EXCLUSIVE: As Deadline reported earlier today, Kurt Sutter was fired from his executive producer post on the FX series Mayans M.C. based on complaints from cast and crew collected by the human resources department of Disney, which now owns FX as well as the studio that produces the Sons of Anarchy spinoff, 20th Century Fox TV/Fox 21 TV Studios.
In a letter Sutter sent today to his inside circle, which was obtained by Deadline, he details the events that led to his dismissal, admitting that “detaching myself so much this season” was a mistake. Sutter also reveals his struggle with the Disney culture that he feels ultimately led to his firing.
“I’ve felt the creative scrutiny of Disney from day one,” he writes (read the full letter below). “Notes on scripts and cuts have been heavy handed. Demanding a level of dumbing-down story and inane PC restraints like I’ve never experienced before. I genuinely feared for the creative future of the storytelling. So I pushed back. Hard.”
He also addresses being fired by his longtime executive collaborators, Disney TV Studios Chairman Dana Walden and FX Networks Chairman John Landgraf, who had supported him for the past 18 years from The Shield through Sons of Anarchy and its Mayans M.C. spinoff and The Bastard Executioner.
“What pisses me off, what hurts the most, is that John Landgraf and Dana Walden sat across from me and sited a summary of a slanted truth formulated by lawyers and clerks,” he wrote. “The truth is, the suits wanted me gone. I stepped on toes and bruised egos. And in this Disney regime, I’m dangerous to the wholesome brand. And clearly not worth the trouble. So 18 years of friendship, loyalty and producing quality television, was flushed down the drain. They threw me under the fucking bus.”
Here is Sutter’s letter:
The big picture. If anyone cares.
Thanks for taking a look.
Let me begin by saying, I know who I am. I know the impact of my process. I’m intense and passionate. I take what I do very seriously. That’s what having a vision manifests. And if you fuck with that vision, I’m gonna push back. When I’m right, I let the work speak for itself. When I’m wrong, I own it, make amends and fix it.
I pride myself on having a supportive and empowering set. I try to acknowledge all the hard work everyone does. I’m clear that it’s a collaborative effort. And I try to pass that philosophy down to my writers and producers so they do the same.
Disney letting me go today was apparently based on data collected by HR and Business Affairs from writers, producers, cast and crew. They claim the intel suggests that I created a climate of hostility, favoritism and enabled a set where no one felt safe or appreciated. I know that’s not true. I’m not saying it was all sunshine and roses, but I’m close with most of those guys and they love going to work. I’m also not sure how, having been on set… maybe three times all season, I was able to singularly create that much damage.
What I do own, what I see now in hindsight, is that detaching myself so much this season was a mistake. I understand how it was perceived as me sticking my head in the sand. And that people felt like no one was steering the ship. But that wasn’t a management error on my part, it was a creative decision to empower Elgin and the future of the show. The reason I decided to do it, was because the network forced me to hire a directing EP to run the production end. So I did. He came in with a lot of experience and his enthusiasm gave me confidence he could do the job. So, with Elgin, the new EP in place, and with Jon Pare our great line producer, I stayed focused on story, writing and post.
Never did I think the ship was off course until after mid season when I suddenly was bombarded with unfavorable reports about the tension on set. I am not going to mention names, because I don’t want to point fingers. So yes, there were complaints. And ultimately whomever they are about lands on me to fix. That’s when I contacted the network to let them know. They told me they’d look into it. And to sit tight. So I did.
Who I have been hard on this season is the studio and network. I’ve felt the creative scrutiny of Disney from day one. Notes on scripts and cuts have been heavy handed. Demanding a level of dumbing-down story and inane PC restraints like I’ve never experienced before. I genuinely feared for the creative future of the storytelling. So I pushed back.Hard. No different than I have in the past. In fact, much tamer than I ever was on SOA. However, I was dealing with personnel who didn’t know me. And my level of… passion. Clearly I ruffled a few mouse ears.
I know my role at Mayans MC was going to be greatly reduced. I am handing off the show to Elgin. So it’s not the job that’s the issue.
What pisses me off, what hurts the most, is that John Landgraf and Dana Walden sat across from me and sited a summary of a slanted truth formulated by lawyers and clerks. They blamed my dismissal on the cast and crew.
People I care about. People I respect. They had no first hand knowledge of anything they were saying. They’ve never been on set or spoken to any of my people. I’m not saying all of the intel was bullshit. But I know that’s not why I was fired. The truth is, the suits wanted me gone. I stepped on toes and bruised egos. And in this Disney regime, I’m dangerous to the wholesome brand. And clearly not worth the trouble. So 18 years of friendship, loyalty and producing quality television, was flushed down the drain. They threw me under the fucking bus.
I send this diatribe because I feel deeply wronged. They embarrassed me. They created a false narrative that could damage my reputation and career. I want them to understand the depth of that mistake.