Yellowstone is reportedly in limbo amid behind-the-scenes tension between Kevin Costner and creator Taylor Sheridan. As the show’s diehard fans wait to see how the alleged drama will shake out, ET is taking a look at the supposed rift and what lead to up to it.
ET sat down with reporter Matthew Belloni, founding partner of Puck News and the first to report on the on-set challenges and disagreements that have reportedly plagued the show during its fifth season.
According to Belloni, the drama is rooted in several possible factors, including scheduling disagreements, pay disputes and personal friction between different key players.
“Kevin Costner is famously headstrong and he has been at odds with Taylor Sheridan, the creator of this show, for months now over the days that he’s gonna be shooting for the next part of the season,” Belloni said.
According to a report earlier this month, Costner allegedly requested one week of shooting to complete the remaining eight episodes in the back half of season 5, which is slated to air in the summer. His request was allegedly denied by Paramount Network.
Belloni told ET that some feel Costner has “a pretty big ego” and that this likely “came to the forefront on Yellowstone, especially recently, as has a passion project that he’s wanted to do for a long time — to direct this movie called Horizon, which is a western that he’s directing and starring in.”
“He really wanted to put that in front of Yellowstone, and the producers of Yellowstone said, ‘Hey, the show is your first priority, we’re paying you a lot of money to do this show.’ And Kevin just was very headstrong and wanted his way,” Belloni stated. “This was a fight that has been playing out for the past few months now behind the scenes.”
On Wednesday, Costner’s attorney, Marty Singer, released a statement to ET denying reports about Costner’s schedule request.
“The idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of season 5 of Yellowstone is an absolute lie. It’s ridiculous,” Singer stated. “As everyone who knows anything about Kevin is well aware, he is incredibly passionate about the show and has always gone way above and beyond to ensure its success.”
However, there have also been reports that Costner is unhappy with having to work outside of his established shooting period.
“The way Yellowstone is shot is that Costner comes to the set for a certain period of time,” Belloni said. “And he is taking the position that, for anything outside of his contractually obligated time during shooting, he should be paid extra for it. But in Hollywood, it’s sort of an unwritten rule that you promote your show or your movie when it comes time to do that.”
“Costner was asking for extra money to promote his show and that was seen by producers as a little bit of a money grab for a guy who was paid extraordinarily well for his services,” Belloni said.
In July 2022, Variety reported that Costner is the highest-paid actor on TV, making well over $1 million per episode.
“According to my sources, Costner makes about $1.2 million per episode for Yellowstone, and that’s in addition to an overall deal that he has which pays him extra money,” Belloni said. “So he makes more than $20 million a season if it goes 16 episodes, as is planned this season.”
“If Yellowstone is picked up for a 6th season, and Costner is on the show for the 6th season, he will get $1.5 million per episode,” Belloni said, citing Costner’s contract and seniority on the show.
However, it’s still very much up in the air as to whether or not another season will happen, or what will even happen with the remaining episodes in season 5.
“Yellowstone is really in limbo right now until they can figure out whether Costner is coming back or, more likely, whether he’s going to be written out of the show,” Belloni stated. “Once that determination is made, they can finish writing the second half of this season, shoot it, and it will likely air in the fall.”
“What makes this so dramatic, and potentially so financially meaningful, is that Yellowstone is the number one show on television when you look at viewership,” he continued. “It’s also spun off all of these spin-offs and they have plans for many more of these shows — and Costner is the anchor of all of it.”
In the wake of the success of Yellowstone, Sheridan also created two prequel series — 1883 and the follow-up series 1923, which each tell the stories of different generations of the Dutton family — of which Costner plays the current patriarch.
That being said, Belloni feels it’s unlikely Costner and Yellowstone‘s producers will likely be able to move past the tension in the long run.
“I think the negativity right now has gotten to a point where it’s going to be very difficult for him to come back to the show,” Belloni said. “If I had to bet, I would say that he’s probably going to leave and that the show will end and they will do a new version of Yellowstone starring Matthew McConaughey, some other actor… maybe they end it entirely and start fresh with new people. But my guess is that the version of Yellowstone that we know is probably going to end with this season.”
A spokesperson for Paramount Network told ET in a statement at the time, “We have no news to report. Kevin Costner is a big part of Yellowstone and we hope that’s the case for a long time to come. Thanks to the brilliant mind of Taylor Sheridan, we are always working on franchise expansions of this incredible world he has built. Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we’d love to partner.”
For more on the ongoing Yellowstone drama, check out the video below.