Shooting Zodiac. By Robert Graysmith

Monkey’s Paw Publishing, Inc. (FacebookTwitterInstagram)

DAVID FINCHER WAS AFTER THE TRUTH.

WITHOUT IT, HE WOULD NOT SHOOT ZODIAC.

For nearly two decades, Hollywood had been trying to make a movie of Zodiac, and for nearly two decades, it had failed. In 2003, producer Brad Fischer, and screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt attempted the undoable, and set their sights on the one filmmaker they felt unequalled for the helm: director David Fincher (Se7enFight Club). Fincher’s eye for detail, probing mind, and unrelenting quest for answers made him ideal. His personal connection to the case made him perfect.

Author Robert Graysmith, director David Fincher, producer Brad Fischer, and screenwriter James Vanderbilt: “The Untouchables”. Photo: Margot Graysmith

From Hollywood boardrooms to remote fog-shrouded crime scenes, they battle a huge script that refuses to be beaten, a case that refuses to be solved, and a running time and budget that threaten their film. Follow as they track down missing witnesses, gather the original investigators, visit the original crime scenes, discover boxes of Zodiac case files from an attic, unearth new clues, a videotape of the prime suspect’s police interrogation, and a surviving victim who doesn’t want to be found. To keep Fincher on board, and get their film greenlit, it will take cold leads, private eyes, new evidence, and most of all, perseverance.

About The Author

Robert Graysmith in 2012. Photo: Russell Yip / The Chronicle

Robert Graysmith (Facebook) is an author and illustrator. He was the political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle when the letters and cryptograms from the infamous Zodiac killer began arriving to the paper. He was present when they were opened in the morning editorial meetings, and has been investigating & writing ever since. He lives in San Francisco where he continues to write and illustrate. He is best known for his books “Zodiac” and “Zodiac Unmasked”.

Edition

Imprint: Monkey’s Paw Publishing, Inc.
Editor: Aaron Smith
Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Formats

HARDCOVER
Dimensions: 6 x 9 x 1 inches
Weight: ‎ 1.59 pounds
ISBN-10: 1736580051
ISBN-13: 978-1736580059
Page Count: 375
Price: $29.99
BUY: Amazon (Worldwide: check your local Amazon), Barnes & Noble, Target

EBOOK
ISBN-10: 1736580035
ISBN-13: 9781736580035
Page Count: 354
Price: $12.99
BUY: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & NobleKoboGoogle Play BooksSmashwords

“Zodiac in Costume at Lake Berryessa,” by former Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith. Surviving victim Bryan Hartnell personally described the costume in detail to Graysmith, after his, and Cecilia Shepherd’s, encounter with the Zodiac on Sept. 27, 1969. Photo: Robert Graysmith

Robert Graysmith, political cartoonist for The San Francisco Chronicle, in 1977. Photo: Gary Fong / The Chronicle

BOOKS

Robert Graysmith wrote the definitive Zodiac Killer book. He breaks decade-long silence to tell us about his upcoming projects

Kevin Fagan
September 20, 2021
Datebook (San Francisco Chronicle)

For a fairly famous guy, author Robert Graysmith doesn’t get out much. He hasn’t been heard from in public for about a decade, and he rarely leaves his San Francisco home.

The 78-year-old Graysmith has been crafting manuscripts at such an astonishing pace, printing them out as he goes along, that they now stand in a 5-foot-high stack that breaks down into what he says will be 34 books, ranging from children’s tales and historical explorations to true crime and fictional legends. Most just need a few final touches and editing, he said.

These days, Graysmith is working with a new publisher he knows well: his 50-year-old son, Aaron Smith.

An artist and CGI supervisor for dozens of movies, from “Monsters vs. Aliens” to “Cast Away,” Smith founded a publishing house in November that is producing his father’s books. The company is called Monkey’s Paw.

The first in this voluminous new string landed on online sites like Amazon at the end of August, the 383-page “Shooting Zodiac,” which documents the planning that went into making the movie “Zodiac.”

