Looks like Kevin Costner is officially ending his time on the Dutton ranch. Ending months of speculation, Paramount Network announced Friday that Taylor Sheridan's hit Western series Yellowstone would be hanging up its spurs after its current fifth season returns for the final batch of episodes in November. But the show's legacy will continue in a new sequel series that Costner will most likely not be a part of.
"Yellowstone has been the cornerstone on which we have launched an entire universe of global hits — from 1883 to Tulsa King, and I am confident our Yellowstone sequel will be another big hit, thanks to the brilliant creative mind of Taylor Sheridan and our incredible casts who bring these shows to life," said Chris McCarthy, President & CEO Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios, in a statement provided to Yahoo Entertainment.
"The Dutton story continues, picking up where Yellowstone leaves off in another epic tale. We are thrilled to bring this new journey to audiences around the world," added David Glasser, CEO, 101 Studios, which co-produces the series with Showtime/MTV.
This announcement comes on the heels of reports that Costner was on the verge of breaking up with Sheridan's hit Western series and a lynchpin of Paramount's TV and streaming ambitions. Sources told Entertainment Tonight that the Dances With Wolves star wouldn't be returning to the series after the current fifth season. Meanwhile, the New York Post previously reported in April that Yellowstone will end after the remaining episodes of Season 5 are completed.
Given the studio's investment in Sheridan's ever-expanding universe — not to mention the huge ratings for both the main series and its Paramount+ spinoffs 1883 and 1923 — there was always little chance of the Yellowstone franchise going away entirely, even if Costner departed. But the face of the franchise will definitely look a little different going forward. Here's what you need to know about what's happening behind the scenes.
Did Kevin Costner quit Yellowstone?
Prior to Yellowstone's launch in 2018, Costner had largely phased out of a decades-spanning "leading man" era that included such major motion pictures as Bull Durham, Dances With Wolves and Waterworld. Instead, the Oscar-winning actor and director was largely taking supporting roles in everything from Man of Steel to Hidden Figures. Like many movie stars of his generation — think Jessica Lange on American Horror Story and Jeff Daniels on The Newsroom — Costner pivoted to television in search of meaty star turns. And he's certainly front and center in Yellowstone as John Dutton III, the ranch owner that's been fending off challenges to his throne for five seasons now.
Costner's still-potent star power helped Yellowstone get on the air and bring in an audience that's swelled throughout additional seasons. (The Season 5 premiere attracted a record 12.1 million viewers last November.) But according to Variety, as the show's popularity grew, the actor started to scale back his shooting days in what can be a grueling TV schedule. Deadline reports that Costner previously limited his time on set to 65 days and tried to reduce that to 50 days for the first part of Season 5, which aired its midseason finale on Jan. 1.
For the second half of the season, Costner supposedly informed Paramount that he wanted to shoot all of his scenes in a week, a request that could be due to the fact that he's also in the middle of directing and starring in the feature film Horizon for New Line Cinema. Paramount reportedly rejected that proposal, creating the current stalemate. Costner's lawyer, Marty Singer, told Puck that such a story is false.
"The idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of Season 5 of Yellowstone is an absolute lie," he said Feb. 17. "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."
A rep for Paramount responded in the same publication: "As we previously stated, Kevin has been a key component of the success of our Yellowstone series, and we hope that continues from here on out."
Paramount's announcement about the end of Yellowstone and the launch of the sequel series notably doesn't mention if Costner will return to complete the rest of Season 5, but one way or another John Dutton III's story is coming to a close.
When will production on Season 5 resume?
The Yellowstone cast has been in a holding pattern ever since the simmering situation between Costner and Sheridan burst out into the open. According to Entertainment Tonight, there's still no word on when the other actors will return to Montana to finish the remaining episodes. But Paramount's announcement that the rest of the season will air in November suggests that they have a production timetable in mind.
Potentially complicating matters is the Writers Guild of America strike that began on May 1, which could impact production should Sheridan join his fellow guild members on the picket line. (The Yellowstone creator hasn't publicly commented about the strike.) And then there are the looming negotiations between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. Failure to reach a deal with all three guilds could result in a full work-stoppage.
With those obstacles in the Duttons's path, meeting that November premiere date could be an issue.
Will Matthew McConaughey join the Dutton clan in the sequel series?
Here's how you know the Yellowstone franchise will be alright alright alright. Even before the Costner news broke, Paramount was reportedly in talks with Texas's biggest movie star, Matthew McConaughey, about headlining yet another spinoff. According to Deadline, the still-untitled show — may we suggest Magic Matt? — would take place in another corner of the Yellowstone universe and could potentially bring over some of the other stars of the mothership series, including Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser and Kelly Reilly. Deadline's sources also indicate that Paramount is now actively pursuing the spinoff as they continue to negotiate with Costner about Yellowstone's future.
Not surprisingly, Paramount isn't announcing that the Dallas Buyers Club Oscar-winner has actually signed on the dotted line. "Thanks to the brilliant mind of Taylor Sheridan, we are always working on franchise expansions of this incredible world he has built," the same Paramount spokesperson told Deadline. "Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we’d love to partner."
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, it's not uncommon for studios to use this kind of brinkmanship to make a star think twice about leaving. Floating the idea of ending Yellowstone in favor of a McConaughey-led spinoff could be a negotiating tactic to find common ground with Costner over an agreeable number of shooting days for the current and potential future seasons of Yellowstone. After all, you wouldn't want to leave the guy with... No Way Out.
What does this mean for Faith Hill and Harrison Ford?
Regardless of what happens with Costner, the Yellowstone spinoffs 1883 and 1923 will continue to mosey along the Paramount+ prairie. Although the 19th century set prequel series that depicted the founding of the Dutton ranch — and featured Faith Hill as Costner's grand-grandmother — came to a definitive conclusion, Sheridan revealed that Season 2 would focus on a different Old West yarn in that same era. Bring on 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, starring David Oyelowo as the first Black man to patrol the Wild West as a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Dennis Quaid will also appear in the show as as a fictional lawman.
Meanwhile, the pre-Great Depression series 1923 — starring Harrison Ford as Costner's great-great uncle — was just picked up for Season 2 in February. With strong ratings for the series, it's likely to continue into the actual Great Depression as well.
What new Yellowstone shows are on the horizon?
Believe it or not, there's still one more Yellowstone spinoff that has yet to gallop onto screens. One of those is called 6666, which is not set in the distant future. Instead, the title refers to a famous West Texas ranch that was seen on Season 4 of Yellowstone. Originally announced in 2021, the series will also take place in the 19th century and depict the early history of the ranch. No casting has been revealed for 6666, but Paramount would like it to launch on Paramount Network later this year — especially if the studio is about to say "So long, pardner" to Costner.
Yellowstone currently airs on the Paramount Network; past seasons are streaming on Peacock.
This story was originally published Feb. 7 and has been updated.