After a great first season of The Walking Dead, AMC did what every network faced with a massive, critically acclaimed hit would do: they cut the show’s budget significantly and fired showrunner/director Frank Darabont. In return, Darabont filed a $280 million lawsuit ... and, as uncovered this week, sent many, many vindictive e-mails to his former employers.
This is not a man to be trifled with.
While the Hollywood Reporter does a great job breaking down movie studio economics behind the story — apparently, nobody ever makes a profit — we’re more intrigued by Darabont’s email rants. AMC called the director’s behavior “erratic and unprofessional.”
And that is true. Aren’t we all tired of angry, mean rants from self-absorbed tyrants? (We're referencing Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte, of course.)
But upon closer examination, and it appears that Darabont (the director of The Shawshank Redemption, the #1 all-time movie on IMDB) was, at times, justified. At others ... not so much.
Let's take a look at his screeds case by case.
[About a camera operator] “Ray Charles could operate better.”
He also compared one of the show’s directors to someone who had suffered multiple strokes. Maybe not his finest critiques. Then again, these were private emails, not public insults. We've all delivered said some less-than-couth barbs behind closed doors.
“There IS no writers room, which you know as well as I do. I am the writers room. The f*cking lazy assholes who were supposedly going to be my showrunners threw that responsibility on me after wasting five months of my time."
After a brilliant first season, AMC cut the budget for the show by 25 percent. Darabont saw himself as now the director, showrunner and main writer. When the director tried to save money by moving the action to a single location — remember the incredibly boring second season at the farmhouse? — AMC started asking for scripts in advance, and Darabont felt he was now overworked, understaffed and unappreciated. The Hollywood Reporter notes that the show has “booked more than a billion dollars in gross receipts,” so let’s just say, when something’s going well, maybe help the cause, don't hurt it.
"If it were up to me, I'd have not only fired [the writers], I'd have hunted down and f*cking killed them with a brick, then gone and burned down their homes."
Based on personal experience, I can tell you that no one appreciates writers. That said, this one is indefensible.
“F*ck you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering f*cking incompetence, blindness to the important beats, and the beyond-arrogant lack of regard for what is written being exhibited on set every day. I deserve better than a heart attack because people are too stupid to read a script and understand the words. Does anybody disagree with me? Then join the C-cam operator and go find another job that doesn’t involve deliberately f*cking up my show scene by scene.”; “YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE MOTHERF*CKING SCRIPT! I EVEN CHOOSE MY GODDAMN COMMAS FOR A REASON!"
Given the various levels of acting ability on the show, we’re gonna go ahead and say everyone should follow the script. Don’t improvise, Carl.
"Each of these emails was sent because a 'professional' showed up whose laziness, indifference, or incompetence threatened to sink the ship of production and added unfair and unnecessary burden to their colleagues in the cast and crew … My tone was the result of the stress and magnitude of this extraordinary crisis. The language and hyperbole of my emails were harsh, but so were the circumstances. As for the enormous problems they describe, I stand by these emails to the last detail."
“Sorry not sorry” at its finest.
And finally, a side note: other show creators have come to Darabont's defense. As Hollywood Reporter noted, AMC’s Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan said it was “unheard of” for network executives to see scripts up front before shooting, as the network demanded of Darabont. The next Walking Dead showrunner, Glen Mazzara, did admit Darabont had issues but called him a “good showrunner” and that “AMC was unwilling give him ... time” to solve logistical issues created by budget cuts (Mazzara also left a year later). And this week, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter tweeted “Abuse is indefensible, but having penned my share of deadly missives, @AMC_TV TMZing FD’s mail with no context hurts all parties. #cuntmove”.
Damn, we really don’t want to piss off Sutter.