- Kevin Costner has played John Dutton III on Yellowstone for five seasons, but the latest could be his last.
- A combination of tensions behind the scenes and pay disputes has led to reports that Yellowstone could be set to end entirely.
- Creator Taylor Sheridan and Paramount have been broadening the Yellowstone universe by launching spinoffs and prequels.
Despite winning a Golden Globe for his performance as John Dutton III in Yellowstone, Kevin Costner’s time on the show could be nearing an end.
Rumors have circulated for months that the lead cast member in Taylor Sheridan’s contemporary Western may be leaving. There have been reports that some cast members don’t get on behind the scenes, and a recent quote from a newcomer to the series suggested Costner’s days are numbered.
If Costner—and his character, the Dutton family’s patriarch—leaves Yellowstone, could the show continue?
Yellowstone is in the middle of a midseason break and is set to return for the second part of Season 5 in the summer.
Kevin Costner Behind the Scenes
In recent years, multiple reports have said there have been tensions on the set, most recently between Costner and Sheridan, the show’s co-creator and showrunner.
Entertainment Tonight reported in February that the latest dispute was over “scheduling disagreements, pay disputes and personal friction between different key players.”
However, as some reports were questioning Costner’s on-set behavior, his attorney, Marty Singer, refuted the allegations.
“The idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of Season 5 of Yellowstone is an absolute lie,” Singer said in a statement to Puck News in February. “It’s ridiculous—and anyone suggesting it shouldn’t be believed for one second.”
The rumors persisted though. The New York Post said a source with insider knowledge told it that “there’s respect but there’s friction” between Costner and Sheridan.
However, several cast members have spoken to Newsweek in the past about Costner, and none of them have suggested there are any problems with the actor.
Ahead of Season 5’s launch, Newsweek asked actress Kelly Reilly if Costner is a father figure to the cast members, as his character is on the show. “No, no, Kevin is the patriarch actor, the leading actor, and he’s the head of our show for sure. But he does not take on fatherly duties with any of us,” said Reilly, who plays Beth Dutton.
New cast member Lilli Kay, who plays John Dutton III’s assistant, called Costner a “wonderful scene partner.” She told Newsweek in January 2023, “He’s so generous and collaborative, and just really takes the work really seriously after having been doing this for his whole life. He is still so deeply committed to the work.”
A new cast member got the rumor mill flowing with a recent quote. Dawn Olivieri appeared as a Dutton ancestor in the spinoff show 1883 before returning as Sarah Attwood in Season 5. Addressing Costner’s rumored exit from the show, Olivieri didn’t dismiss the suggestion.
“‘Sometimes we have to own the fact that nothing is forever and impermanence is the single thing we can count on. And that life is like that,” she said at Paleyfest in Los Angeles earlier this month, according to the Daily Mail.
Costner and the cast of Yellowstone were expected to attend Paleyfest, a huge TV festival, for an in-person discussion on April 1, but the event drastically changed minutes before it started. Fans were promised Costner, Sheridan, Reilly and more major cast members. But instead, because of “scheduling conflicts,” the lineup featured Keith Cox, president of scripted at MTV Entertainment Studios, and actors Mo Brings Plenty, Olivieri, Josh Lucas and Wendy Moniz.
Any discussion of tensions among the Yellowstone cast members comes as Costner’s star is shining bright this year. He won a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a television series – drama. Costner wasn’t present at the ceremony, but he posted his acceptance speech weeks later with an Instagram video. He didn’t mention Yellowstone or anyone on the show as he held up his award in the video.
A Yellowstone Without Kevin Costner?
On top of the allegations about behind the scenes friction, reports have emerged that Costner, who Variety suggests is making $1.3 million per episode, would get even more money if he starred in a sixth season.
Actor and crew member arguments are nothing new in the entertainment industry. Stefano Da Frè, a movie director and the CEO of production company Rosso Films International, addressed whether Yellowstone could survive without Costner.
“Yellowstone lead Kevin Costner is rumored to have had arguments on the set with other crew members repeatedly. When this happens, both the showrunners, producers and writers will be brought into a large meeting, together over several months, to find the best exit strategy for Costner’s character,” Da Frè told Newsweek.
If Costner were to return as John Dutton III in Season 6, he would earn $1.5 million per episode, according to Matthew Belloni, a reporter and founding partner of Puck News, as reported by Entertainment Tonight.
“[Costner] makes more than $20 million a season if it goes 16 episodes, as is planned this season,” Belloni said.
With that in mind, and with the previous scheduling conflicts and reports of a cast fallout, could Yellowstone continue to thrive without Costner?
“Having a series star leave a show whether on amicable terms or poor terms can have a detrimental effect on the financial success of a show’s ability to survive,” Da Frè said. “For example, in Season 7 when Steve Carell left The Office, many die-hard fans cited this as the crucial moment in the show’s history when it began going downhill.
“More importantly, studios and television networks are faced with the philosophical question of whether this gamble will pay off,” he said.
While the show has undoubtedly become a massive hit for Sheridan and the Paramount Network, both have been diversifying the Yellowstone portfolio by creating and planning more spinoffs.
The first prequel series, 1883, was a smash as a Paramount+ exclusive, and its follow-up, 1923, landed film stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as its leads. The latter has also been well received by fans, with Season 1 ending in February and Season 2 expected to begin late this year.
Not only are there shows continuing the Dutton family story, but the Yellowstone franchise is moving some characters from Montana to Texas, at the Four Sixes Ranch in the upcoming show 6666. And another period piece is coming, Bass Reeves, which is about the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi, who is played by David Oyelowo.
So even if Yellowstone does come to an end after the Season 5 finale, fans will still have more content to consume, and the Paramount executives will have more projects to cash in on.
Da Frè said, “Ultimately, whatever happens to Kevin Costner’s character on Yellowstone, you can be sure that the executives of that show will be asking themselves, ‘Will this risk pay off?’ As long as the studio feels confident that viewers will remain loyal to [Yellowstone], then anything is possible in Hollywood.”
Newsweek reached out for comment via email to Paramount Network and Costner’s representatives.
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