Is there trouble on the set of ''Zodiac''? -- Rumors of problems plague director David Fincher?s production

By Dade Hayes
Updated June 23, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
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David Fincher has many gifts, but managing talent isn’t always one of them. Around Hollywood, the 43-year-old director is almost as well-known for exasperating casts and crews as he is for flicks like Fight Club.

His next film, Zodiac, showcases all the trademark Fincher ingredients: ambition, visual panache, and offscreen drama. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr., it’s a serial-killer movie — about the Zodiac slayer, who struck Northern California in the 1960s and ’70s — that marks Fincher’s second attempt to reinvent the genre. (Seven, anyone?) The film, a massive undertaking, encompasses more than three decades of action. One version of Zodiac‘s shooting script verged on 200 pages, which could translate to a three-hour-plus running time.

A Bay Area native with the forensic acumen of a CSI junkie, Fincher took about three years to research everything from period decor to ballistics. And that unrelenting attention to detail extended to the set. Once production began last fall, the director frayed nerves by filming dozens of takes of even the most routine scenes. ”A kid enters, picks up a ball. He must have done that 50 times,” recalls an on-set source. ”People were pulling their hair out.” It was a time-consuming process, and for a number of reasons the $70 million-plus drama has seen one potential release date bumped and is now set to hit theaters in January.

Fincher declined to speak to EW for this story, but Paramount exec Alli Shearmur dismisses negative rumors as trivial. ”David is unique,” she says. ”However many takes he does, he does.” The studio expects to have a cut by the end of the month, and those who have seen early footage describe a haunting look with plot twists aplenty. Of course, it’s worth remembering that those same things could have been said before the release of a hit like Seven…or a miss like Alien 3.


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