Yellowstone: Timeline of behind-the-scenes drama between Kevin Costner and creator Taylor Sheridan

Costner recently implied that Sheridan may have borrowed elements of his new film’s storyline for ‘Yellowstone’

Jacob Stolworthy,Tom Murray
Thursday 23 May 2024 00:42
Kevin Costner opens up about feeling 'broken'

Yellowstone might be coming to an end, but the drama surrounding lead star Kevin Costner and showrunner Taylor Sheridan shows no signs of slowing down.

Costner has played ranch owner John Dutton on the hit US series since it premiered in 2018. While Sheridan’s drama about American ranchers and land developers in rural Montana has divided critics, it has become one of the most successful shows on television in recent years.

However, the series was shaken in February last year by Costner’s bombshell decision to walk away from the series with several seasons to go. This led creator Sheridan to call time on the show far earlier than initially planned.

The final episodes of Yellowstone season five – and the show as a whole – are set to arrive this November.

Costner reignited the reported feud between the two at Cannes Film Festival this year following the premiere of his new Western, Horizon: An American Saga. Speaking to journalists, Costner slyly suggested that Sheridan may have borrowed elements of his film for the Yellowstone spin-off 1883.

Below, we run through a timeline of the history of Yellowstone, an unlikely success story whose legacy has been undermined by behind-the-scenes tensions.

20 June 2018:Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, debuts in the US on Paramount cable channel, the Paramount Network. It becomes one of the most-watched shows in the country. Creator Taylor Sheridan said of the show’s success to The Hollywood Reporter: “People couldn’t understand how a linear cable channel that no one can even find suddenly had the biggest show on television. Because it has cowboys and this is supposed to be a dead genre, right? Of course, that’s not what the show is really about, that’s just the sugar on the pill.”

February 2021: Sheridan signs a lucrative five-year deal with ViacomCBS and MTV Entertainment Group to create new projects, including Yellowstone spin-offs.

December 2021: Paramount Network releases Yellowstone prequel series 1883, starring Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Sam Elliott. It achieves the biggest debut for a cable show in more than six years, and helps launch the networks’ streaming service, Paramount+. However, with Sheridan busy on the spin-off, Yellowstone season five is delayed.

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August 2022: Costner begins production on his passion project, Horizon: An American Saga. Each instalment of the four-part Western epic will last for three hours, with production on each film expected to run for up to six months.

November 2022: Costner wraps production on the first part of Horizon: An American Saga early. The first part of Yellowstone season five, filmed before the delay caused by 1883, is released.

Kevin Costner plays ranch owner and patriarch John Dutton in ‘Yellowstone’ (Paramount)

6 February 2023: A report in Deadline claims that Costner has locked horns with Sheridan over scheduling conflicts for the second part of Yellowstone’s fifth season and that he has left the show. Multiple sources state that Costner only wanted to spend a single week shooting his scenes.

21 February 2023: Costner’s attorney refutes reports the actor-director demanded he spend just one week shooting his scenes for Yellowstone season five, part two.

April 2023: Yellowstone supporting actors replace lead stars, including Costner, in a last-minute shake-up at TV convention PaleyFest. The announcement receives gasps from the crowd. But Keith Cox, president of scripted at MTV Entertainment Studios, refers to the actor as “our star, the face of our show, and the executive producer”, adding: “We are very confident he will continue with the show.”

May 2023: Costner officially quits Yellowstone and it’s announced that the fifth season will be the last. The show was expected to last for at least two further seasons.

June 2023: In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sheridan speaks out about the Costner controversy. He says: “My last conversation with Kevin was that he had this passion project he wanted to direct. He and the network were arguing about when he could be done with Yellowstone. I said, ‘We can certainly work a schedule toward [his preferred exit date],’ which we did.”

Taylor Sheridan said he was ‘disappointed’ Kevin Costner quit ‘Yellowstone’ (Getty Images for for Paramount+)

Sheridan suggests the involvement of Costner’s lawyers confused the situation, stating: “I’ve never had an issue with Kevin that he and I couldn’t work out on the phone. But once lawyers get involved, then people don’t get to talk to each other and start saying things that aren’t true and attempt to shift blame based on how the press or public seem to be reacting. He took a lot of this on the chin and I don’t know that anyone deserves it. His movie seems to be a great priority to him and he wants to shift focus. I sure hope [the movie is] worth it — and that it’s a good one.”

Sheridan says Costner’s decision “disappointed” him as “it truncates the closure of his character”.

July 2023: Filming of Yellowstone’s final season is put on indefinite hold due to the SAG-AFTRA Hollywood strikes.

September 2023: Costner breaks his silence about his decision to quit Yellowstone during his divorce hearing. The actor-director is reported to have said the situation was “complicated”, and that he “did negotiate” to return for three more seasons. According to reporters present at the trial, Costner said: “There were issues about creative. I tried to break the logjam. They walked away.” He is believed to have said he will “probably go to court” over the matter.

April 2024: Costner shocks fans by saying he would “love” to return to the series. “I’d like to be able to do it but we haven’t been able to,” Costner told Entertainment Tonight.

“I thought I was going to make seven [seasons] but right now we’re at five. So how it works out – I hope it does – but they’ve got a lot of different shows going on. Maybe it will. Maybe this will circle back to me. If it does and I feel really comfortable with [it], I’d love to do it.”

‘Yellowstone’ will draw to a close with its fifth and final season (Paramount Network)

13 May 2024: Costner claims the Yellowstone team had not been telling the “truth” about his decision to leave the show. The actor denied that time constraints caused by Horizon led to the demise of Yellowstone, alleging that filming for his movie had been scheduled on his days off from the show. “I fit it into the gaps,” he said. “They just kept moving their gaps.”

The star said he made Yellowstone “first priority” whereas the production team were “doing a tap dance”.

Costner claims he even left filming for his movie for a “whole month” in order to shoot the rest of Yellowstone season five. But, when he arrived, there was “no script” and “things imploded”.

21 May 2024: Costner suggests Sheridan may have “borrowed” storylines from his new film for Yellowstone’s 1883 spin-off.

At a press event at Cannes, IndieWire pointed out that both 1883 and Horizon share a wagon train story and are set around the same time. Costner said he sent Sheridan a script for his movie in 2019, two years before 1883 aired.

“So I don’t know if there’s any duplications there,” Costner said. “Whether he borrowed something, only he’d have to admit to.”

Sheridan’s representatives did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

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