Back in 2011, right smack dab in the middle of production of The Walking Dead's Season 2, AMC made the controversial decision to fire Frank Darabont as showrunner of the popular zombie TV show. This was an incredibly weird move from the network because The Walking Dead was AMC's highest-rated show at the time.
Why was Darabont fired? This was the man who has directed some classic films, including: The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, which currently holds the No. 1 spot on IMDb's Top 250 movies. It seems like a gamble to can a man with Darabont's resume.
Unfortunately, TV showrunners are not exactly know for their easygoing attitudes and manageable tempers. After being fired, Darabont and his agents at Creative Artists Agency later filed a $280 million lawsuit against AMC, claiming “they were denied rightful profit participation.” The dispute began when AMC cut the budget for #TheWalkingDead‘s second season, despite the show being the highest-rated cable drama at the time. When Darabont decided that a single set location — a Georgia farmhouse — would be the solution to the financial crunch, AMC executives demanded to see all of the season’s scripts up front before shooting began.
Even Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, agreed with Darabont that it was too stressful and unnecessary to have scripts delivered so early in the season. With drama behind the scenes, including budget cuts, Darabont wasn't shy about sharing his feelings about the situation in recently released emails.
In one June 2011 email to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and others, he wrote:
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.
This would not be the only vulgar rant from Darabont to associates of the show. In another email, Darabont asked why camera operators were even being paid when “Ray Charles could operate better.” In another one, he compared one of the show’s directors to someone with whom he formerly worked and had suffered massive, debilitating strokes:
It’s like we yanked some kid with no experience out of high school and put her in charge of directing a show.
He wasn't any more polite or professional to the AMC executives. In an email to AMC’s Ben Davis, he wrote:
Please let’s stop invoking ‘the writers room.' 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.
In another email, just one month before he was fired, Darabont sent another email that may have been his most rage-filled message:
YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE MOTHERF*CKING SCRIPT! I EVEN CHOOSE MY GODDAMN COMMAS FOR A REASON!
Darabont has responded to these emails and the reasoning behind all the vulgar and anger in them. He states that he was working under intense pressure, and the studio was doing very little to help with the financial situation. Funny thing is that he still agrees with what he wrote in all of his emails.
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.
So, while you may not agree with what he stated in his emails or how he presented himself in a difficult situation, you can still understand that he was under a huge amount of pressure. #AMC was becoming too demanding, as stated by both Darabont and Vince Gilligan, and everybody as a breaking point where they throw all respect and understanding out the window. It's difficult to roast Darabont because of these emails, as he was clearly just trying to save a popular show that we all love.
Do you think Frank Darabont was justified in his emails?