-making formula. And The Flash is more of a comedic character than most of the DC superheroes. It could work. But it’s a delicate balance.

Premiere Of Columbia Pictures And Sony Pictures Animation's 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2' - Red Carpet“The Flash” was on a director losing streak for a while, with both Seth Grahame-Smith and Rick Famuyiwa leaving from “creative differences.” While looking for Famuyiwa’s replacement, Variety noted, Warner Bros. decided to take the script in a different direction, with Joby Harold writing a new draft. Variety also said the studio initially wanted Batman actor Ben Affleck to direct, but he passed. (There were also rumors that Robert Zemeckis, Matthew Vaughn, and Sam Raimi were in line to direct, so we have to take each new “The Flash” report with a grain of salt.)

Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen debuted in “Justice League,” and his “Flashpoint” movie is currently scheduled for release in theaters in 2020. As far as we know, “Flashpoint” will still costar Kiersey Clemons as Iris West and Billy Crudup as Henry Allen.

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Today in Movie Culture: Fan-Made ‘Nightwing’ Trailer, Spotlight on Daniel Day-Lewis and More

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Here are a bunch of little bites to satisfy your hunger for movie culture:

Dream Movie of the Day:

What if Joseph Gordon-Levitt had starred in a Nightwing movie spun off from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy? This fan-made trailer by fan-made trailer by Stryder HD imagines the missed opportunity:

Remade Scene of the Day:

There was one thing missing from the climactic battle scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, so here are some kids with an extended re-ceation (via Rian Johnson):

Cosplay of the Day:

Speaking of The Last Jedi, here’s a funny but cheap and efficient and sufficient way to cosplay as one of Snoke’s Elite Praetorian Guards:

god i love cosplay pic.twitter.com/Rax3i71ixf
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Chris Hemsworth’s Contract Is Up After ‘Avengers 4’: ‘I Won’t Be Playing [Thor] Again’

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For this, we need the opposite of that Thor “YES'” GIF. But there’s hope that Chris Hemsworth will return someday … if Marvel wants him to.

Hemsworth is currently out promoting his new movie “12 Strong,” which opens this Friday, Jan. 19. Of course, he’s always asked about Marvel movies, and what he told USA Today was a bit troubling.

“Avengers 4” just wrapped, and we know it’s going to shake up the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Apparently several core cast members fulfilled their contracts with that movie, including Hemsworth as Thor. But “Thor: Ragnarok” just came out as the third “Thor” movie, and it was such a hit with fans and critics that “Thor 4” definitely seemed possible.

Hemsworth will be in “Avengers 3,” aka “Infinity War,” which opens this May. That was shot back-to-back with “Avengers 4,” which opens next year. And then … what, for Thor? Here’s that part of Hemsworth’s USA Today interview:

“Two days I ago, I was in Atlanta finishing Avengers in my Thor garb,” says Hemsworth, with a satisfied air as he settles into a seat at the London Hotel. “It’s really been two years of non-stop. I’m exhausted, but good.”

There’s also a sense of savoring the moment as Avengers’ completion marks a possible end of Hemworth’s run as the Norse god he has come to personify onscreen. His current Marvel contract is up with Avengers 4’s release on May 3, 2019.

“Contractually, right now — yeah, this is it. I’m done. I won’t be playing the character again,” says Hemsworth.

“It’s sort of a scary thought,” he adds. “This really seemed like this never-ending thing. And now it’s potentially finishing.”

Disney's D23 EXPO 2017However, Hemsworth also said he and “Thor: Ragnarok” director Taika Waititi tossed around ideas for a fourth Thor movie. The sticking point may be the direction of the MCU itself, led by Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige:

“(Feige) said, ‘Look, we just have to concentrate on (Avengers) now,’ ” Hemsworth told USA Today. “So who knows? There are 76 cast members in these two Avengers films. They will be the biggest films of all time, far bigger than my character. It’s a conversation for further down the road, if it was going to happen.”

It sounds like he’d be willing to return, if Marvel wants a “Thor 4” after everything else that’s ahead in the next phase of the MCU. And also if fans demand more?

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Oscar Race 2018: Whose Voice Is Loudest?

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Two big things happened in the Oscar race this past week. One was the announcement of the Directors Guild Award nominations, usually a strong predictor of the Academy’s Best Director and Best Picture choices.

The other was that Academy voters turned in their nomination ballots, long before they can be influenced by the Screen Actors Guild Awards or several other precursor kudos. The SAG Awards will be handed out on Jan. 21, two days before the Oscar nominations are announced, but their impact on the race will be minimal to non-existent. From now until Jan. 23, everything that happens is just opinion-spinning that doesn’t really matter.

