They say failure is an orphan and success is the mother of a million lawsuits—or something like that. AMC’s The Walking Dead show is such a huge success that’s it’s already spawned a now-dismissed suit by original artist Tony Moore; and now original series creator Frank Darabont is suing AMC for unspecified but probably enormous damages, claiming he is being short changed via a form of “Hollywood Accounting.” Since AMC produces the show itself (unlike, say Breaking Bad and Mad Men, two other hits) AMC is is charging itself a very low licensing fee, meaning the show is not profitable. Kim Masters and Matthew Belloni have a comprehensive write-up on the suit and the many issues it raises:
The suit, filed Tuesday in New York state court and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, hints that a standoff over Darabont’s profit participation, which has been brewing since February 2011, might in part explain his abrupt dismissal in July of that year, only weeks into production of Walking Dead’s second season and two days after he had appeared at Comic-Con to promote the show. AMC never explained the firing publicly or, according to the suit, to Darabont himself.
Considering that Darabont once called the AMC execs “psychopaths,” his suing them is not very surprising. THR has the complaint with a watermark, but there’s lots to chew on here, including Darabont’s own contract, in case you wonder what a contract for producing a TV show looks like.
AMC has had lots of tussles with producers, most recently with Mad Men, it’s very popular take on Ad Age infidelities—that one ended with Producer Matthew Weiner getting a big new contract.
Darabont claims he was dismissed from the show before they had to increase his participation in the show’s profits at the end of Season 2. There was some talk at the time that AMC was trying to keep down the costs of the show, but it was speculated that meant fewer horrible zombies and not a crafty sweetheart licensing plan.
Although Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman isn’t part of the suit, Darabont is also claiming a share of the talk show spin-off Talking Dead, claiming it is a “derivative work.”