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Kevin Costner, 'Yellowstone' leads drop out of PaleyFest last minute fueling speculation of his exit

Wes Bentley, Gil Birmingham, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Costner, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille and Luke Grimes pose at a premiere party for Yellowstone season 2 in 2019.
Wes Bentley, Gil Birmingham, Kelly Reilly, Kevin Costner, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille and Luke Grimes pose at a premiere party for Yellowstone Season 2 in 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

Fans expecting to see Kevin Costner and Yellowstone's main cast at PaleyFest on Saturday night were sorely disappointed when the lineup changed at the last minute... and none of the leads showed up.

"Are you kidding?" one attendee at Hollywood's Dolby Theater was overheard saying as she got a glimpse at the new panel.

The highly publicized event, which is the nation's premiere TV festival, listed stars Costner, Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Kelsey Asbille, Wes Betley, Gil Birmingham and Jacki Weaver as attending the special screening and Q&A. Co-creator Taylor Sheridan was also touted to be there, along with executive-producer David Glassier and "additional guests," according to the official website. Well, none of those people came and it's only adding fuel to rumors that Costner's future on the hit show is in doubt.

The only Dutton who attended the event was Josh Lucas, who plays a younger John Dutton. Actors Mo Brings Plenty ("Mo"), Dawn Olivieri (Sarah Atwood) and Wendy Moniz (Lynette Perry) also appeared. But no one could share details on what the back half of Season 5 will look like because nothing's been filmed, which is pretty surprising given Yellowstone's immense popularity.

"I have no news to report. I just know that Taylor's writing and we know he's a prolific writer and I'm excited to see it when it comes," Moniz coyly told Yahoo Entertainment on the red carpet.

Although Plenty promised fans what's to come is "mind-blowing and wonderful," he confirmed to Yahoo that production has yet to begin. "There's some dates floating around," he added.

Yellowstone's Season 5 premiere broke records and January's midseason finale left fans wanting more. The show's return was initially slated for summer, although the Paramount+ teaser featured no new footage. In February, Deadline claimed that Sheridan and Paramount were considering taking Yellowstone in a new direction without Costner because of disagreements over shooting schedules. It was a shocking report as the Western drama is the most-watched show across cable and broadcast. Costner even won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a TV Drama earlier this year for his portrayal of John Dutton.

So, can the show really go on without Kevin Costner? Lucas theorized Costner's character could get killed off.

"I think Taylor's telling a show about life and death, floods and fires. People die and horses die, there's a lot of pain. I think part of it is he's always planned on, at some point, having Kevin die and having multiple characters die," Lucas said when asked by Yahoo. "And so, you know, that's just the evolution of what the ranch is. That's why when you see the cemetery... you see these names, I think it's, of course, going to evolve and change and I think that's what hopefully people will really like as it goes."

Moniz, whose character has been a love interest to Costner's Dutton, somewhat dodged the question. "Taylor is a brilliant, genius writer and I think — he's created all of this — I think he can do pretty much anything with his writing," she shared.

Keith Cox, president of development and production at Paramount Network, was the only additional guest who joined Saturday's panel and he told the crowd he was "very confident" that Costner would return. Regardless, it seems Paramount and Sheridan have made contingency plans as they've added more star power to the Yellowstone universe. Paramount boss Chris McCarthy recently confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Matthew McConaughey will star in a Yellowstone spinoff, regardless of whether Costner returns.

As for what's next with the original series? Millions of fans will just have to wait and see.