Success brings trouble. Just ask the folks involved with the mega hit “The Walking Dead.”
In seven years, The Walking Dead has become the most prosperous drama ever to air on cable television. The AMC zombie drama has likely booked more than $1 billion in gross receipts based on an analysis of newly filed court documents that shed unprecedented light on the economics of the show and on Hollywood in general. But after Walking Dead premiered in October 2010 to 5 million viewers (it now draws 17 million, more even than primetime NFL games on broadcast networks), AMC decided to cut the show’s second-season budget by 25 percent.
The summer of 2011 was a trying time for Frank Darabont, the Oscar-nominated writer and director of The Shawshank Redemption who adapted Robert Kirkman’s postapocalyptic graphic novel. Darabont worked hard to get the show on the air — NBC once had it in turnaround, and other networks like Fox and Turner passed — but once Walking Dead came out, the series about middle America citizens struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse earned instant adoration. So Darabont was stunned by AMC’s decision to slash the budget. What’s more, after 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. According to Darabont, AMC’s Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan told him “it’s unheard of” to have scripts delivered so early in the process of producing a season…..
In one June 2011 email to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and others, he wrote, “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.”
“F— you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering f—ing incompetence,” creator Frank Darabont wrote to his collaborators as his nasty legal fight reveals thousands of pages of confidential documents.