The circumstances behind exactly why Frank Darabont -- who developed Robert Kirkman's comic series The Walking Dead for TV -- was ousted during Season 2 have been the subject of gossip and speculation since it happened in 2011. But court documents from the former showrunner's lawsuit against AMC show that a big part of why he was dismissed is that he was really, really mean.
The Hollywood Reporter has an in-depth report on the court documents, which include emails from Darabont like this gem sent to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd in June 2011: "F--- you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering f---ing 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---ing up my show scene by scene."
The report contains many more examples of abusive emails from Darabont, who AMC's lawyer says was fired because "his volatile and disturbing interactions with staff and talent were impacting production." But to be fair, Darabont's anger was at least partially justified (even if his means of expressing it aren't). Season 1 performed strongly for AMC, setting a viewership record for basic cable, and yet the show's budget was cut by 25 percent for Season 2. In addition, AMC demanded to review all the scripts up front before shooting began for the season. Tensions between Darabont and AMC grew during production of Season 2 until he was fired and Glen Mazzara (who also is no longer with the show) took over.
Darabont and his agents filed a lawsuit against AMC in 2013 alleging that they were denied their rightful share of the show's profits, claiming $280 million in damages. Essentially, Darabont is alleging that AMC engaged in creative accounting that made the show seem less valuable than it actually is to cut him out of profits he's contractually owed. According to Darabont, AMC Networks was licensing the show from AMC Studios at a rate far below its fair market value, and that licensing fee is a large part of how Darabont's compensation is calculated. The license fee formula has since been revised to bring it closer to market value, but Darabont still wants what he feels he's owed for the early seasons.
"Rather than a referendum on me, this lawsuit is about AMC's radically undervaluing The Walking Dead in order not to share profits in a manner reflecting the show's actual fair market value," says Darabont in his affidavit. "This lawsuit is also about AMC's refusal to share the unprecedented success of the show with the people who actually created that success for them, and about AMC's self-dealing and corporate greed."
The full report is chock-full of fascinating behind-the-scenes dealings and financial information about the biggest show on cable, and is recommended reading for anyone curious about how Hollywood works. But it also just makes you hope you never, ever get on Frank Darabont's bad side.