In its new issue, The Hollywood Reporter attempts to get to the bottom of The Walking Dead’s recent behind-the-scenes shakeup with an article entitled, “What Really Happened to Fired Showrunner Frank Darabont?” The answer? Well, we still don’t quite know! However, THR puts forth three informed theories as to why AMC hastily canned Darabont right after Comic-Con, and in the middle of production on season two. Here they are, in a nutshell.
The Walking Dead is AMC’s biggest show, but it’s also expensive. According to THR, the network slashed episode budgets from $3.4 million to $2.75 million for the second season, and execs asked Darabont to move more episodes indoors and keep zombies off-screen to save on makeup costs. Darabont, who is himself an expensive talent from the feature-film world, refused to cut corners.
2. Darabont was a pain in the neck.
AMC has heavily suggested from the beginning that Darabont was ill-suited for the pace of running a TV show, and since he notoriously ran over budget and over time on his 2001 passion project The Majestic, it’s an easy accusation to make. Still, sources close to the production assured THR that Dead experienced no such hiccups, even if Darabont clashed with Joel Stillerman, AMC’s head of original programming (someone Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner now refuses to speak to).
3. Footage from the the second season premiere was not up to par.
The tipping point may have come when dailies came in for the first episode of the new season. THR claims the footage was not usable, and when Darabont had to sequester himself in the editing room to salvage it, AMC finally had a hook to hang him on. In any case, The Walking Dead soldiers on under new showrunner Glen Mazzara, while AMC continues to add to the network’s reputation for high drama both in front of and behind the camera.