The Bay Area's most notorious unsolved case has become the subject of many books, TV specials and Web sites. In his final letter to The Chronicle, April 24, 1978 -- whose authenticity some have called into question -- he wrote boastfully:Having interacted with the Vallejo Police Department on more than one occasion, I'm not surprised. Kim and I even had the pleasure of being "deputized" to perform a stake-out of the ground-floor apartment across the alley. When the man they were looking for showed up, we called. The police came thirty minutes later and he was long gone. When he showed up a second time, we called again. Once again, they showed up far too late.
"This is the Zodiac speaking ... I am waiting for a good movie about me. Who will play me."
Now, 26 years later, David Fincher, who made "Fight Club," has taken up the challenge. Due late next year, the Warner Bros. film "Zodiac" will star Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo as the lead detectives and reporters. The $80 million film was shot on location last month in the Bay Area, and will continue its production for 85 days on Los Angeles sets.
Aiming for historical accuracy, the filmmakers hired witnesses, survivors, detectives and reporters as consultants to the film whenever possible.
"Authenticity is our main goal," said producer Brad Fischer last week on the set. Added scriptwriter James Vanderbilt, "We want to be as thorough as possible." The film crew began researching the case three years ago. Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, the former Chronicle cartoonist whose interest in the case led him to write a 1976 book, "Zodiac," upon which the film is based. With his help, the filmmakers claim they have discovered new, substantial evidence. "What we've learned from our research," Fischer said, "we want to keep for our film."
"Their investigation was deeper than anything I did at the time," said retired Vallejo Detective George Bawart.
The Vallejo Times-Herald used to run stories about the identity of the Zodiac Killer. Some claim that he has been living discreetly in V-Town the whole time. Given what we've learned about the BTK killer, that possibility seems as likely as any. Once Kim took me out to Lake Herman Road to go for a jog through the brush surrounding the lake. There was something disturbing about the place. I'm not easily scared by tales of death and dismemberment, yet felt a distinct chill out there in the surprisingly wild, wind-swept hills even though it was the middle of the day.