Darabont also developed and executive produced the first season and part of the second season of the AMC horror series The Walking Dead and created the TNT neo-noir series Mob City.
Darabont was born in a refugee camp in 1959 in Montbéliard, Doubs, France. His parents fled Hungary after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. When he was still an infant, his family moved to the United States, settling in Chicago. When Darabont was five the family moved to Los Angeles. Darabont was inspired to pursue a career in film after seeing the George Lucas film THX 1138 in his youth. Darabont graduated from Hollywood High School in 1977 and did not attend college. His first job after finishing school was working at the famed Hollywood Egyptian Theater at the concession stand and as a seat finder, watching movies for free. He claims he got his writing skills from "endless hours" of writing at a desk on a typewriter in his free time, and from his childhood friend Cody Hills.
Darabont became involved in filmmaking by becoming a production assistant on such films as Hell Night, The Seduction and Trancers. The first film he wrote and directed was a short adaptation of Stephen King's The Woman in the Room, which was one of the first "Dollar Babies" and made the semi-finalist list for Academy Award consideration in 1983. Although Darabont was not happy with how the short turned out, it led to a close association with King, who granted him the "handshake deal" rights to another one of his shorter works, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from the collection Different Seasons.
Darabont sold his first screenplay titled Black Cat Run in 1986, but it was not produced until over a decade later as a television film under the same name. Darabont was approached by Chuck Russell (who was a producer on Hell Night and The Seduction) with an offer to become his writing partner, as he had become interested in Darabont's writing after reading a spec script he had written for the television series M*A*S*H. The two began working on a script for a remake of the film The Blob, which they had planned to shop around to studios, until they were both hired to rewrite the script of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors with Russell directing the film. The two were only given two weeks to rewrite the script and managed to do it in ten days. The success of their A Nightmare on Elm Street film allowed them to produce the first script they had originally written, The Blob. Darabont was now a successful writer for hire and went on to write The Fly II, an early draft of The Rocketeer, and an unproduced sequel to Commando.
Darabont made his directorial debut with Buried Alive, a television movie with a $2,000,000 budget that aired on the USA Network in 1990. Darabont followed with an extended run as writer for George Lucas's television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and writing two episodes of the television series Tales from the Crypt.
Darabont made good on the deal with Stephen King by writing and directing The Shawshank Redemption. Rob Reiner, who had previously adapted another King novella, The Body, into the movie Stand by Me offered Darabont $2.5 million in an attempt to write and direct Shawshank. He planned to cast Tom Cruise in the part of Andy and Harrison Ford as Red. Darabont seriously considered and liked Reiner's vision, but he ultimately decided it was his "chance to do something really great" by directing the film himself.
Although the film did not fare well at the box office, it was met with acclaim by audiences and critics, and the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Darabont. The film gained traction after its Academy Award nominations, becoming the most rented film of 1995, and is today considered one of the greatest films ever made.
Darabont's next directorial effort was another Stephen King adaptation, The Green Mile, starring Tom Hanks. At first Darabont was reluctant to adapt the novel into a film, as its setting was too similar to Shawshank, but quickly changed his mind after reading the novel. Hanks and Darabont first met at an Academy Award luncheon in 1994 and the two were both eager to work on a project together. Stephen King stated he envisioned Hanks in the role and was happy when Darabont mentioned his name.
The film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture, and Darabont was nominated for his second Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.' It was originally the highest-grossing film based on a Stephen King novel, as it made a total of $286,801,374 worldwide (before being surpassed by 2017's It when it made $438 million worldwide.)
He followed The Green Mile with the 2001 film The Majestic starring Jim Carrey, Martin Landau and Laurie Holden, whom Darabont would work with again frequently throughout his career. Michael Sloane, who Darabont had known since high school, wrote the script and the film remains one of the few films that Darabont directed, but did not write. Darabont wanted to direct the film as he saw it as a "love letter" to works of Frank Capra and all the other movies he has loved throughout his life. The film received mixed reviews from critics and also bombed at the box-office, recouping only half of its $72 million budget internationally.
Darabont had originally wanted to direct The Mist even before he directed The Shawshank Redemption, but kept pushing it back until 2004, when he began to write the screenplay for the film. Most of the crew that worked on the film had worked on the television series The Shield, as Darabont hired them after directing an episode of the series and he thought they could help give the film a "more fluid, ragged documentary kind of direction". Darabont also helped create the designs of the creatures in the film along with artists Jordu Schell, Bernie Wrightson and the film's lead makeup artist Greg Nicotero. CafeFX was hired to do the film's special effects after Darabont asked fellow director Guillermo Del Toro who did the effects on his film Pan's Labyrinth.
The film was a modest success at the box office, but earned positive reviews from critics. King also praised Darabont's new ending saying "The ending is such a jolt—wham! It's frightening. But people who go to see a horror movie don't necessarily want to be sent out with a Pollyanna ending." When a two-disc edition of the DVD was released, it included an exclusive black-and-white presentation of the film, the way Darabont had always intended it to be.
Darabont developed and executive-produced the first season of The Walking Dead, the AMC series based on Robert Kirkman's comic book of the same name. Darabont recalled first coming across the series in a comic book store in Burbank, California in 2005. When Darabont became interested, Kirkman called it "extremely flattering" and went on to say that "he definitely cares about the original source material, and you can tell that in the way he's adapting it." Darabont first initiated a deal with NBC for The Walking Dead, but was later declined and eventually brought it to AMC, who picked it up based on the source material and Darabont's involvement. Darabont wrote and directed the pilot and was executive producer of the first season along with Gale Anne Hurd. The series features a number of actors who have regularly worked with Darabont in the past, including Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden and Melissa McBride. The series earned positive reviews upon release and the pilot received 5.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched series premiere episode of any AMC television series.
