Frank Darabont is a genre icon. His Stephen King adaptations THE MIST and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION are hailed as classics, he had a hand in writing the beloved BLOB remake as well as NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, and he was even a production assistant on the Linda Blair slasher HELL NIGHT! When it was announced that he would be adapting The Walking Dead into a TV series, he was met with pretty unanimous praise and success.
However, he was abruptly fired by AMC before the second season. The reasons will forever remain murky, but the previously sealed deposition in his lawsuit against AMC over profits has been opened, providing us with some valuable insight. Here are a few excerpts from his testimony.
His take on the massively successful show's budget being cut:
I remember Joel Stillerman [president of original programming and development for AMC], in a meeting in my office, when we were all discussing the issues of the upcoming season, we said to him, 'Surely that the success of the show, which, by the way, you guys are bragging about because we keep getting e-mails saying, 'Hey, we're breaking viewership records in 120 countries around the world by hundreds of percent, in some countries by over 1,000%,' at the same time we're hearing how successful the show is for you, you're telling us that this, this budget issue is not going to budge at all. And he said, 'The success of the show has no bearing on this discussion,' in a rather icy manner.
He said AMC "concocted" reasons for his dismissal, including:
They accused me of not having directors tone meetings," he said, referring to the way in which a showrunner is supposed to sit down with each director of each episode to go over the script — scene by scene — and convey the tone of the show. "And I said, 'That's absolutely not true, I have had a directors tone meeting with every single director this season.'
There's even testimony from his replacement, Glen Mazzara, about his unfair treatment. Mazzara left the show after season 3.
I believe that Frank was executing his responsibilities and duties as showrunner and there was a personal rift between [Walking Dead co-creator Robert] Kirkman and Darabont and between Darabont and the AMC executives, and that when the material for the finale came in and Frank said I need some time to figure out a plan of how to pursue this and what we're going to re-shoot and what it will take to do this, AMC was unwilling to give him that time to solve the issue and they let him go without notifying him that he was, that the issues were that series. That if he did not appropriately solve these issues, he was about to be fired.
I think it's pretty safe to say that not all was well behind the scenes of The Walking Dead. Both the show and Darabont are doing well following the split, but man that still stings. There is a world where we could have been spared season 2, but AMC cemented our fates.