Kevin Costner announces he is leaving Yellowstone

<span>Kevin Costner in a scene from Yellowstone. The actor says he has quit the popular series to focus on his own series of Western movies.</span><span>Photograph: AP</span>
Kevin Costner in a scene from Yellowstone. The actor says he has quit the popular series to focus on his own series of Western movies.Photograph: AP

Kevin Costner has announced that he will not be returning to Yellowstone, confirming long-running speculation that he is done with Taylor Sheridan’s hit Western series.

The 69-year-old actor posted a video on Instagram on Thursday in which he said he was now focused on making Horizon: An American Saga, his series of Western films, the first part of which premiered at this year’s Cannes film festival.

“I just want to reach out and let you know that after this long year and a half of working on Horizon and doing all the things that that’s required,” Costner said. “Thinking about Yellowstone, that beloved series that I love, that I know you love. I just realized that I’m not going to be able to continue, season five or into the future.”

Costner said that Yellowstone “was something that really changed me”.

Related: Yellowstone: the smash-hit TV show that exposed a cultural divide

“I loved it and I know you loved it. I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be returning,” he said. “I love the relationships that I’ve been able to develop. And I’ll see you at the movies.”

Costner plays the patriarch cowboy John Dutton in Yellowstone, which has been a huge hit and made Costner one of the highest-paid actors in television. It has also spawned two prequel series: 1883, starring Sam Elliott, and 1923, starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren.

Yellowstone is currently in its fifth and final season, but the show has been on hiatus since 2022. Only eight of the 14 episodes have aired, with delays attributed to the Hollywood strikes and reports of tension between Costner and the show’s producers over his decision to focus on making his films.

Costner has variously spoken of his plans to return to Yellowstone and distanced himself from it. During his divorce hearing last year, Costner told the court he may sue the show’s producers over unpaid salary, claiming he was owed $12m for the second half of season five that he had not yet received due to the delays in production, because of a “pay or play” clause in his contract.

“I will probably go to court over it,” he said, calling it a “long, hard-fought negotiation” with the show’s network, Paramount.

Costner also claimed he signed a contract to appear in a sixth and seventh season, but “I couldn’t help them any more. We tried to negotiate, they offered me less money than previous seasons [and] there were issues with the creative.”

He disputed reports that he had demanded fewer shooting days on Yellowstone to make Horizon, telling Deadline: “I have taken a beating from those fucking guys … I made Yellowstone the first priority, and to insinuate anything else would be wrong.”

Paramount has previously declined to comment about anything to do with the negotiations.

Yellowstone’s creator, Sheridan, has previously said he would be “disappointed” by Costner’s likely departure, saying: “It truncates the closure of his character. It doesn’t alter it, but it truncates it.”

Costner has recently suggested he would consider coming back, however. Just days ago, he told the Today show that he return “under the right circumstances”, adding: “Saying there’s a chance, there’s always a chance. I love the thing. You’ve got to be really clear about that.”

The actor has focused his energy and personal wealth on his Horizon films, which he is directing, co-writing, producing and starring in. The first Horizon film cost $100m to make, with Costner putting in $38m of his own money to fund it. The second film is due out on 16 August.

The final six episodes of Yellowstone are currently in production and will air in November.