Frank Darabont’s Rage Boils Over: The ‘Walking Dead’ Emails

Frank Darabont
Picture Perfect/REX/Shutterstock

AMC Networks filed an immense trove of emails from fired “Walking Dead” executive producer Frank Darabont on Thursday. They give a rare behind-the-scenes look at the tensions that go into a prestige cable show. Darabont has said the tone and the “hyperbole” were the result of a crisis on the show, and that he stands by the substance of the emails “to the last detail.”

Here are some of the juiciest excerpts:

Email to Gale Anne Hurd and others
Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 10:39 p.m.

Guys and gals,

I am in a state of absolutely boiling rage right now.

I just kept Denise on the phone for 20 minutes making her listen to me scream. I hope she conveys to you what the tenor of it, because you need to grasp my fury. I have never been a screamer, but I am now. The work being done on this episode has turned me into one. Congratulations, you all accomplished what I thought was impossible. You’ve turned me into a raging a–hole. Thanks a lot, you f—ers.

Everybody, especially our directors, better wake the f— up and pay attention. Or I will start killing people and throwing bodies out the door.

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.

Email to Ben Davis
July 21, 2010, 12:11 a.m.

Please let’s stop invoking the “writers room.” There IS no writers room, which you know as well as I do. I am the writers room. The lazy f—ing a–holes who were supposedly going to be my showrunners threw that responsibility on me after wasting five months of my time.

If it were up to me, I’d have not only fired Chic Egles and Jack LoGuidice when they handed me the worst episode 3 script imaginable, I’d have hunted them down and f—ing killed them with a brick, then gone and burned down their homes. I haven’t even spoken to those worthless talentless hack sons-of-bitches since their 3rd draft was phoned in after five months of all their big talk and promises that they’d dig deep and have my back covered.

They didn’t have my back, they rammed knives into it.

Professional courtesy is something one earns, and those douchebags have not earned mine. I don’t want to see them cc-ed on ANYTHING any more. They renounced that privilege by not even trying to live up to their job descriptions, by instead leaving me dangling in the wind like a hanged man. Calling their 103 “phoned-in” would be vastly overstating, because they were too busy wasting my time and your money to bother picking the damn phone up. Those f—ing overpaid con artists.

Email to Gwyneth Horder-Payton and others
Monday, June 13, 2011, 7:18 p.m.

I am profoundly let down by some of this footage. I’m boiling mad.

YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE MOTHERF—ING SCRIPT! I EVEN CHOOSE MY GODDAMN COMMAS FOR A REASON! WHY AM I WORKING SO F—ING HARD IF YOU’RE SHOOTING EVERYTHING SOME OTHER WAY THAT DOESN’T WORK?

Email to Denise Huth and others
June 16, 2011, 12:21 a.m.

Shane being chased by zombies on the Parkway and being rescued by the RV is a major element we must reshoot. Seeing those dailies today left me gobsmacked and thinking I should fake my own death, leave town, and live under an assumed name. There are some shots we can use from Gwyneth’s footage, but only shots. Right now the sequence doesn’t exist. Re-shooting this along with everything else is something we have to plan for. And I haven’t even vetted the goat farm stuff yet, but I can safely bet you a million dollars there are major problems there too.

Denise, I’m putting my anger and disappointment at Gwyneth aside when I say this. I promise I’m not being a hyperbolic–.

Remember our experience with Allan Garfield on The Majestic? We were all so shocked because it was like he had no grasp of the basics of his craft? And it turned out later that he’d had a stroke he was unaware of? And a few months after we wrapped, the massive secondary stroke happened that put him permanently in the hospital?

I am honest-to-God wondering if Gwyneth hasn’t experienced the same thing. That’s how fundamentally f—ed this footage is. It’s as if she’s totally lost her grasp of what to do. It’s like we yanked some kid with no experience out of high school and put her in charge of directing a show. And what’s really weird is that she doesn’t seem to know it.

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  1. John-John says:

    Why do people in Hollywood, and a lot of their fans, think they should be exempt from the same rules we have to follow in our jobs? If any nobody sent emails to their coworkers like that the HR department would fire that person forthwith.

  2. Misyuk says:

    Hope he hasn’t watched the 7th season omg >.<

  3. Johan says:

    And this is why i don’t watch The Walking zombies show that can’t keep a showrunner for 2 minutes.

  4. Truthtella says:

    lmao at the “badasses” here on darabont’s side on this one. absolutely none of you would be cheering for him if you were on the opposite end of this email. the guy writes like an edgy 12 years old and cheering for him tells a lot about your mental psyche as well.

    • Roger says:

      …but Gwyneth kind of deserved some criticism, didn’t she ? She totally fu*ked up the all-important first episode of the all-important second season, but she wouldn’t take any responsibility.

      Frank has a point here. Those people can drive you crazy.

      And when he complains about bad camera operators and lousy DVD-Extras-work from Anchor Bay, then he’s friggin’ right !

      As far as I see, the only problem is his dirty language (“motherfucker” sounds bad to women) and his IRONIC ‘threats’ to kill incompetent people.