Things are happening awfully fast this year, maybe faster than the process can handle. Last week, “Disaster Artist” star James Franco picked up two awards, at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice ceremonies, but if either of those awards had been handed out a few days later, if the voters had known of sexual harassment allegations against Franco, would he have won? Does he still have a chance at the Oscars, or were there still Academy members who had time to cross him off their ballots before Friday’s voting deadline?

Academy members who want this year’s awards to present Hollywood’s best possible face to the world have a lot to think about already, without also having to worry about whether someone nominated next Tuesday will turn out to be a disgrace to the industry by Wednesday. Maybe they loved the artistry and historical sweep of “Dunkirk” or “The Post,” but they wonder if either movie is relevant enough to a moment where giving voice to long-marginalized people seems a higher priority. (Certainly, this may be why “The Post,” despite critical raves and the pedigree provided by Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks, has been largely shut out of major award nominations and wins so far.)

But then, which marginalized artists do you honor? The #OscarsSoWhite complaints of recent years seemed to get some redress last year with the Oscar victories of “Moonlight” (including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor), but does that mean the Academy can safely ignore “Get Out” or “Mudbound”? On the other hand, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement suggest that Academy will pay special attention to movies by and about women, but does that mean honoring “The Shape of Water,” a movie with a female protagonist, but one who’s literally voiceless? Or “Lady Bird,” a film written and directed by a woman, with two vibrant female leads, but one that does little to address its characters’ white and middle class privilege? Or “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a movie with a strong female protagonist and a film that addresses sexual violence, but one that’s written and directed by a man, and that’s being criticized for supposed racial blind spots? What are voters to do regarding competing claims of marginalization?

Let’s take a look at the DGA nominations, which went out to Guillermo del Toro (“Shape of Water”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards”), Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”), and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”). It’s a significant and even historic list. For one thing, it includes both Gerwig and Peele, who’d been left off some previous lists of directing nominees. For another, there’s not one American white guy on the list, which may be a first. (Indeed, Gerwig and Peele are the only Americans among the five.) Perhaps most important, it’s the first time that all the nominees also wrote their own screenplays.

Why does that matter? For one thing, it makes the Original Screenplay category a lot easier to predict. Second, the last four Best Picture winners also won Best Screenplay (either original or adapted).

Finally, it means all five filmmakers were telling highly personal stories. Critics may have singled out those of Gerwig (whose film has some directly autobiographical elements) and Peele (whose film is a metaphor about what it feels like to be black in America today). But the other directors’ stories are no less personal, even if McDonagh has never been the mother of a slain child, or if Nolan was born decades after World War II, or if del Toro has never bonded with a creature who’s part man, part fish. All five filmmakers are addressing themes and concerns that are deeply important to them and telling their stories in unique ways that reflect their own individual style as artists.

Of course, the same is arguably true for those eligible movies that did not get DGA nominations, including “The Post,” “Mudbound,” “I, Tonya,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “The Florida Project,” “The Big Sick,” “All the Money in the World,” and yes, Franco’s “The Disaster Artist.”

At some point, it’s worth remembering that these are movies, not group statements representing competing identity-politics teams, some long marginalized, some not. Each movie took as many as several years to make and was created in relative ignorance of its eventual release date or of which other movies then in production it might be competing with for the attention of viewers, critics, or awards voters. Many observers of last year’s race tried to pit frontrunners “Moonlight” and “La La Land” against each other on the basis of their respective racial politics, but as “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins noted at the time, neither he nor “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle conceived of their movies that way (they were just stories about the worlds they knew), and neither director had any inkling that their films would be awards rivals, much less pop culture proxies for factions of a divided America.

Similarly, the politics of this year’s likely nominees matter, not because movies should be didactic or have messages that hit you over the head, but because everyone deserves to have a voice, and every aspiring filmmaker needs a role model. But what wins Oscars is a movie’s overall narrative, and sometimes (maybe even most of the time), that narrative includes more than just what’s on screen. It also includes the narrative of how the film reached the screen in the first place, and what drove the filmmaker who made it happen.

Ideally, that behind-the-camera narrative shouldn’t matter to Academy voters, but it does, and it always has. The Oscars have never been about artistic merit alone, but also about politics, which is why handicapping the Oscars is a lot more interesting than just comparing each movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score.

Of course, politics wouldn’t be so much of an issue — and competing claims from traditionally marginalized groups wouldn’t be so hard to resolve — if the Oscars, and the movie industry in general, had done a better job over the years of including everyone. Then it wouldn’t be such a big deal to see Gerwig and Peele rubbing shoulders with McDonagh and Nolan. But we’re not there yet, and it is still a big deal, and the Oscar race is still likely to come down not just to which movie is best, but also which movie makes Hollywood look the best at a time when what’s going on behind the camera has become more important (often for all the wrong reasons) than what’s going on in front of it.

