The loss of writer/director/executive producer Frank Darabont from the creative ranks of AMC's hit comic adaptation "The Walking Dead" shook the internet when word of his departure hit only days after the filmmaker's appearance at Comic-Con International in San Diego. And although the showrunner and originator of the TV version of Robert Kirkman's fan favorite Image comic will be replaced as show runner by executive producer Glen Mazzara, many questions have lingered about just what happened to drop the show's creative godfather.
A new article in The Hollywood Reporter gets most of the big questions fans have been asking about the moves in its sights, and though the story is chock full of off the record quotes, it paints a picture of network versus producer battles on budget almost from day one of "The Walking Dead's" life.
According to the report, Darabont was fired from the show while editing an upcoming episode whose footage came in "unusable" from the Atlanta production's set. AMC – already known for clashing with show runners for its critical darlings "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" – was said to start demanding leaner budgets and quicker shoots for the show before the first episode even debuted last fall. When the series debuted to huge numbers – 5.3 to 6 million viewers tuned in for each episode, making the series one of the most successful basic cable shows ever – Darabont and producers felt that the terms for Season 2's budgets would be negotiable. That didn't turn out to be the case.
"Ratings have no bearing on this conversation," AMC's head of original programming, Joel Stillerman reportedly told those involved as the network reduced the show's per-episode budget from from $3.4 million to $2.75 million while also pocketing tens of thousands in tax breaks the show gets for shooting in Georgia. "Joel thinks he is responsible for the success of shows on AMC, and not the creators," an unnamed source told THR of the frosty relationships the executive has fostered with creative talent on AMC shows.
On the other side of the argument is word that the "Shawshank Redemption" director never quite adapted to the quicker, leaner style filming episodes of a TV show over features required. The article cited one observer who noted that Darabont is "notoriously a pain in the ass" who is known for "taking a feature-film approach to television."
Darabont's departure was said to be a shocking turn for the cast and crew, although fans of the series shouldn't expect to hear that publicly any time soon. As Mazzara and Kirkman continue to draft scripts for "The Walking Dead's" currently filming second season, the network has reportedly come down hard on talent to keep quiet in the press until the show is ready to bow again in October. However, a lack of Darabont may have an impact on the morale of the creatives if not the quality of the show itself.
"Everybody loves Frank and has had an amazing experience," an anonymous representative for the talent was quoted as saying. Another close to the action added, "I heard a Teamster saying, 'How are we going to do this without Frank?'"
For more, see the full story at The Hollywood Reporter, and stay tuned to CBR News for more on "The Walking Dead" Season 2.