“It’s much more fun working with Aaron on these things, because he can put them out quickly,” Graysmith said. “I figured out you’re going to wait about three years to get a book done, and then you hand them the book, and they’re going to spend a lot of time and then they won’t do anything for another year or so. With Aaron, we can get the book edited and out there in a few months.”

Graysmith’s son — who uses the last name his dad used before he merged Gray and Smith — said he wasn’t really surprised when he realized how many pages his dad had in the hopper.

“Writing is pretty much all he does,” Smith said by phone from his home in Southern California, “and the illustrations.”

Graysmith said he started working on his engagingly told “Shooting Zodiac” before the movie came out, as he was being bowled over by the dedication director David Fincher, producer Brad Fischer and screenwriter Jamie Vanderbilt put into the project. They combed over the same material Graysmith had in his books “Zodiac” and “Zodiac Unmasked” to rebuild and advance his narrative around the only suspect ever named by police, Arthur Leigh Allen of Vallejo.

Watching them work was “a marvelous adventure,” Graysmith said.

The new book is as much about greenlighting the movie and hiring actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, who played Graysmith, as it is about how the three filmmakers did their research. It’s also probably the last thing Graysmith will write about the Zodiac, he and his son said.

Read the full profile

A young Aaron Graysmith (Smith), played by Zachary Sauers, already helping Dad with his “special project”. (Zodiac, 2007)

Extended Clip Podcast: David Prior

Eddie
September 13, 2021
Extended Clip (Patreon, Twitter)

My interview with the director of The Empty Man, AM1200, and many of your favorite DVD bonus features, David Prior.

Malcolm and JT were kicked out of the studio for this one — The Empty Man made me do it!

Listen to the podcast:

Apple Podcasts
SoundCloud

How ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Notting Hill’ Tell the Same Story

The similarities between the two films reveal the potential terror lurking beneath an idyllic romance.

Anna Swanson
May 11, 2018
Film School Rejects

Click for full resolution:

It’s safe to say that David Fincher‘s 2014 film Gone Girl surprised a lot of audiences (this means that if you haven’t seen the movie, beware of spoilers ahead). But even putting the twists and turns of the plot aside, there was an unexpected move in the promotional campaign that still stands out to me. The first trailer opened with some musical notes that any rom-com fan will recognize as the beginning to “She.”

The song was originally composed and recorded by Charles Aznavour and then famously covered by Elvis Costello to serve as the theme for Roger Michell‘s 1999 film Notting Hill:

For the Gone Girl Teaser Trailer, the song was performed by Richard Butler, and produced, arranged, and mixed by Jason Hill (Mindhunter):

Read the full article

Film posters:

Mank. An Original Screenplay by Jack Fincher

Jack Fincher (Author)

David Fincher’s Mank recreates 1930s Hollywood through the eyes of scathing wit and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish Citizen Kane. Starring Gary Oldman as Mankiewicz, Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Charles Dance as William Randolph Hearst and Tom Burke as Orson Welles.

Formats

Imprint: Bloomsbury Academic
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: July 29, 2021

PAPERBACK
Edition: 1st
Extent: 160 pages
ISBN: 9781350244856
Dimensions: 7 x 5 inches
BUY: UK, US, CA, AU

EBOOK (Epub & Mobi)
Edition: 1st
Extent: 160 pages
ISBN: 9781350244863
BUY: UK, US, CA, AU, IN

EBOOK (PDF)
Edition: 1st
Extent: 160 pages
ISBN: 9781350244894
BUY: UK, US, CA, AU, IN

Because We Love Making Movies: Screenwriter Eric Roth

Eren Celeboglu
May 22, 2021
Because We Love Making Movies (InstagramFacebook)

Today, I sit down with legendary screenwriter Eric Roth.

We talk about his life and his craft and why we should all be more generous of spirit. Truth be told, Eric has been involved in creating so many iconic films that it would have been impossible to try… so I asked him about the films of his that meant the most to me, and he held court and digressed in the loveliest of ways. I hope you have as much fun listening as I did recording this interview. Enjoy! 

