If you’re curious whether the relationship between Kevin Costner and the producers and cast of Yellowstone has improved lately, Paramount declined to give Costner a courtesy heads up before the announcement Friday that the biggest show on TV is ending in November. So… not great. Per multiple sources involved in this high-stakes, months-long standoff, Costner, who’s busy shooting the sequel to his still-undated Horizon film, hasn’t agreed to return at all for the final episodes, which were being written by co-creator Taylor Sheridan prior to Monday’s WGA strike and were planned for a summer and fall shoot.
Over the past couple months, various Costner scenarios have been floated, per sources close to the production. Paramount’s Chris McCarthy and Yellowstone producer David Glasser suggested anywhere from 30 days to 45 days of shooting; Costner’s team has countered with a range from one week to three weeks, with the latest interactions suggesting the lower end of that timeline. Paramount has been waiting a while for Costner’s lawyer, Howard Kaplan, to provide a final answer on what Costner is willing to do, so McCarthy just decided to announce the end date for the episodes, the first few of which have been written with flexibility to allow for various levels of Costner involvement (or non-involvement). Remember, this show was supposed to air its 5B season in June. Given how long Costner has jerked around the show’s creatives and executives, I’d probably do the same.
One amusing wrinkle: I’m told Costner, who’s making $1.2 million per episode this season, won’t commit to returning until he finds out and is comfortable with how his John Dutton character is written out of the franchise. Costner is pretty savvy, and he wants to prevent what Shonda Rhimes did to Patrick Dempsey, killing off the race car-driving Grey’s Anatomy star in an F-you car accident. So Sheridan may not be able to dispose of his Western-loving leading man via a kick from an angry horse.
As for Matthew McConaughey, the potential lead of the follow-up series, he’s pretty much in, I’m told. This unnamed spin-off will be the first with Yellowstone in the title, and thus the first show with that valuable moniker on Paramount+ in the U.S., not Peacock. But Paramount can’t announce McConaughey until executives figure out the shooting schedule and other logistics for Yellowstone: McConaughey, and that’s dependent on both the WGA strike and on Costner and his ongoing Yellowstone tantrum. (A rep for Paramount and Costner’s litigator Marty Singer both declined to comment.)