It’s hard to imagine Yellowstone without Kevin Costner. But, the legendary actor wasn’t the first choice for the role of John Dutton, according to the show’s creator, Taylor Sheridan.
In a new interview with Hollywood Reporter, Taylor Sheridan detailed the lengths he went to to get Yellowstone on television and have it done the way he wanted. While pitching the show to different networks, Sheridan was in talks with HBO about casting. Kevin Costner was Taylor’s first pick to take on the lead role of John Dutton, but the HBO execs didn’t agree.
“They said, ‘We want Robert Redford,’” Sheridan shared. “They said, ‘If you can get us Robert Redford, we’ll greenlight the pilot.’”
So Sheridan took their advice to heart and went to see Robert Redford.
“I drive to Sundance and spend the day with him and he agrees to play John Dutton,” Sheridan says. “I call the senior vice president in charge of production and say, ‘I got him!’ ‘You got who?’ ‘Robert Redford.’ ‘What?!‘ ‘You said if I got Robert Redford, you’d greenlight the show.’“
But the response he got wasn’t what he expected. “We meant a Robert Redford type,” the execs told him.
The deal with HBO eventually fell through as Sheridan realized that they didn’t “appreciate his story.” Not only did HBO think that a show like Yellowstone was taking a “step backward,” they disliked some of the characters such as Beth, John Dutton’s daughter.
“‘We think she’s too abrasive,’” Sheridan quotes. “‘We want to tone her down. Women won’t like her.’ They were wrong, because Beth says the quiet part out loud every time. When someone’s rude to you in a restaurant, or cuts you off in the parking lot, Beth says the thing you wish you’d said.”
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Taylor Sheridan didn’t back down. Instead he kept pitching the show, with some of Hollywood’s biggest networks rejecting it, until Paramount decided to take a chance. Sheridan told the Hollywood Reporter that he warned the network that they would have no creative control and would be spending a lot of money.
Shortly after Yellowstone’s debut in 2018, it became the most popular show on cable.
“People couldn’t understand how a linear cable channel that no one can even find suddenly had the biggest show on television,” Sheridan says. “Because it has cowboys and this is supposed to be a dead genre, right? Of course, that’s not what the show is really about, that’s just the sugar on the pill.”
Despite Yellowstone’s massive success, the show is set to end with its fifth season, the second half of which is yet to be filmed.
The abrupt conclusion of the hit series is due to lead actor Kevin Costner’s desire to leave the show to focus on his own four-movie series, Horizon, a movie he had been trying to make for 35 years.
Though disappointed with Kevin’s exit from Yellowstone, Sheridan agreed to work around his schedule and give John Dutton’s character a memorable conclusion.
It’s unclear when the second half of Yellowstone‘s final season will film and air, but one thing is certain….Yellowstone wouldn’t have been the same with anyone other than Kevin Costner taking the lead.