      If you ignore these things and the aggressive style, then you have actually someone who did a good job as a show runner.

  5. Kevin S. says:

    Jesus Christ, imagine if he actually did something important in this world and THAT went wrong? He’d nuke the earth!

    You’re a goddamn entertainer. Calm down.

  6. Roger says:

    READ THE WHOLE EMAILS, not only the ‘juicy’ parts cited in the article.

    You will understand the conflicts much better. Frank does come across as someone who tries to be ‘funny’ and ‘sophisticated’ even in times of crisis and dealing with morons, but IN WRITING it appears too brutal. If he had said the same things in a calm manner to a group dealing the problems, I’m sure nobody would have complained. But in written form it suddenly becomes something else. It get a threatening dimension, because all irony vanishes behind ambiguity.

    But it must be said: What Frank complains about is sound. He really had to deal with incompetent people.

    Frank needs some anger management & learn who to deal with situations like this, but ultimately it’s VERY hard to get along with fools and morons. What should he have done?

  7. Alby Beck says:

    I’ve worked for Frank Darabont, he’s an asshole. A talented asshole, who usually delivers something worthwhile, but a horrible, horrible person to work with, or for. The out of control anger and ego can be tolerated on a film set, where everyone knows the gig is temporary, but there’s no time or place for that in TV, where the job is open ended and dependant on the show’s success, and you have to put this episode to bed on time so you can start churning through the next.

    Darabont, from all I’ve heard, did pretty much exactly what I would have expected, he treated a TV set like it was a film set, and expected the producers to act like film producers (ego-stroking deep pockets) rather than like TV producers (accountants with stopwatches). It’s no surprise that his next TV show also fell over immediately, and if that hadn’t been burnt off, but had actually been a hit and more was wanted, you would have heard the same nightmare stories from that set as well. Because that set was just as ugly, as anyone who worked it or knows someone who did can tell you. TNT burnt off Mob City precisely because they wanted nothing further to do with Frank Darabont after production wrapped. And the man has burnt so many bridges at this point, it’s hardly a surprise he hasn’t worked since, other than as studio script doctor.

    Frank Darabont’s simply has no place being on a TV set, and AMC were right to get rid of him. Hell, the cold hard truth is they had no other choice.

    • trent thorne says:

      Im so sorry that you had such an experience. I have worked with him closely for over 10 years and your words are so far from true. There is way more to AMC’S greed than you know and the reason he hasn’t worked is because he only works on things that he actually feels passionate about. He was attached to the Huntsman, but he didn’t feel it would be good so he left, same with the mist tv series… and if you look they both are awful. Mob City was great but slow and didn’t work but was actually spectacular. It had nothing to do with him… for why it wasn’t picked up.

      Maybe you were one of those incompetant people that didn’t show up with your a game and he doesn’t put up with that. Its nice to work with a creative person with high expectations. Not lazy…. Ive seen him mad, and its always for a good reason!

      TNT had a choice and thats why the show isn’t as good after he left!

  8. sunnyinsocal says:

    Wait, aren’t these emails from 2010 and 2011, at least according to the article? I don’t get it…

  9. randy says:

    show has never been the same since he left. Its gone nothing but down since Season 3. Which is when most of stupid america started watching. Go figure. the real fans know the first 2 seasons were best. they all the sheep jumped on board, and now, just like George Romero has said…it has become a soap opera.

  10. Robbie says:

    The guy sounds like an ignorant, arrogant teenager going through a hissy fit every ten minutes. And talk about hypocrisy! The episodes he directed are the worst, there are some real b-movie moments that people still talk about now as being completely embarrassing. The kid walker picking up a teddy? The mom trying the door handle? The walker using a rock to try to smash the window?
    Anyone?
    He knew the remit of the show and the story, the intention was to not make them aware of their surroundings or express any Human behaviors, and he just ignored that entirely.
    The only one who actually seemed to have risked the future of the show in the first season is him, working like it’s a low-budget horror flick rehashed from the scripts of ten others in the 80’s.
    Those who came in after, and no doubt don’t treat everyone like trash, are the ones who made the show the success it is.
    I genuinely believe that if he’d been kept on it would have been cancelled in season 2.

    • Patrick says:

      Frank Darabont only directed ONE episode of “The Walking Dead” called “Days Gone By”. He was nominated for it in 2011 by the Director’s Guild of America for ‘Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series’.

      This sounds like very good work to me.

      And Frank was still very much involved in season two.

      “The Walking Dead” owes a lot of its success to him, because he shaped the first 2 seasons,
      which are a guide for all that follows.

      • Likeucare says:

        You are entitled to your opinion. But it is an ill-informed and incorrect one. The reason he was fired other than being verbally abusive is that his vision was too expensive(so I have heard) and it seems as though you may not have watched the show prior to season 3 or so, since that is when the character development that has occurred happened, although I did quit watching 2 or 3 seasons ago, I have several friends who complained about theses things to me until they too stopped watching after they apparently killed off glenn.Hope you are enjoying your 4 hours of tv every 6 months, but walkers being able to pick things up or having some vague echo of their past life(the teddy bear) indicates at least some thought went towards the walking dead themselves. And how does one express human behavior?

