Two Zodiac film projects are swirling around Hollywood these days, one starring such A-list actors as Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo.
The latest project, titled "Zodiac," is based on former San Francisco Chronicle reporter Robert Graysmith's books "Zodiac" and "Zodiac Unmasked," on the serial killer who haunted Northern California in the '60s and '70s and has never been caught. The killer taunted police and newspapers, including the Times-Herald, sending letters claiming responsibility for the crimes, even murders in Vallejo.
Producers for "Zodiac" wanted to capture the details of the case and originally planned to film scenes at the actual crimes scenes, including Blue Rock Springs and Lake Herman Road.
However, Vallejo/Solano Film Commission head Jim Reikowsky said production members visited those sites and balked at filming there.
"The locations changed too much, so now L.A. will be Vallejo," Reikowsky said. "Lake Herman was not what they liked. And Blue Rock Springs has changed so much.
"It's too bad because when a film company comes they spend a lot of money," he said.
In September, the film company did shoot scenes at Lake Berryessa in Napa, one of the murder sites, Reikowsky said. They planned to shoot extensively in San Francisco as well, where the Zodiac killed a cab driver and Graysmith worked.
Robert Downey Jr. stars as Graysmith and the film follows the reporter's search for the killer. Director David Finchner, who made "Fight Club" and "Seven," is heading the project.
Over the last year, the production company has worked with the Vallejo Police Department on details of the crime to make it as authentic as possible, said Capt. David Jackson. With few officers remaining on staff who investigated the murders, the department sent them to former Vallejo detective George Bawart, Jackson said. He showed them some crime scenes and discussed some details, Jackson said.
The production crew was allowed to look at some of the evidence at the station, he added.
Meanwhile, "In Control of All Things," a Zodiac-based film shot extensively in Vallejo, has been renamed "The Zodiac" and was shown at the Munich Film Festival in August. The indy picture stars Rory Culkin, of the Culkin clan, and utilized large portions of downtown Vallejo.
Despite the decades-old crimes, the Zodiac case remains wildly popular.
"The case is still technically open," Jackson said. "They reality of us solving it is pretty slim at this point.
"Occasionally, we get people calling with a tip that they think their neighbor is the Zodiac and we do the proper follow-up after assessing it," he said.