Is this the end of Yellowstone as we know it?
For the past two months, rumors have circulated that TV's biggest drama series may be ending due to a dispute with its star, Kevin Costner. While the details remain murky, the behind-the-scenes tension escalated over the weekend after the cast, Costner included, bizarrely skipped out on an event they were expected to attend, frustrating fans and leaving them more uncertain about the series' future than ever.
Deadline broke the shock news in February that Yellowstone may be ending entirely thanks to an ongoing scheduling standoff with Kevin Costner, who plays patriarch John Dutton.
This report said that Yellowstone showrunner Taylor Sheridan and Paramount Network are planning to end the wildly popular western in its current form and that the issue involves disagreements with Costner over his shooting schedule. The current fifth season was split into two parts, and Costner only wanted to shoot for 50 days for the season's first part and then a mere one week for the second part, according to Deadline. "This has been a source of frustration for Sheridan and it is understood to be causing morale problems for the other stars of the show," Deadline said.
Paramount reportedly rejected Costner's proposed schedule, and the network was instead said to be plotting a new Yellowstone spinoff starring Matthew McConaughey, which could effectively replace the flagship show centered around Costner. In fact, Deadline reported that several stars from the original Yellowstone were expected to move over to this McConaughey series, though it wasn't clear who. In response, Paramount Network said it had "no news to report" but that Costner "is a big part of Yellowstone and we hope that's the case for a long time to come."
Later that month, Costner's litigator, Marty Singer, told Puck that "the idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of Season 5 of Yellowstone is an absolute lie," adding, "It's ridiculous — and anyone suggesting it shouldn't be believed for one second. 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."
Puck also provided new details about the standoff, reporting that Costner blames these scheduling issues on the fact that the fifth season of Yellowstone "was supposed to finish shooting in its entirety" last year, but Sheridan didn't deliver scripts on time. But even before this, the cast, crew, and executives on Yellowstone "have been frustrated by [Costner's] ego and his unavailability for a few years now," Puck said. In 2022, he reportedly negotiated for shorter shooting windows so he could work on the movie Horizon, a western that he's directing and starring in. Despite this movie not even having a release date, Costner is already plotting Horizon 2 and told Paramount that this will keep him busy from March through October, Puck reports. Sheridan, meanwhile, is reportedly "furious" and can't finish writing the second half of the fifth season without knowing if Costner is staying or going.
So long, partner?
This uncertainty has persisted for weeks, but the behind-the-scenes drama recently took a dramatic new turn. On April 1, the cast and creator of Yellowstone were scheduled to appear for a panel at the television festival PaleyFest in Hollywood, but nearly everyone failed to show up.
Costner and Sheridan, as well as stars Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Kelsey Asbille, Wes Bentley, Gil Birmingham, and Jacki Weaver were all scheduled for the event but did not attend, enraging fans who purchased a ticket, according to Variety. Instead, just four cast members were there: Josh Lucas, Wendy Moniz, Mo Brings Plenty, and Dawn Olivieri. Variety said that "scheduling conflicts" were supposedly to blame, though there was immediate speculation that the issues with Costner and uncertainty over the upcoming episodes played a part.
Still, Paramount Network executive Keith Cox said at the panel he's "very confident" that Costner is "going to continue with our show," without providing any definitive announcements. But the cast also said that filming for the second half of the fifth season hasn't started and they don't know when it will, even though the show was supposed to return this summer. Meanwhile, Paramount executive Chris McCarthy told The Hollywood Reporter that the McConaughey series will be moving forward regardless of what happens with Costner. Several other Yellowstone spinoffs are also already on the way, including 6666 and 1944, not to mention a second season of 1923, the prequel starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren.
As far as Costner goes, though, it still hasn't been confirmed that if Paramount builds a new season of Yellowstone, he will come.