A shocking new report says that executive producer and series creator Frank Darabont didn't quit The Walking Dead, but was fired—and that the cast has been "terrorized" into silence.
The Hollywood Reporter has published a lengthy expose of what really happened behind the scenes on The Walking Dead that led to Darabont's abrupt exit last month—just three days after he was promoting the show's upcoming second season at Comic-Con.
If the timing of his departure seemed odd, that's because Darabont allegedly did not quit of his own accord but was canned by executives at AMC, the cable network that produces the hit series.
The cast and crew were said to be stunned, angry and disheartened upon hearing the news, with one insider saying, "It's a crushing blow. Even when you have a hit, they can still destroy you." AMC is also said to be "terrorizing" the cast and their representatives into not speaking out, with a second inside source saying, "They're scared. They're on a zombie show. They are all really easy to kill off."
The Walking Dead is the biggest hit that AMC has ever had, drawing more viewers that its other prestigious shows, such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but that didn't stop the network from dropping the blade on the man arguably most responsible for its success.
All this dates back to last year, before the show even debuted, when AMC announced that it would cut the budget on its second season by $650K per episode. That didn't sit well with Darabont, but he couldn't fight it at the time since the series had not even premiered yet. When it became a smash, he and the other talent on the series assumed that the budget cuts would be reconsidered—but they never were.
Instead, AMC reportedly offered suggestions on how to make the show for less, like shooting indoors for four days out of each episode's eight-day schedule and having the zombies heard and not seen as much to save on makeup costs. Darabont fought "a constant battle" to maintain the standards set on the first season, said a third inside source.
Yet another insider told the reporter that AMC finally found its pretext for firing Darabont when a second-season episode came in with unusable footage, which Darabont was trying to fix in the editing room. Even though the network and Darabont had agreed on the director, who had worked for them in the first season, that was apparently AMC's excuse to show Darabont the door.
AMC has yet to comment on the THR story, and Darabont himself has remained silent since his departure.
Now keep in mind that people like Robert Kirkman (who wrote the original comics), makeup effects wizard Greg Nicotero and new showrunner Glen Mazzara—who was working under Darabont—are still involved with the show. But with the loss of its guiding creative light, and the morale-crushing attitude and budget cuts reportedly inflicted by AMC, can The Walking Dead be as successful in season two as it was in its groundbreaking debut?