• Tagline: There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer
• Director: David Fincher
• Writer: James Vanderbilt & Robert Graysmith
• Release Date: 2 March 2007 (USA)
• MPAA Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, some violent images and strong sexual content.
• Parents Guide: View content advisory for parents
• Genre: Biography | Drama | War
• Runtime: 157 min
• Box Office #s: Here

A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970’s case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the movie’s focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people.

From the Gallery

Also Starring

• Mark Ruffalo … Inspector David Toschi
• Anthony Edwards … Inspector William Armstrong
• Robert Downey Jr. … Paul Avery
• Chloë Sevigny … Melanie


  • Shane Salerno optioned the Robert Graysmith book “Zodiac” when he was just nineteen years old and developed it with Graysmith for several years before selling it to Disney’s Touchstone Pictures in a seven-figure deal. Salerno wrote several drafts of the screenplay before multiple administration changes at Touchstone derailed the project.
  • Edited using Final Cut Pro.
  • The role of Linda Ferrin was initially played by Bijou Phillips. Her scenes needed to be re-shot but Phillips was not available due scheduling conflicts, so the role went to Clea DuVall.
  • Ione Skye appears in this movie in an uncredited cameo. “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, by her father, Donovan, is used prominently in the soundtrack.
  • The cipher mailed to the Chronicle in the movie was actually mailed to the Examiner.
  • Philip Baker Hall had also previously starred in The Zodiac (2005), another film adaptation of the Zodiac Killer. He played Frank Perkins.
  • Scenes of Dave Toschi and Robert Graysmith watching Dirty Harry (1971) were filmed inside the Mann National Theatre in Westwood, CA. The garish color schemes of the movie theater were not added by the art department. The very retro interiors of the theater have remained unchanged since 1969, when the National was first built. Interestingly, “Zodiac” played at the Mann National Theatre in mid March of 2007. Thus, moviegoers watched other moviegoers occupy their seats – on the National’s trademark large screen. The theater has since been torn down.
  • As Robert Graysmith drives his son to school, the broadcaster on his car radio makes a reference to the then-forthcoming free concert by The Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway. It was Melvin Belli’s recommendation to the Rolling Stones to hold this particular concert.
  • Was sent to theaters under the name “Gemini”.
  • The cab scene on Washington and Cherry Streets in San Francisco could not be entirely shot in San Francisco due to filming restrictions and the opposition of the neighborhood residents. So, a set of the intersection, including the street, apartments and crime scene was constructed at Downey Studios just outside of Los Angeles, California. Backdrops of San Francisco were digitally inserted to complete the scene. Only a few seconds of actual footage shot in the original crime scene location remains in the scene.
  • The Warner Bros. and Paramount logos used at the start of the film are almost identical to the ones used by the respective studios in 1969, but not completely. In the case of Warner Bros., their 1969 releases did not use their classic shield as depicted here, but instead carried a “Warner Bros.-Seven Arts” logo used when the studio had merged with Ray Stark and Eliot Hyman’s production company Seven Arts. As for the Paramount logo, where it would have read “A Gulf+Western company” in 1969, it now reads “A Viacom company,” reflecting current ownership.
  • Robert Graysmith and Paul Avery were not actually friends. Their relationship is fictionalized for the film.
  • Dave Toschi in real life was the inspiration for Steve McQueen’s performance in Bullitt (1968). In the film, Graysmith mentions that Toschi wears his gun like Bullitt. Avery replies that Bullitt got it from Toschi.
  • Variety reported on 6 July 2005 that Gary Oldman had signed to portray attorney Melvin Belli in this film. On 14 February 2006, Gary Oldman’s management company, The Douglas Management Group, issued a statement that a story in the Hollywood Reporter indicating that Mr. Oldman acted in the film was not true, and that “Mr. Oldman is not in the film and never was.” However, in an interview on 2 March 2007 with Cinematical, the “Zodiac” author Robert Graysmith stated, “Now we had Gary Oldman at one point, to play Melvin Belli. He went to a lot of trouble, they had appliances, but just physically it wasn’t going to work, he just didn’t have the girth.”
  • The film was shot in 110 days.
  • Chosen by “Les Cahiers du cinéma” (France) as one of the 10 best pictures of 2007 (#05, tied with “La France”).
  • When George Bawart is showing Michael Mageau pictures to see if he could identify the Zodiac, the picture to the right of Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch), is Bob Stephenson, the actor who played the Zodiac when he shot Paul Stine.
  • Zodiac’s confirmed [as of yet] first murder on Lake Herman Rd. was excluded from the film on the basis that there was no surviving victim to corroborate details. In the spirit of accuracy, the crew decided to not include the Lake Herman killings and to instead begin with the July 4th crime, considered to be his second action of murder.
  • This film pays homage to Dirty Harry (1971), whose foe, Scorpio, was based on the Zodiac murderer. Another fictional policeman also encountered a foe called Scorpio around this time. In the Robert Graysmith book, they note that around the time of the Zodiac murders, the police investigated a possible connection to the Dick Tracy comic strip, as Dick Tracy faced a Zodiac-themed gang directed by a mastermind called Scorpio.
  • In order to save time, David Fincher decided to digitally add all the blood in the murder scenes.
  • The producers hired a private investigator to track down the real-life Zodiac survivor, Mike Mageau.
  • The real-life Zodiac survivor, Bryan C. Hartnell, makes a cameo with his wife in the police station.
  • One of the trails mentioned in the film is connection between Zodiac’s killings and the movie The Most Dangerous Game (1932). There’s some footage included. This movie tells a story of Count Zarloff, who is hunting on his deserted island for ‘the most dangerous animal’ – which is obviously the man.
  • In the flyover shot of the early construction of the Transamerica Pyramid, the “box” foundation is completely devoid of any piles or columns. Unlike most conventional high-rise foundations, the Pyramid was uniquely constructed without any piles driven into the bedrock. The weight of the building actually rests on trusses at the first two levels, and the trusses rest on top of this “box”.
  • Though Callahan’s Diner was a set built for the film, the Callahan’s Diner logo and window script is identical to that used by Callahan’s Diner at 1213 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. It’s quite likely that members of the cast and/or crew of the film were familiar with the Santa Monica restaurant and used it as an art model for the San Francisco locale. The “Dirty Harry” reference inherent in the Diner’s name may simply be an added plus.
  • Even though Jake Gyllenhaal was David Fincher’s first choice for the role of Robert Graysmith, had Gyllenhaal turned the role down, Fincher’s second choice was Orlando Bloom.
  • Daniel Craig was first choice for Paul Avery.


