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'Yellowstone' creator Taylor Sheridan says he's 'disappointed' about Kevin Costner's exit

Kevin Costner arrives at the Pre-Grammy Gala held at The Beverly Hilton on February 4, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Variety via Getty Images)
Paramount Network still hopes to lure back Kevin Costner for a few scenes to close out his Yellowstone storyline. (Photo: Mark Von Holden/Variety via Getty Images)

Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan says he's "disappointed" about Kevin Costner's exit, but it's out of his control.

Sheridan discusses the rumors around the star's headline-making departure — as well as the fate of rancher John Dutton III as the Paramount Network show concludes — in a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter. He says he and Costner always had open communication — until lawyers got involved.

"My last conversation with Kevin was that he had this passion project he wanted to direct," Sheridan said of Costner's four-part movie series, titled Horizon: An American Saga, which the actor-director mortgaged his home to fund. "He and the network were arguing about when he could be done with Yellowstone. I said, 'We can certainly work a schedule toward [his preferred exit date],' which we did."

Taylor Sheridan, left, and Kevin Costner cast members in the Paramount Network series 'Yellowstone' pose for a portrait during the 2018 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at the Langham Hotel on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
Taylor Sheridan, left, and Kevin Costner at 2018 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour on Jan. 15, 2018. (Photo: Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

The Dances With Wolves star, who won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Drama in January, had reportedly been trying to reduce the number of days he spent making Yellowstone, which premiered in 2018. Originally he spent 65 days shooting, but wanted to only shoot 50 for the first part of Season 5, which aired its midseason finale on Jan. 1. When it came to scheduling the second half of the season, six episodes, Costner reportedly wanted to truncate it into one week, leading to an impasse with the network. However, Costner's lawyer denied he requested to shoot in one week. Costner insiders claimed the actor was frustrated with behind the scenes delays and alleged differences with Sheridan. Ultimately, Paramount announced the hit show will end at the end of Season 5. It was originally to return this summer, but was pushed to November. Now, it could be delayed further due to the writers strike.

"My opinion of Kevin as an actor hasn't altered," Sheridan said. "His creation of John Dutton is symbolic and powerful ... and I've never had an issue with Kevin that he and I couldn’t work out on the phone. But once lawyers get involved, then people don't get to talk to each other and start saying things that aren't true and attempt to shift blame based on how the press or public seem to be reacting. He took a lot of this on the chin and I don't know that anyone deserves it. His movie seems to be a great priority to him and he wants to shift focus. I sure hope [the movie is] worth it — and that it’s a good one."

Sheridan addressed rumors that he and Costner had a blowup on set during which he told the Academy Award winner to "stick to acting." He said, "I never had that conversation with Kevin." He said he was receptive to Costner's thoughts, and they even tweaked the direction of the character after Costner's feedback in Season 2.

When Sheridan was asked if he could have handled the situation with Costner differently, he replied, "I didn’t do anything to begin with! I don't dictate the schedule. I don't determine when things start filming. I don’t determine when things air. Those decisions are made by people way above me. My sphere of control is the content — that's it. No production of mine has ever waited on me. Believe me, I begged [for more time] with 1883. I begged with 1923. Begged. Nope, 'Airdate locked; for what we pay you, figure it out.' And I don’t stand in a corner and go, 'I'm not going to do it.'"

He also talked about the fate of John Dutton III with Sheridan saying the behind-the-scenes drama won't change his vision.

"I don’t do f***-you car crashes,” Sheridan said, referring to the revenge killing a character over behind-the-scenes drama. "Whether [Dutton's fate] inflates [Costner's] ego or insults is collateral damage that I don't factor in with regard to storytelling."

And while it all sounds so final, the outlet noted that discussions are continuing to get Costner to return to shoot a few scenes to wrap up his storyline.

"I'm disappointed," Sheridan admitted. "It truncates the closure of his character. It doesn't alter it, but it truncates it."

However, he did suggest that the final episodes of Yellowstone could be extended past the final six.

"If I think it takes 10 episodes to wrap it up, they'll give me 10," he said. "It'll be as long as it needs to be."

As for the Yellowstone sequel reported to be starring Matthew McConaughey, Sheridan teased that the actor "seems like a natural fit." He also teased other Yellowstone prequels, in addition to 1883 and 1923, saying, "As long as I do my job well, and people don't bore of the genre, I think there will be enough for many more [prequels] — three or four."

Yellowstone is just one of Costner's dramas at the moment. Another is his ongoing divorce from second wife, Christine, with whom he shares three children: Cayden, 16, Hayes, 14, and Grace, 13. Costner, a father of seven, accused his estranged spouse of refusing to leave their home — per their premarital agreement — in a legal back-and-forth.

However, the show is very much playing into the divorce. After his wife filed for divorce in May, Costner denied that an extramarital affair on the set of Yellowstone was behind the split. Now, in newly filed court papers, Christine denied she pressured Costner to leave Yellowstone.

Photo by: NDZ/STAR MAX/IPx 2023 5/3/23 Kevin Costner's wife Christine Baumgartner files for divorce after 18 years of marriage. STAR MAX File Photo: 12/10/16 Christine Baumgartner and Kevin Costner attend the
Kevin Costner and wife Christine at the Hidden Figures premiere in December 2016. (Photo: AP Images)

In court documents filed Friday in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Barbara, Christine, said Costner's "public attacks on me are harmful for our family." She said she's "avoided being public about the reasons for our divorce ... to protect our family's privacy."

She added, "I did not pressure Kevin to leave the Yellowstone show."

A Costner family source reportedly told People magazine that the actor's demanding work schedule — as he juggled Yellowstone and Horizon — was difficult for Christine before she pulled the plug on the marriage.

Additional court documents state that Christine is seeking $248,000 a month in child support. It's noted that the figure "is less than the amount needed to maintain the children in their accustomed lifestyle," and Christine also requesting that Costner pay 100% of private-school tuition, extracurricular activities/sports and health-care expenses for their kids.

The docs also claim Costner's 2022 income was $19,517,0641. After expenses and taxes, he netted $7,595,520. Some of the family's expenses listed included regular travel to the Caribbean, Hawaii and Aspen, as well as entertaining. It also stated that the upkeep of their many properties is about $2 million a year.