Eric’s credits include: The Nickel Ride, The Drowning Pool, The Onion Field, Forrest Gump (for which he won an Oscar), The Postman (for which he won a Razzie), The Horse Whisperer, and then one of my favorite films ever, The Insider, followed by Ali, Munich, The Good Shepherd, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s also worked in Television, and seen not one but two sea changes, first with HBO, and then with Netflix and House of Cards. And much more recently he wrote A Star Is Born, Dune, and the new Western being Directed by Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon. He was also a producer on the Oscar nominated Mank, directed by David Fincher, from a script by Fincher’s father.

Listen to the podcast:

Because We Love Making Movies
Apple Podcasts

Spotify

Everything Zen: David Prior on “The Empty Man”

James Badge Dale and Sasha Frolova

David Prior’s creepy and impeccably crafted directorial debut was abandoned by the studio but has since been embraced by now devoted fans.

Adam Nayman
May 3, 2021
Notebook (MUBI)

Over and again throughout The Empty Man, we see characters sitting in the lotus position, cross-legged and attentive,  a pose connoting receptivity. It is in the migration of this mindset from snowy Bhutan to small-town Missouri, muled from East to West by the unlucky occidental tourist who doubles as its title character,  that David Prior’s film locates both its celestial sense of scale and a fine-grained gestural specificity. After literally stumbling into a cliffside cavern—the first unexpected plunge in a movie whose characters constantly find themselves either on shaky ground or descending into a darkness of their own volition—Paul (Aaron Poole) becomes transfixed by a skeletal figure whose meditative posture he adopts, seemingly permanently and much to the bewilderment of his fellow backpackers. Dragged back to the surface, he has become a husk, limbs locked and rapidly atrophying, staring out at the world with eyes wide shut. It would seem that he’s been hollowed out. Or is he suddenly full up?

The old Zen proverb about the philosopher who tells his overzealous visitor to return to him with an empty cup—the better to receive the flow of wisdom—comes eerily to mind in the image of a hiker mutated into a hapless Buddha. The story lying beyond The Empty Man’s gorgeous anamorphic frames is also akin to a kind of koan: if a great cosmic horror movie gets (barely) released in the middle of a global pandemic, and nobody sees it, does it really exist? 

Read the full review and interview

Interview: David Prior, The Empty Man’s Director

March 25, 2021
ELDERFANFILMS

Today, I’ve got the honor to post the interview I did to David Prior; who After being in charge of production video documentaries and have worked alongside nothing other than David Fincher, arrives with his horror film The Empty Man, making his directorial debut. The Empty Man is based on the Boom Graphic Novel called the same way. David, Tells us the unfortunate fate his movie went through all due bad management and bad luck to be in the middle of a transition between companies, addition to that, the company launched a misleading trailer, transforming the movie in another weird horror teenage movie, totally opposite of twist-thrilling horror film. The Empty Man is a top notch production with a great cast and crew team. The film got to us on October 23, 2020 in theaters and on Digital on January 12, 2021.

The director also shared with us the film creation process, the rocks he had to apart away from his path to get the film off the ground, his insights and learnings from all this exhausting but comforting filmmaking labor.

Read the full interview

BETA (WPR): Writer, Director David Prior On The Horrors of Making ‘The Empty Man’

Stephen Root and James Badge Dale

Despite Trials And Tribulations, The Film Has Earned Great Reviews.

Doug Gordon
May 29, 2021
BETA (WPR)

David Prior got his break directing DVD special features for such David Fincher films as “Zodiac” and “The Social Network.” He obviously drew on that work experience in writing and directing his debut horror feature film, “The Empty Man.”

“Any time you spent hanging around the set with David Fincher or Peter Weir or any number of the other people that I’ve been able to hang around the set with, it’s always going to be valuable,” Prior said.

The Empty Man” focuses on an ex-detective named James Lasombra. James is grieving the deaths of his wife and son. He helps his friend Nora whose daughter has gone missing.