In July 2011, Darabont was fired from the position as showrunner. Initial reports suggested that he was unable to adjust to the schedule of running a television series; however, it was later confirmed that he was fired due to AMC's desire to reduce the show's budget (twice as many episodes for 20% less of a budget) and his strained relationship with the executives of AMC. He and his agents from the Creative Artists Agency have filed a lawsuit against AMC, seeking more than $280 million in unpaid profits to Darabont.
Not too long after leaving The Walking Dead, Darabont struck a deal with TNT to develop a pilot for a new series to air on their channel, titled L.A. Noir based on a book by author John Buntin. Darabont discovered the book at LAX Airport and after two days straight of reading it he decided to adapt it for television. Darabont was very passionate about the project as he had always wanted to produce a film noir project. Darabont cast Jon Bernthal, who he had worked with on The Walking Dead, in the lead role for the series. Other Darabont regulars cast included Jeffrey DeMunn and Alexa Davalos. The series was given a full season order of six episodes in the fall of 2012 and the title of the series was changed to Mob City. The series premiered in December 2013 and was met with mixed to positive reviews. The series was cancelled after only one season.
Darabont also has the rights to two other Stephen King stories, The Long Walk and The Monkey, both of which he says he will make eventually.
Darabont was a script doctor for the Steven Spielberg films Saving Private Ryan and Minority Report. In 2002, he penned an early draft of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; while Spielberg reportedly loved it, George Lucas rejected it. He also produced the 2002 film The Salton Sea, starring Val Kilmer and Vincent D'Onofrio.
Over the years Darabont has reunited with his old writing partner Chuck Russell. He did a rewrite for Russell's film Eraser, they attempted to adapt a film of the 1930s pulp character, Doc Savage, and the two wrote an early treatment and were executive producers on the film Collateral.
He has also tried to produce film adaptions of the novels Mine by Robert R. McCammon and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Darabont still hopes to make both films some day.
The same year Shawshank was released, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which Darabont wrote, was also released. The film was met with mixed reviews and Darabont called it the worst experience in his career as a writer as he had considered it the best script he had ever written, but that director Kenneth Branagh ruined it "every step of the way". He went on to say that "you can’t really judge the script based on what you saw on the screen. It got rephrased and messed with every inch of the way." Guillermo Del Toro has shown interest in adapting Darabont's draft of the Frankenstein script when he gets around to filming his own version of the story, calling the draft a "near perfect" adaption of the original book.
In 2004, he was hired by Tom Cruise to write Mission: Impossible III, but the script was later rewritten by J.J. Abrams, who directed the film. The same year, Darabont wrote the introduction for the Hellboy novel, Hellboy: Odder Jobs by Christopher Golden.
In 2005, Cemetery Dance Publications published Darabont's novella Walpuski's Typewriter in a limited edition. The story, originally written in his early twenties, first appeared in Jessie Horsting's magazine Midnight Graffiti.
In 2007, Darabont directed an episode of The Shield titled "Chasing Ghosts". He also directed and executive produced the pilot episode of Raines, starring Jeff Goldblum.
Darabont appeared in "First Class Jerk", the October 26, 2008, episode of Entourage in which he propositions Vincent Chase to star in a TV show he is executive producing. He appeared in a September 12, 2009, episode where he is now the director of the film about Enzo Ferrari, who Vince is portraying.
According to the Battlestar Galactica: The Official Companion series by Titan Books, Darabont—a huge fan of the re-imagined series—was slated to direct "Islanded in a Stream of Stars", the penultimate episode of the show's final season. Due to scheduling conflicts, he was unable to take the job, which fell to series star (and previous helmer) Edward James Olmos.
Darabont was slated to direct the 2009 film Law Abiding Citizen, but left production due to creative differences with the producers.
At the 2012 Austin Film Festival, Darabont was awarded the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award for his contribution to cinema.
In 2013, he lent his voice to a lengthier version of the World War Z audio book. In November of the same year Bob Weinstein revealed that he and Darabont were developing a ten part television series based on Darabont's 2007 film The Mist.
Darabont was hired to rewrite the script for the 2014 Godzilla reboot. Darabont stated that he would like to bring the monster back to his origins as a "terrifying force of nature." The director of the film Gareth Edwards stated in an interview that Darabont wrote the most moving scene of the film and that particular scene helped convince cast members Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche to sign onto the film.
In June, 2014, it was reported that Darabont was on the shortlist to direct The Huntsman: Winter's War, a sequel to the fantasy film Snow White and the Huntsman. A month later it was confirmed that Darabont would direct the film, but it would not be a sequel, but a prequel focusing on Chris Hemsworth's character Eric, the Huntsman. However, Darabont left the project in January, 2015, citing creative differences as the cause.
In addition to collaborating with actors on films and television projects, he has collaborated with writers, producers, composers, and others. These include Mark Isham, Stephen King, Gregory Nicotero, Rohn Schmidt, David Tattersall, and others. Also, Jeffrey DeMunn appeared in The Blob and Black Cat Run, both of which Darabont wrote, Alexa Davalos appeared in the pilot episode of Raines that he directed and Amin Joseph first worked with Darabont on an episode of The Shield titled "Chasing Ghosts".
The Woman in the Room (1983 film) and Buried Alive (1990) are not listed due to lack of collaborations. (Although Brian Libby appears in both.)