      • Likeucare says:

        Walking dead is a terrible show in which almost nothing happens(and what does happen has already happened in some form already) for 6 episodes twice a year. It is embarrassing how badly they have ruined what started out to be very promising. Through poor writing and laziness or perhaps lack of talent. If you like the show now it’s no surprise if you don’t like the early stuff. I suspect if you are a fan now you are probably not a big fan of genre and rather wanting to be part of the thing everyone WAS talking about. But I am happy for Mr. Darabont, Because if he had remained in charge HE probably would have had a stroke, but I dont think it would be a show about walking around and flashbacks until the next “shocking death” Alao i hope he doesn’t ever go over the top crazy on people like that in the future, because while I found some of the comments amusing I think he definitely comes off as a tyrannical jerk.

  11. Conspiracy says:

    Brilliant. Hollywood needs more guys like Frank; people who actually give a fuck about their work and the audience. Sadly this kind of honesty and blunt, pull your head out of your ass, talk is out of fashion.

  12. Poco Rinaldi says:

    Frank is the man, and I vouch for him. There are too many hacks hired in this business for reasons unknown. There are too many rule breakers, who never learned the rules. It’s one thing to get yelled at and demeaned by a hack, and a whole other thing to get yelled at and demeaned by a pro, like Frank. Heck, I got yelled at and demeaned by one of the biggest names in the biz, it’s a friggin’ badge of honor as far as I am concerned.

  13. JE Vizzusi says:

    Franks’s incredible work and visions speak for themselves.. his passion is frightening less to say. We have all been there.. I remember speaking to the late George Hickenlooper about his The Big Brass Ring and his snub by the Distributor still is ringing in my ears. This may turn into a bad PR Stunt for the show and Frank personally I would love to see back on TCM offering a few more choice films. Nobody will get killed or houses burned down.. its when the passion runs way too high, we have to settle back, have a nice glass of wine and think outloud.. “Its Only a Movie” or in this case.. “Its Only a Cable TV Show!

  14. ntrprzing says:

    Guy sounds like a complete and utter douche.

  15. PT Barnum says:

    Yikes! He just destroyed gwyneth horder. But he’s right the show has sucked since he left.

  16. Matrices says:

    Can’t argue that he doesn’t work well with others. His dismissal was justified. But the show was never as good without him, that’s for sure.

  17. Adam Hatch says:

    Gwyneth is a Mediocre director. She has no concept of how to be cinematic. She was a 1st AD who was given a shot to direct on “The Sheild”. She belongs in Network Television.

  18. Arthur Radley says:

    I met Frank once and had a long conversation about what elements make a story work. He said something along the lines that stories had to have a moral or ethical center – even if unconventional – to have a valid human viewpoint. As a whole he seemed enormously thoughtful and kind. Without doubt, his tone in these emails is OTT. But I shudder to think what might have provoked him.

  19. Patrick says:

    Frank Darabont was probably the real reason for the success of “The Walking Dead”.
    He obviously cared a lot about quality.

    His harsh criticism of people like director Gwyneth Horder-Payton was probably justified:
    Take a look at her IMDB resumé.
    She never won anything for her many TV works.
    Expect a nom for her two – largely reshot – “Walking Dead” episodes.

    She’s untalented & Frank just saved the show.

    It’s the same with the 2 screenwriters he calls “overpaid con artists”:
    Check their resumé at IMDB.
    They never won anything, except for “The Walking Dead”.

    All these incompetent hacks all owe their ‘career best work’ – which was obviously re-written and re-shot – to Frank Darabont :-)

  20. I met Frank once he complimented me for taking a group photo of him and three great directors with only one shot. His style of directing most people can’t handle but he is a true master in filmmaking. Despite his rage for perfection. Just think how much better the show would of been if they followed his instruction.

  21. James says:

    Yes, it’s a little shocking to read that, but you have to see it in context:

    Here is a man that worked many, many months to achieve something great – and now he sees it going down the toilet because of people who don’t really care.

    The funny thing is, that even in his Emails Frank Darabont is a powerful writer:
    “Seeing those dailies today left me gobsmacked and thinking I should fake my own death, leave town, and live under an assumed name.”
    Awesome ;-)

    You know what, Frank?
    You should stop wasting your time with TV and write a novel.
    What about a tell-all about your experiences in the movie-and-TV business.
    I would buy that!

    People forgot what a great, unusual career Darabont had: He has created some of the most popular, highly regarded dramas of all time (“The Shawshank Redemption”) – and some of the biggest flops (“The Majestic”).

    This man deserves better than doing shows on TV that are destroyed by incompetent new ‘talent’.

    I still have great respect of Mr. Darabont & I hope he gets a better gig next time.

  22. FrankieBaby says:

    So good. I just see a guy frustrated by total incompetence, which the viewers can plainly see as well in the show. He’s right to be pissed!

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