Though he was behind the show’s phenomenal pilot episode and acted as showrunner for the whole first season, Frank Darabont was fired from The Walking Dead before the second season due to some sort of unexplained budget argument with AMC, prompting a legal feud that has been raging since 2013. Now, a bunch of emails that he sent to AMC from his time on the show have been released (via The Hollywood Reporter), and it’s safe to say that they don’t make anybody look good.
The core of Darabont’s frustration with the show before he got fired was that AMC drastically slashed the budget and then demanded that he finish all of the shooting scripts and submit them to the network before filming anything. This put a significant amount of pressure on Darabont, who claims that Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan told him it was “unheard of” for the network to be asking him to do this. This prompted him to send messages like the following to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd:
Fuck you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering fucking 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 fucking up my show scene by scene.
The camera operators were actually a major issue for Darabont, who believed their apparent incompetence was indicative of how excessively AMC was cutting corners. “Ray Charles could operate better,” he said in one email, and in another he compared a director working on the show to someone he had previously worked with “who had suffered massive, debilitating strokes.” Darabont also took issue with the network’s assertion that he could use the writers room to help get the scripts done, noting that the writers were “fucking lazy assholes.”
Darabont has tried to dismiss the harsh language of his emails by explaining that he wrote them during “an intense and stressful two-year period of work,” during which he was “fighting like a mother lion to protect the show from harm.” AMC is using the emails as evidence for his supposed “erratic and unprofessional behavior,” which “raised a number of concerns” at the network during the second season of The Walking Dead.
Beyond the juicy emails, other documents released as part of Darabont’s lawsuit revolve around the license fee that AMC has been charging for The Walking Dead, which is supposedly much lower than for other shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. It gets a little technical, but it sounds like Darabont is accusing the network of undervaluing The Walking Dead so it can walk away with a bit more money, even though he says the budget cuts were making him miserable and endangering the quality of the show. Now, because it has been undervaluing the show, Darabont isn’t making as much money off of it as he thinks he deserves, which is basically where the whole lawsuit began.