Robert Graysmith: I’ve been thinking…
Paul Avery: Oh God, save us all.

Robert Graysmith: Doesn’t it bother you that people call you Shorty?
Shorty: Doesn’t it bother you that people call you retard?
Robert Graysmith: Nobody calls me that.
Shorty: Right.

Paul Avery: Welcome, please put your stuff down. You’re going down five rows and left. You’re looking for the Modesto Bee from March. I’m going to stand here and attempt not to vomit.
[Graysmith turns right]
Paul Avery: Left.
Robert Graysmith: Left. What I am looking for?
Paul Avery: Kathleen Johns. Also, you might want to pull the Chron from– never mind, I’ll see to that.
[pulls out Zodiac letter]
Paul Avery: Okay, now tell me what facts he gives.
Robert Graysmith: Woman and her baby abducted.
Paul Avery: Mm-hmm. Fact.
Robert Graysmith: The car on fire?
Paul Avery: Anything else?
Robert Graysmith: Everything in the letter already appears in the article.
Paul Avery: Yep. And he’s done it before.
[pulls out a newspaper article]
Paul Avery: Officer Richard Raditech, shot sitting in a parked car.
Robert Graysmith: Zodiac claimed he shot someone in their car.
Paul Avery: Yeah, a couple days after this article came out. Zodiac didn’t do it, but he took credit for it anyway, because he’s in it for the press.
Robert Graysmith: How can someone who’s killed thirteen people…
Paul Avery: He claims he killed thirteen people, but which ones can we actually confirm? There’s three in Vallejo, one in Berryessa, the cabbie, that’s it.
[Graysmith looks confused]
Paul Avery: Bobby, you almost look disappointed.

Robert Graysmith: Paul, are you okay?
Paul Avery: No… but thanks for asking.

Robert Graysmith: It’s ok… Avery has a gun.

Robert Graysmith: I… I Need to know who he is. I… I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.

Robert Graysmith: [Both are brushing their teeth] Spit.
Aaron Graysmith: I swallowed it.
Robert Graysmith: Why?
Aaron Graysmith: It was minty.

Robert Graysmith: Dave! He made a mistake!
[pointing frantically at the case files in his hands while standing outside Toschi’s window]
Dave Toschi: Get away from the window!
Robert Graysmith: I’ll meet you around front!
Dave Toschi: No, you won’t!

Robert Graysmith: We met at the movies once.
Dave Toschi: I’m sure it was magical.

Robert Graysmith: I just want to help.
Ken Narlow: What are you, some kind of boy scout?
Robert Graysmith: Eagle Scout, actually… First class.

Robert Graysmith: Did he say they got a print?
Paul Avery: A partial.
Robert Graysmith: Whoa. Dude, he wears his gun like Bullitt.
Paul Avery: No, McQueen got that from Toschi.
Robert Graysmith: Does he think that Zodiac’s gonna send another code? ‘Cause I think Zodiac’s gonna send another code.
Paul Avery: Jesus Harold Christ on rubber crutches, Bobby, what are you doing? You’re doing that thing. The thing that we discussed, the thing that I don’t like, starts with an L…
Robert Graysmith: Oh, looming.
Paul Avery: Yeah.

Robert Graysmith: I’ve been thinking.
Paul Avery: Yeah?
Robert Graysmith: Somebody should write a book.
Paul Avery: Somebody should write a fuckin’ book, that’s for sure. About what?
Robert Graysmith: About Zodiac. I’ve been thinking, if you put all the information together, maybe you could jog something loose. And then I thought, who better than you? I mean, you know all the players, and you have all of the files.
Paul Avery: Yeah, I lost them.
Robert Graysmith: You lost them?
Paul Avery: Or I tossed them. I don’t know, I moved onto a boat.

