UPDATE, 11:50 AM: As they promised yesterday they would, today The Walking Dead executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert started the process of filing a potentially multi-million dollar breach of contract suit in New York against AMC along with Charles Eglee.
But everyone is still pals – for now.
“While we disagree with AMC on the merits of our lawsuit, we appreciate its statement that it will continue to work with us as partners on the continued success of The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead and The Talking Dead,” the trio said in a statement Tuesday after the cabler called the West Coast version of their action “baseless and predictably opportunistic” on Monday. “We also reaffirm our commitment to continue to make the best programs possible.”
Season 8 of TWD returns in late October on AMC
The summons (read it here) Tuesday from the TWD gang mirrors a jury seeking suit filed in Los Angeles on August 14 by the same three plus series creator Robert Kirkman and former showrunner Glen Mazzara over profits they claim the cabler played a internal fast one on them to deny them. Hurd, Alpert and Eglee say they will drop the action in New York Supreme Court if AMC casts aside provisions in their agreements that designate an Empire State jurisdiction for any such dispute and let the whole thing be handled in California.
So, as a big summary judgment hearing approaches on August 24 in ex-TWD EP Frank Darabont and CAA’s long running big bucks lawsuit against AMC on very similar grounds, the ball is in the calber’s court.
PREVIOUS, AUG. 14 PM: Just days after The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman signed a big deal with Amazon and a week before lawyers for ex-TWD showrunner Frank Darabont and CAA face off with AMC attorneys in NYC, more main creatives for the zombie-apocalypse blockbuster series are taking the cabler to court for big bucks they say they’re owned. On the other hand, with potential damages in hundreds of millions, AMC says, Kirkman and crew are just being “opportunistic” as they head into their eighth season and 100th episode of TWD this fall.
“This case arises from a major entertainment conglomerate’s failure to honor contractual obligations to the creative people – the ‘talent,’ in industry jargon – behind the wildly successful, and hugely profitable, long-running television series The Walking Dead (TWD),” says a jury trial seeking breach of contract complaint from Kirkman, executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and David Alpert, and former EPs Glen Mazzara and Charles Eglee (read it here).
“The defendant AMC Entities exploited their vertically integrated corporate structure to combine both the production and the exhibition of TWD, which allowed AMC to keep the lion’s share of the series’ enormous profits/or itself and not share it with the Plaintiffs, as required by their contracts,” Monday’s filing in LA Superior Court goes on to say in language that sounds a lot like the profit-participation suit Darabont and his agency CAA first filed back in late 2013 against AMC — which is cited in this filing and called a “related” matter. “Plaintiffs and the other talent behind TWD are the ones whose work to create, develop, write and produce the series has brought its huge success, but the fruits of that success have not been shared, as they should be,” the unspecified but wide-ranging damages-seeking compliant for both TWD, spinoff Fear the Walking Dead and aftershow Talking Dead notes.
With an August 24 summery judgment hearing looming and over $250 million at stake in the Darabont matter, AMC was quick to respond to today’s new legal battlefront. Showing a good lawsuit can make strange bedfellows, Mazzara also was pink-slipped from TWD in late 2012 after replacing Darabont, who was canned in 2011.
“These kinds of lawsuits are fairly common in entertainment and they all have one thing in common – they follow success,” said the cabler of its top show and its top behind-the-camera talent. “Virtually every studio that has had a successful show has been the target of litigation like this, and The Walking Dead has been the #1 show on television for five years in a row, so this is no surprise. We have enormous respect and appreciation for these plaintiffs, and we will continue to work with them as partners, even as we vigorously defend against this baseless and predictably opportunistic lawsuit.”
Better make that “lawsuits,” as Hurd, Alpert and Eglee also plan on filing similar suits in New York because of provisions in their respective deals with AMC. “If the AMC Entities consent to permitting Hurd, Alpert and Eglee to assert such claims in California, they will dismiss the New York action and add those claims to this action,” today’s complaint asserts.
Well, this looks messy, to put it mildly, and Darabont and CAA’s August 24 hearing in NYC suddenly seems a bigger deal than it already was — and it was pretty big.
The TWD plaintiffs are represented by Ronald Nessim and a team from LA’s Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C..