Kevin Costner Comments on Taylor Sheridan and the Drama Behind His Yellowstone Exit

'yellowstone' season 5 cast member kevin costner
Kevin Costner Comments on Taylor SheridanParamount Network

In the almost year and a half since Yellowstone aired its season five mid-season finale, fans of the hit Western have been watching with rapt attention as an entirely different kind of drama unfolded. Rather than the tale of the Dutton family's ranching woes, the spotlight has been firmly on the real life tensions behind the scenes of the show, and specifically on star Kevin Costner, who announced his unceremonious exit from the series last spring.

Since that time, speculation has run rampant as to why, exactly, Costner would choose to leave what is widely cited as one of the most-watched shows on television, particularly before its fifth (and now final) season was complete. Initial stories held that Costner was unhappy with the time frame for filming, and wanted to put more focus on his upcoming film series, Horizon: An American Saga. With the first of those films debuting at the Cannes Film Festival next Sunday, Costner has begun speaking out on his latest project, and in the process, has shared his side of the long-debated Yellowstone drama for the first time.

In a new, far-ranging interview with Deadline, Costner gave his most frank assessment of the situation thus far, telling the publication, "I haven’t felt good about it the last year, what with the way they’ve talked about it. It wasn’t truthful. So now I’m talking about a little bit about what the real truth of it was." He explained, "I made a contract for seasons five, six and seven. In February, after a two- or three-month negotiation, they made another contract. They wanted to redo that one, and instead of seasons six and seven, it was [season] 5A and 5B, and maybe we’ll do six."

john dutton on yellowstone
Costner has played Dutton family patriarch John since the first season of Yellowstone. Emerson Miller for Paramount

As to the rumors that he prioritized Horizon's filming over Yellowstone, Costner called the allegations, "bullshit," and "a lie," saying, "Horizon was set in the middle, but Yellowstone was first position. I fit [Horizon] into the gaps. They just kept moving their gaps."

"I left my movie to be on time for them for [season] 5B. I left exactly when they wanted, and it made it hard on me. It turns out they didn’t have the scripts for 5B," he continued. "What you read in the end was that I said, 'Well, look, I’m doing my movie. If you want me to work a week because you want to kill me or whatever else, I can give you a week.'... And then they [spun that] into, I only wanted to work a week."

Among the rumors about Costner's exit, one of the biggest and longest lasting has been that there was friction between the star and Yellowstone's creator, Taylor Sheridan, who also serves as the writer for the series.

When asked whether he and Sheridan could sort out a return for Costner if they sat down "man-to-man," Costner said, "Well, we did on the first one, and that’s why I signed [on to do season 5B].... I was straight up with him and he said what we would do and I believed him and we didn’t get there."

As for why the production underwent such a delay between the first half of season five and the second, Costner revealed the scripts hadn't been written. "They wrote these other three shows," he said, evidently in reference to the slate of Paramount+ shows Sheridan also writes for, including the Yellowstone prequel 1923. "They don’t ever talk about that." When it was implied in the interview that Sheridan might be over-committed, Costner merely said, "He should be the main voice of [Yellowstone] and all those other things. But everybody lives with a contract and they were comfortable signing."

yellowstone world premiere
Taylor Sheridan and Kevin Costner at the debut of the Yellowstone premiere in 2018. David Crotty - Getty Images

So if his problem with the show wasn't Sheridan, where does he place the blame for his exit? Seemingly on the network and production company. "It’s just that simple: Paramount and 101 Studios mismanaged this. They had me for five, six, and seven. I agreed to do it. And then they steadily began changing their format."

In a blow for fans who have continued to hope to see Costner make one final appearance as John Dutton, the actor apparently confirmed what has long been speculated. "No. I didn’t shoot 5B. There was no script. And then things imploded," he said, later adding, "I’m not involved in any of that stuff."

However, he did offer one ray of hope for John Dutton's future as well. "I’m very open to coming back," the star said. "If they’ve got so many other things going on, maybe this circles back and it’s a really cool two seasons. Or end it, if the writing’s there and I’m happy with it. I’m open to that. But I took a beating over these guys not speaking up for me and allowing crazy stories to come out."

Yellowstone season five part two is currently scheduled to begin airing in November 2024.

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