A new sign of the ‘Zodiac’

Times Staff Writer

The serial killer at the center of “Zodiac” was always just beyond the grasp of the police and journalists: tantalizingly close, yet ultimately unreachable. The film’s Oscar chances have looked just as unpromising, but now Paramount Pictures is staging a last-ditch Academy Award campaign, hopeful a critical “Zodiac” groundswell can lead to some surprise nominations.

Paramount’s new “Zodiac” for-your-consideration advertisements in Friday’s Variety and next Monday’s Los Angeles Times arrive as David Fincher’s movie keeps appearing on film critics’ Top 10 lists.

According to one online survey of more than 400 reviewers’ favorite films (, only two other 2007 movies -- “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will be Blood” -- have turned up more frequently than “Zodiac.” Showing up on 143 best-of-the-year lists, “Zodiac” has claimed 19 No. 1 spots.


“Suddenly, everybody is waking up to the fact that this is a good movie,” said Mike Medavoy, one of the film’s producers. Fellow producer Brad Fischer said Paramount may have underestimated the film’s critical support. “I don’t think they expected 143 critics to put it on their Top 10 lists.” Paramount is hoping that with no clear best picture favorite, “Zodiac,” which grossed a modest $33.1 million in domestic release, might draw sufficient attention for best picture, director, cinematography and screenplay.

It’s an uphill fight. “Zodiac” largely has been blanked in awards announced over the last several weeks. It did not receive any Golden Globe nominations, and some of “Zodiac’s” honors have come from uninfluential organizations: a nomination for star Jake Gyllenhaal from the Teen Choice Awards and a selection for David Shire’s score from the World Soundtrack Awards.

On Thursday, however, USC’s prestigious Scripter Award nominees included James Vanderbilt’s “Zodiac” screenplay. The other Scripter nominees were the writers of “No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood,” “Atonement” and “Into the Wild.”

Paramount’s biggest problem is time: Ballots for the 80th Academy Awards are due at 5 p.m. on Jan. 12. And since “Zodiac” opened in early March, the film may not be prominent in many Oscar voters’ minds. (Fincher’s director’s cut “Zodiac” DVD arrives Tuesday, however.)

But Medavoy, who formerly ran Orion Pictures, knows that movies that premiere as early as February can still be remembered come Oscar time: Orion’s “Silence of the Lambs” opened on Valentine’s Day and still won five Academy Awards. “And that surprised everybody,” Medavoy said.