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Zodiac (2007)

Tags: Supporting Role, Drama, Second Tier, Career Trajectory: Making a Comeback, RDJ Improvises!, RDJ Commentary on DVD, Under the Influence, Crazies, Playing a Real Guy, Period Piece, On DVD in Region 1, On DVD in Region 2, On DVD in Region 4, On Blu-Ray


A cartoonist obsesses over a serial killer who’s terrorizing San Francisco, taunting the police and the media.


David Fincher

Downey Factor



Paul Avery, a newspaper reporter who slowly unravels from the stress of the Zodiac case.


Shaggy 1970s looks.



Love & Sex


Dies, Gay or Villain

No, no, no.


Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Chloë Sevigny, Anthony Edwards


Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers, Iron Man 3, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War. John Carroll Lynch in Gothika. Phillip Baker Hall in The Shaggy Dog

RDJ Says

[Fincher is] very tough on technique. So if you’re a technically proficient actor, you’re going to survive. If you’re not, you’re going to hate him ... I’m working with Fincher, so we’re doing 75 takes of picking up a fucking telephone. I’m not thinking, “God, this reminds me of that tough period in my life.” There’s no time ... While not such a flagrant fiend as myself, [Paul Avery] does find himself hot on the trail of the killer story while he’s getting hammered and snorting coke ... I never would have drunk those sissy drinks that Paul Avery likes, and I had to get myself geared up to say: “Give me an Aqua Velva” or whatever it was. I kept coming up with other names for the drink so it sounded funny, at least. I think Jake Gyllenhaal came up with Aqua Velva ... Zodiac continues my admiration for a certain kind of American man and woman, who I would describe as very courageous and idealistic. You don’t judge them by what they do in their personal life, but by what kind of honor they brought to their work. It is none of my business to diagnose Paul Avery. I know he was a respected journalist and [the Zodiac] was a hell of a case. I think it was frustrating for someone of his intellect and his talent to not have been able to do significantly more than he did ... What was so unnerving about the Zodiac [killer] is that there was no apparent MO, and the way he or she taunted law enforcement officers and the press. The killer was smart enough to outsmart a bunch of dudes, so that raises the possibility it could have been a woman.

Lit Reference

Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
The film is based on this book, and Gyllenhaal plays Graysmith, the central character.

Time & Place

1970s San Francisco.


David Fincher has said that, due to the longer hours of filming (because the movie was shot with a digital camera, which lasts longer than film), Robert Downey Jr left jars of pee around the set in protest of the less-frequent bathroom breaks.


Released in theaters 2 March 2007. On DVD in regions 1, 2, 4 and on Blu Ray.

DVD Detail

Robert Downey Jr and Jake Gyllenhaal recorded a commentary on the 2-disc director’s cut edition of the DVD, but for some reason it’s intercut with another commentary by the screenwriter and an unrelated crime novelist. Most of the commentary is spent with the writers rather than the actors.

Hot Link

Zodiac: The Abridged Script

Foreign Titles

Argentina: Zodíaco
China: 12 Palace (English translation)
Estonia: Sodiaak
Germany: Zodiac: Die Spur des Killers (The Trace of the Killer)
Hungary: Zodiákus
Serbia: Zodijak

Rotten Tomatoes

89% Fresh | 228 Reviews

Critical View

Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times: Downey is electric as the glib, debauched Avery, whose bravado annoys the police and helps to reel in Graysmith.

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: Zodiac is best appreciated as a showcase for fine acting, especially that of Downey. It’s a portrait of a man in the grip of an addiction, someone funny and clever but full of pessimism and self-loathing, someone who seems to see through everything, including himself, and knows he’s riding the elevator of life all the way to the basement. After 20 years of these colorful, detailed performances, it might be time to stop thinking of Downey as quirky original or an eccentric favorite and start thinking of him as a significant American artist.

Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post: Way, way too much of the film is guys sitting in a room talking about it over and over and over, waiting for a climax that never comes ... If ever a role called for Robert Downey Jr., this is the one, and Downey, with florid mannerisms and the total comfort of the newsroom star, plays the part brilliantly.

2 Reasons to See It

1. The ‘70s backdrop might actually give us the most interesting costuming (one word: ascots).
2. The riveting (and frighteningly true) story of an attention-loving serial killer who was never actually caught.


Stylish thriller goes on too long. Only worth seeing if the story really interests you.

If You Like It

You might also like Natural Born Killers (1994), The Soloist (2009)