The Walking Dead has settled into a steady groove under showrunner Scott M. Gimple, who’s held that title since 2013, but it took awhile for AMC’s mega-hit zombie series to get there. Three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont was originally at the top of the food chain before he was fired and replaced by Glen Mazzara in the middle of season two (Mazzara made it until the end of season three; that’s when Gimple took over showrunning duties). 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 The Walking Dead‘s second season, despite the show being the highest-rated cable drama at the time. “What’s more, after Darabont decided that a single set location — a Georgia farmhouse — would be the solution to the financial crunch,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, “AMC executives demanded to see all of the season’s scripts up front before shooting… AMC’s Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan told [Darabont] ‘it’s unheard of’ to have scripts delivered so early in the process of producing a season.” Darabont wasn’t shy about his feelings on the budget cuts, as seen in these recently released (and very vulgar) 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.”
That wouldn’t be the only profane rant that month. In one email, Darabont asked why camera operators were being paid when “Ray Charles could operate better.” In yet another, he compared one of the show’s directors to someone who he formerly worked with who 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,” wrote Darabront.
And to AMC’s executives, he was no less polite. “Please let’s stop invoking ‘the writers room,’” he emailed AMC’s Ben Davis. “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.”