EXCLUSIVE: The Walking Dead may now be back for its sixth season with more blood and menace than ever but the nearly 2-year conflict between Frank Darabont and AMC over the early years of the zombie apocalypse blockbuster remains in full battle mode as well. Today, with terms like “insidious” and “mistaken assumption” in their jaw, the latest legal gnashing saw lawyers for the former TWD EP and agency CAA take a few new deep bites at the cable channel over AMC’s attempts last month to dismiss Darabont’s recent claims to an even greater multi-million dollar share of the series’ profits.
“Returning once again to its favorite line ‘that contracts are not screenplays’, AMC makes a motion to dismiss consistent with its strategy of trying to litigate this case through pithy, press-ready quotes,” says the partially redacted memorandum filed Tuesday in the NY Supreme Court (read it here). “AMC‘s motion is its latest attempt to deprive Darabont, the heart and soul of The Walking Dead (the ‘Series’), of his contractual entitlement to profits from the Series,” the 21-page document adds, calling on the courts to reject AMC’s requested booting of the amended complaint’s new claims. “This motion to dismiss arises out of another, equally insidious method of denying Darabont his rightful profits: AMC‘s refusal to acknowledge that Darabont‘s share of profits is, in fact, fully vested.”
Canned in July 2011 from the series he developed based on Robert Kirkman’s comics, Darabont first sued AMC in December 2013 over being cut out as a profit participant in TWD’s success. The Shawshank Redemption screenwriter left TWD after Season 1 was done and while Season 2 was in production. Darabont was replaced by Glen Mazzara – who AMC kicked to the curb in December 2012 and replaced with current TWD showrunner Scott Gimple.
“Defendants’ entire argument hinges upon the mistaken assumption that because Darabont was removed mid-season, he did not work on the season‘s later episodes,” says today’s opposition response to what is termed AMC’s “simplistic proposition” in the case. A proposition the plaintiffs use AMC’s own actions and leadership against it. “In short, the FAC alleges, and deposition testimony confirms, that Darabont worked full-time on all episodes of Season 2. Adding to the deposition testimony of Darabont and his successor Mazzara is AMC‘s own, on-screen, admission that Darabont was the executive producer of all thirteen episodes of Season 2.” Along with today’s memorandum, the plaintiffs also filed sealed depositions by Darabont and Mazzara, the latter’s given on September 28. Today’s filing also makes a repeated point of noting from its own brief that “AMC President Charlie Collier admitted that ‘it is impossible to parse where Darabont‘s role ended and [successor showrunner Glen] Mazzara’s began on Season 2.'”
In their first multi-claim complaint, Darabont and CAA also alleged that AMC engaged in “self-dealing” to foster artificially low license-fees for TWD to get out of contractually obligated profit payments. Additionally, among other issues, the breach of contract suit said that the producer had been wrongfully terminated.
AMC, of course, said that was all BS. In filings of their own, the cable net argued the first claims, as it has the more recent ones, should be thrown out. AMC also let it slip that Darabont has done very nicely off them and TWD with over $3 million in payments for Season 1 and Season 2 of the series.
Following over a year of slashing fighting over documents and confidentiality in the discovery process and top brass depositions on both sides, Darabont and CAA attorneys filed their amended complaint in the case in early August. While they defanged the wrongful termination language in the amended complaint, the plaintiffs now said, as made obvious and reinforced by today’s paperwork, that AMC had actually reduced the profit participation that Darabont is owed.
Stressing a 100% vesting, Darabont and CAA also are now seeking a piece of Fear The Walking Dead. While AMC has always been careful to call the new show a “companion series” to TWD, the plaintiffs here refer to the just recently Season 1 wrapped freshman FearTWD as one of the “derivative productions” to which they are entitled compensation for under Darabont’s agreement with AMC.
In case, you didn’t pick it up, in their September 18 response, AMC again called the whole case “meritless” but specifically asked Judge Ellen Bransten to toss the new claims of the amended complaint.
With all that, there does seem to have been some detente in the case on another matter. The issue of CAA Business Affairs exec Jon Ringquist and him not being a lawyer has been resolved, sources tell me. Ringquist was one of the few people that both sides agreed could look at confidential documents in the discovery process. However, when it was reveled in a deposition that he wasn’t actually an attorney. AMC …well, let’s just say that they got very upset. Having been sent to the court-appointed Discovery master by Judge Bransten in late August, both sides reached a confidential agreement over the issue and peace now reigns.
AMC are represented by Marc Kasowitz, Aaron Marks, John Berlinski and Mansi Shah of Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP’s NYC and LA offices in the case. Jerry Bernstein and Nicholas Tambone of NYC firm Blank Rome LLP along with Dale Kinsella are handling things for Darabont and CAA with his fellow attorneys Chad Fitzgerald, Aaron Liskin and Nicholas Soltman at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP.