Darabont was born in a refugee camp in 1959 in Montbeliard, France. His parents fled Hungary after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. When he was still an infant, his family moved to the United States.
By the age of 20, Darabont became involved in filmmaking. One of his first films was a short adaptation of Stephen King's The Woman in the Room, which made the semi-finalist list for Academy Award consideration in 1983, and was shown in its entirety in the 1986 syndicated television special, Stephen King's World of Horror. The short, a Dollar Baby, 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.
Prior to his directing career, Darabont was a successful screenwriter with work on genre films that included: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Blob, The Fly II and an unproduced sequel to Commando. Darabont made his feature length directorial debut with Buried Alive, a TV 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' short-lived television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. He became famous, however, after making good on the deal with Stephen King by writing and directing 1994 The Shawshank Redemption for which he was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay at the 1995 Academy Awards. The film was also nominated for six other Academy Awards including Best Picture.
After a five-year hiatus, Darabont returned to the screen with the well-received The Green Mile, a film he directed, scripted and produced. Like The Shawshank Redemption, this film is also based on a Stephen King work. The film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture and Darabont was nominated for his second Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay. He followed this with The Majestic two years later in 2001 to considerably less fanfare. Following lukewarm reviews from critics, the film failed at the box-office, recouping only half of its $72 million budget internationally.
Darabont is known to have doctored the scripts of 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, and while Spielberg reportedly loved it, George Lucas rejected it.
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. His 2007 film The Mist marked his fourth adaptation of a Stephen King work, and the film received worldwide praise from many audiences, despite not being a hit at the box office.
Recently, director Guillermo del Toro commented that he had read a draft of Frankenstein written by Darabont that he would "kill to direct." However, in recent months Del Toro has been attached to many other projects and it looks as if his involvement in the project is unlikely. No official word has been given on the film's development. Darabont has also explained that he will be adapting King's The Long Walk into a film. No plans have been made for it yet, but Darabont explained that he would "get there eventually."
Darabont appeared in an October 26, 2008 episode of Entourage called First Class Jerk, where 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.
Darabont is currently at work on a new AMC series based on Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead.
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