Robert Graysmith: Are you sure no one else is in the house?

Robert Graysmith: Tell me about this painting party.
Linda del Buono: I told the cops about that so long ago. Darlene always had a lot of boys around, even though she was married. This one guy was weird though. He used to bring her presents from Tijuana. I don’t know why she was friends with him. She once told me he’d killed somebody.
Robert Graysmith: Really?
Linda del Buono: I think maybe when he was in the service.
Robert Graysmith: Navy?
Linda del Buono: I think so.
Robert Graysmith: Was he into movies? Was he a movie buff?
Linda del Buono: I can tell you that he was not into people. The party that Darlene threw, people were just supposed to show up, drink beer, help paint, but this guy showed up in a suit, and just sat in a chair all by himself all night long and didn’t talk to anyone. And Darlene told me to stay away from him. She was scared of him. Couple weeks later she was dead.
Robert Graysmith: I’m sorry. Do you remember his name?
Linda del Buono: It was short. Like a nickname, like Stan.
Robert Graysmith: Rick?
Linda del Buono: No, I don’t think so.
Robert Graysmith: Are you sure?
Linda del Buono: Yeah.
Robert Graysmith: How can you be sure? It was a long time ago. Think hard.
Linda del Buono: I am thinking hard.
Robert Graysmith: It was Rick. It was Rick Marshall. Say it!
Linda del Buono: It wasn’t Rick.
[thinks for a moment, as Graysmith prepares to leave]
Linda del Buono: It was Leigh.

Robert Graysmith: You lost them?
Paul Avery: Or misplaced them. I moved onto a boat.

Robert Graysmith: Does anybody ever call me names?
Paul Avery: What, you mean like retard?
Robert Graysmith: Yeah.
Paul Avery: No.

Robert Graysmith: Just because you can’t prove it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
Dave Toschi: Easy, Dirty Harry.

Robert Graysmith: Did he say they got a print?
Paul Avery: A partial.
Robert Graysmith: Whoa. Dude, he wears his gun like Bullit.
Paul Avery: No, McQueen got that from Toschi.
Robert Graysmith: Does he thinks Zodiac is gonna send another code? Cause I think Zodiac’s gonna send another code.
Paul Avery: Jesus Harold Christ on rubber crutches Bobby, what are you doing? You’re doing that thing. The thing that we discussed, the thing that I don’t like, starts with an L…
Robert Graysmith: Oh, looming.
Paul Avery: Yeah.

Robert Graysmith: I knew it! “Man is the most dangerous animal of all.” I knew that I heard that from somewhere before. “The Most Dangerous Game.”
Paul Avery: The most what?
Robert Graysmith: It’s a movie about a count who hunts people for sport. People. “The Most Dangerous Game.”
Paul Avery: Who’s that?
Robert Graysmith: That’s Count Zaroff.
Paul Avery: Zaroff? With a Z?

Robert Graysmith: This is a case that’s covered both northern and southern California with victims and suspects spread over hundreds of miles, would you agree?
Dave Toschi: Yeah.
Robert Graysmith: Darlene Ferrin worked at the Vallejo House of Pancakes on Tenneessee St. Arthur Leigh Allen lived in his mother’s basement on Fresno St. Door to door, that is less than 50 yards.
Dave Toschi: Is that true?
Robert Graysmith: I’ve walked it.
Dave Toschi: Jesus Christ.

Robert Graysmith: Not many people have basements in California.
Bob Vaughn: I do.

Robert Graysmith: Dave, he made a mistake! The birthday was the one time that he was weak, the one time he gave something away!
Dave Toschi: Robert…
Robert Graysmith: It’s Arthur Leigh Allen!
Dave Toschi: Where did you get that name?
Robert Graysmith: December 18th. He called the Belli’s house. “I have to kill. Today is my birthday.” It was his birthday. Arthur Leigh Allen was born on December 18th.
Dave Toschi: Get in here.

Paul Avery: What do you do for fun?
Robert Graysmith: I love to read.
Paul Avery: Mhmm.
Robert Graysmith: Umm, I enjoy books.
Paul Avery: Those are the same things.

Robert Graysmith: [arriving to their date] How late am I?
[he knocks over a drink]
Melanie: Just a few minutes really. I just got here myself.
Robert Graysmith: Traffic was bumper to bumper. I was at the gun range.
Melanie: Glynis said you were a cartoonist.
Robert Graysmith: Oh,yeah.
Melanie: What were you doing at the gun range?
Robert Graysmith: Reading.

Robert Graysmith: [reading] I like killing people because it is so much fun. It is more fun than killing wild game in the forest, because man is the most dangerous animal of all. To kill something is the most thrilling experience. It is even better than getting your rocks off with a girl. The best part of it is that when I die, I will be reborn in paradise and all that I have killed will become my slaves. I will not give you my name because you will try to slow down or stop my collecting of slaves for my afterlife.

Arthur Leigh Allen: Can I help you?
Robert Graysmith: No.