The talented filmmakers among this year’s likely nominees have proven themselves experts in telling their stories on screen. Once the nominations are out next week and the real campaigning begins, they’ll have to prove themselves experts in telling their stories off-screen.

‘It’ Honest Trailer Mocks Losers Club for Screaming More Than One Direction Fans

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The 2017 movie “It” just floated onto DVD and Blu-ray last week. It’s the top-grossing horror movie of all time. It’s popular with fans and critics. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and it’s far from immune to the not-so-gentle ribbing of Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailers.

“Journey to the idyllic child murder capital of America and meet a Losers Club full of Goonies and Lost Boys — kids who’d beat One Directon fans in a screaming contest.”

Heh. That’s what makes them beautiful?

Whether you loved the Stephen King adaptation or not, you should appreciate the (very funny) critical analysis of this video:Yeah, the casting of Finn Wolfhard definitely doubles down on the “Stranger Things” comparisons. And it is definitely too bad that a few of the Losers got shafted in the character development department. And there are some classic horror cliche moments where you want to scream at the characters not to do something you know they are about to do anyway. But that’s part of the fun, no?

The “It” sequel is meant to follow the older Losers, and it’s scheduled for release in September 6, 2019. No casting announcements have been made yet, but the young stars did share some A-list suggestions.

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Yes, Dylan McDermott & Dermot Mulroney Are Two Different People (Now, Finally, Costars)

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Dylan McDermott already stars as Captain Dave in FOX’s seriously hilarious new comedy “LA to Vegas.” That’s him on the right in the photo above. In a great meta twist, Dermot Mulroney just joined the guest star roster as rival pilot Captain Steve.

The Chrises. Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman. Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard. Amy Adams and Isla Fisher. Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon. The Stars People Always Confuse list goes on, and has included McDermott, 56, and Mulroney, 54, for going on 30 years. (They even got their own “Saturday Night Live” sketch.)

“This is the first time we’ve ever been seen in the same room together, proof that we are two separate people,” Mulroney joked to USA Today. McDermott (“Steel Magnolias”) added, “Now we’ve gotten to the point where if they confuse us we just go with it. So, if somebody says, ‘I loved you in My Best Friend’s Wedding,’ (I respond), ‘Thank you very much.'” Mulroney chimed in, “When they say ‘Dylan can we have you on your mark?’ I usually don’t correct them.”

Here’s a portion of their great Q&A with Entertainment Weekly:

Have you ever blamed a bad project on the other guy?

McDERMOTT: I’ve definitely blamed Dermot for maybe five or six bad movies I’ve done.
MULRONEY: [Laughs] Gives me a bigger footprint… I frequently sign Dylan’s name on autographs.
McDERMOTT: Even further confusion was, we had the same manager for a time. How she juggled us, I’ll never know.
MULRONEY: Imagine being that new assistant on the desk.
McDERMOTT: As a matter of fact, I think you did a movie with Sam Shepard, right, Dermot?
McDERMOTT: I did a movie with him, Steel Magnolias, but after that or before that, but I got a call from my agency saying that Sam Shepard wanted to talk to me about a movie. But actually, he was looking for Dermot, not me.
MULRONEY: Ooh. That one stings.
McDERMOTT: Yeah. That hurt.
MULRONEY: I worked with him a number of times. Dylan, sorry about that. Whooh.
McDERMOTT: That’s okay. I had the pleasure of working with him, too. He was a great one.

Yikes. Mulroney shared his own story that stung later in the EW interview.

After Dermot Mulroney’s debut as Captain Steve in the January 16 episode, he will return at least one more time. “The rivalry deepens,” McDermott teased. “I will tell you that they get into a fight. Even bigger than the first fight. This second fight is even more epic.” Mulroney added, “Epic and profound.”

“LA to Vegas” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX.

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‘Vacation’ Filmmakers Tapped for ‘The Flash’ Solo Movie

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Filmmakers John Francis Daley (above, right) and Jonathan Goldstein (above, left) have built up an impressive resume in Hollywood. As writers, they contributed to Horrible Bosses, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 before making the leap to the directing chair(s) with the comic remake Vacation. The latter film earned more than $100 million at the box office worldwide.

Their work on the script for Spider-Man: Homecoming showed they could deliver the blueprint for a very successful action blockbuster that was laced with comic overtones. Now they’re in negotiations to direct Flashpoint, according to Variety.

The solo movie will, of course, revolve around The Flash, the speedy superhero who made very brief appearances in Batman v Superman…
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