AMC‘s hit series The Walking Dead was the catalyst into bringing a deluge of zombies into Nerd culture. Sure, we had zombie remixes of classical fiction before that and the occasional iconic zombie social commentary film every now and again, but it never got all that much out of hand, right? Whether you blame the series’ tightly written, well-directed first season for this plague of walkers, shamblers, biters, or nibblers, you have to admit that Season 2 was… less stellar. Borderline Little House on the Prairie minus the occasional plague, considering that it happened right after the series’ creator was laid off by the network.
So what caused Frank Darabont’s lay-off? What drove AMC to pursue a less-stellar, lower-budget series and drive such a wedge into what is (most arguably) its most successful venture yet? NerdBastards dug deep and hard and we think we finally have the answer.
For the uninitiated, here’s the back story to Frank Darabont’s tragic tale, IN LIMERICK FORM!
There once was a man named Frank.
He dreamed zombies could sell like mad.
So he made up a screenplay and drew up a budget,
he gave up the rights to the network saying ‘What of it?’
The director got fame and fortune
He made silver-screen horror for small screens
AMC raked a boatload cash,
sold licensed merchs like mad
Then they let Frank know he’d been ‘made redundant’
Frank Darabont’s woes did not stop there, of course. From what most nerds know, he was not just stripped of an ultra-sweet job running the most successful TV horror series ever made, he was also driven away from his cast (a lot of whom starred in a number of his flicks) and his spin-off projects were also axed. Furthermore, Frank was deprived of a share of the series’ profits (ranging in the 10s of millions), a point that was made abundantly clear in his recent lawsuit. You can find Frank Darabont’s full statement by clicking here. It’s 40 pages long and a very heart-breaking read, so here is the tragic bits that you should care about:
I remember… 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.
The plot thickens further, after Frank verifies our biggest fears: that AMC was considering cutting down the series’ budget since BEFORE Season 1 had finished airing. But then certain (alleged) accusations from the network’s end start piling up…
They accused me of not having directors tone meetings, (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. That’s absolutely not true, I have had a directors tone meeting with every single director this season.
Frank wasn’t alone in his defense on that part. Glenn Mazzara (Season 2 and 3′ show runner) rushed by his side, saying that….
Frank was executing his responsibilities and duties as show runner 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
Okay, so the network really tried to play dirty toward the end, but at least they let the director do his job, right?
When they did rarely show up on the [Georgia-based] set, [they] would … drive in from the airport in their air conditioned car, race into the air conditioned tent we had there so the actors could have a break and not pass out from the heat, poke their heads out on occasion, and half an hour later jump back in their car and fly back to their air conditioned office in New York. I had a tremendous lack of respect for them.
….hahahaha, silly nerds. All your unfounded optimism is rotting your brain. Frank Darabont went on to say he was forced to deal with “crisis-level problems arising on the first episode of the second season.”
So Frank got his budget slashed, got little to no help from the executives and was finally let go, despite struggling to pull through. But things got just that tiny bit worse, as Glenn Mazzara recently went on to reveal that he was the driving force behind continuing the series as Darabont would have probably driven it to the ground after Season 2’s second episode (you can read Mazzara’s full statement in the article linked above). Nevertheless, AMC went on to issue a statement regarding the recent kerfuffle, with:
Frank Darabont has made it clear that he has strong opinions about AMC and the events that led to his departure from The Walking Dead. The reality is that he has been paid millions of dollars under the terms of his contract, which we honored, and we will continue to vigorously defend against this lawsuit.
Riveting stuff. We’ll be keeping an eye out for this, as the story unfolds. If anything, NerdBastards likes to see things drawn to a close. How do you weigh in on the issue? Let us know in the comments below.