Talkign to “Zodiac’s” Graysmith

Termite art — that ‘s the best term I’ve heard so far (taken from a recent review by the Village Voice‘s Nathan Lee) that summarizes the aesthetic essence of Zodiac. And when you talk to Robert Graysmith, the author of the two Zodiac books (“Zodiac” and “Zodiac Unmasked“) that served as the basis of “Jamie” Vanderbilt‘s script, you get the idea that he’s a kind of termite himself — a relentless eater and chomper of information.

Graysmith is the main character in the film (wth his name used and everything), and he’s played by Jake Gyllenhaal in exactly this mold — a guy who can’t stop absorbing and gathering data. Graysmith sure as hell was that guy when he was on the Zodiac set and watching Fincher make the film. He wrote a book about it calling “Shooting Zodiac” (Berkeley Books) but he’s ambivalent about having it published, for some reason. He’s guessing, I suppose, that the attention given to the film over the next few weeks will surge sales of his two “Zodiac” books and his editor doesn’t want a third Graysmith/”Zodiac” book confusing anyone.

The book will probably come out concurrent with the Zodiac DVD, which is going to be a mother in terms of extras and docs. The DVD’s production budget, Graysmith says, is around $1.5 million.

I mentioned my opinion that the end of the film should perhaps have ended like Vanderbilt’s screenplay did, with “Graysmith”/Gyllenhaal delivering an eight- or nine-page soliloquy that reviews all the persuasive evidence in support of Graysmtih’s belief that Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac slayer.

On the page, this scene works as a kind of crescendo-climax. It’s not entirely satisfying but it gives a semblance of half-assed completion and finality, even if Allen was never arrested for the killings. Fincher’s chose, however, not to try and deliver any kind of ending along these lines, even an intellectual one. Graysmith says that Fincher told Vanderbilt at one point, “Jamie, we’re not trying to convince the audience [of Allen's guilt]…,that’s not what the movie’s about.”

“We’re satisfied that it was Allen,” Graysmith says. “There was all kinds of evidence…footprints in the garden…I think he was deliberately pitting the police departments against each other…I think it’s this guy.”

Graysmith will be at Thursday night’s Zodiac premiere on the Paramount lot, at which time I hope to take a picture or two. The above jpeg was provided, believe it or not, by his publicist.

I like this riff on the film by Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman:

“Explaining a mystery is an act of reassurance. It makes us feel that chaos has been defeated, and the forces of order restored. Zodiac, David Fincher’s vastly intricate and dazzling drama about the hunt for the serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area starting in 1969, offers no such soothing closure, and that’s part of what’s haunting about it. It spins your head in a new way, luring you into a vortex and then deeper still, fascinating us as much for what we don’t know as what we do.”