A reporter finds that all signs point to danger

SOMETIMES a reporter has to stick his neck out just a little. Even if that means putting himself squarely in the sights of a killer to get him to make a move.

Robert Downey Jr. plays San Francisco Chronicle crime reporter Paul Avery on the trail of the Zodiac Killer in David Fincher's "Zodiac." The film, which also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards and opens March 2, revolves around the search for the modern-day Jack the Ripper who held the Bay Area in the grip of terror in the late 1960s and early 1970s while taunting the police and journalists with his letters and ciphers.

"He was a serious journalist," says Downey of Avery. "He was a real amalgam of what makes journalists in the true sense of the word."

When the Zodiac case goes cold, Avery decides to push a few buttons by writing that the killer is likely a latent homosexual.

"I don't think he consulted his profiling buddies," says Downey. "He sent an arrow up in the air and it came down and hit him in the

Downey says he found working with Fincher to be a "huge education."

"He's not a teddy bear, and he's not a cruel genius. He's very, very exacting, and he's always the smartest guy in the room, but he's very open-minded to other input sources."

-- Susan King

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