James’s investigation leads him to a sinister organization called The Pontifex Institute, which turns out to be a cult. The film stars James Badge Dale, and chameleon-like actor Stephen Root who delivers a great performance as the cult’s leader. 

The movie also became embroiled in a mega media merger that delayed and botched its release. “The Empty Man” features an impending sense of dread and doom and themes of guilt, grief, the meaning of existence and mind control. Prior explains to WPR‘s “BETA” why he wanted to include such big ideas in his film.

Read and listen to the full interview

Watch The Empty Man

Archive Fighter

J.M. Tyree
March 26, 2012
Film Quarterly, Spring 2012, Vol. 65, No. 3

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher’s latest antiblockbuster, is a baroque rethink of the serial-killer subgenre; a subtly retuned adaptation of the first novel in Stieg Larsson’s penny-dreadful Millennium trilogy; a technical achievement of narrative compression and pacing in a mainstream thriller; and the most recent proof of the director’s trademark habit of unleashing bad vibes in the multiplex. It’s a sick kind of holiday movie. The story is bookended by two Christmases—a year its two protagonists pass among murderers, sexual predators, and a wealthy family with a history of sadistic brutality (and Nazi sympathies), all stirred up by a cold case involving the disappearance of a sixteen-year-old girl from a private island. With good reason, Fincher called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo “the feel-bad movie of the season.” The director renders its source material in the coolly droll yet fundamentally shocking and disturbing style of his previous films about psychos, Seven (1995), Fight Club (1999), and Zodiac (2007). In the manner of Tod Browning’s subversive 1931 take on Dracula, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo frightens the viewer while injecting grimly fiendish jokes into an earnest literary artifact with an intractably complicated storyline.

Read the full article

Behind the Lens: Eric Roth on Life as a Top Screenwriter

Working With Everyone From Scorsese To Spielberg To Fincher, And How He Became A Producer On ‘Mank’

Pete Hammond
April 16, 2021
Deadline

If you are in the mood for a master class in what it takes to be a successful screenwriter in Hollywood, look no further than this week’s episode of my Deadline video series Behind the Lens, where I go deep into the making of Mank with one of its producers, Eric Roth. This happens to be Roth’s first feature film producing credit, and he still laughs at the thought of it because in his heart he isn’t really a member of that tribe. The man is a writer through and through; while Mank has brought him his sixth Oscar nomination, it’s his first in the Best Picture category.

Roth is one of the most prolific writers in movies, having previously been Oscar nominated for scripts on Munich, The Insider, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, A Star Is Born and Forrest Gump, for which he actually won the Academy Award. He talks about all of them, what it takes to make a successful movie, the many directors he has worked with, as well as actors, and so much more. Scorsese, Spielberg, Fincher, Mann, Zemeckis — the list is just so very long.

We actually start our interview talking about one big name he worked with that made him very proud, and that was Akira Kurosawa. Not bad. He also has high praise for his Mank director David Fincher, and tells how the director brought him into the project as a producer, but to also carefully parse the screenplay without rewriting it. In other words, he and Fincher went over it line by line and Roth was probably the best kind of sounding board you could ever hope for. Fincher’s late father Jack Fincher died in 2003 but gets sole credit. In that regard we also talk about how a film about a film about a screenwriter could gather a leading 10 nominations yet not get one for its writing (!) It baffles him, but that is what happened. Mank details the creation of the certified 1941 classic Citizen Kane as well as how writer Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles managed to jointly create an all-timer, sharing the film’s only Oscar for Best Screenplay.

Roth’s other credits include scripts for The Good Shepherd, Ali, The Postman, The Horse Whisperer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon for Martin Scorsese, whom he praises mightily, and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, among others. When I produce a preview card for one of his earliest credits, The Nickel Ride, which I saw at a sneak in 1974, he went right down memory lane and tells the story of his first job on a big film, rewriting The Drowning Pool for Paul Newman who greeted him on the set by saying, “Here comes our savior.” Indeed.

Watch the full conversation