Since the news broke earlier this year that the hit western drama Yellowstone will be ending after season 5, apparently in large part due to the exit of star Kevin Costner, speculation has swirled as to why the actor would choose to depart the successful series. Last week, as part of his ongoing divorce from wife Christine Baumgartner, Costner revealed new details in court about the issue, including the contributing factors that led to his decision to leave the show.
One of the factors, according to Costner, was the choice to split season five into two parts, requiring two separate periods of filming before the season could be completed. Per People, he said that there was a "long, hard-fought negotiation" over the decision, which would force him to take more time away from the four-film Civil War saga Horizon, which he is writing, directing, and starring in. Costner said he had altered his schedule on Horizon to accommodate the first half of Yellowstone season 5, but that as negotiations began, "they still hadn’t finished," the first half of the season and there were "no scripts written" for the second half.
He told the court that at one point he had his representatives reach out to the network to, "have them pay me whatever number, we came up with a number," he later said he believed the number was $12 million, "and they walked away.”
"I couldn’t help them any more," Costner also testified. "We tried to negotiate, they offered me less money than previous seasons, there were issues with the creative…" While Costner did not go into detail over what creative issues he was referring to, it's long been speculated that Costner and Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan were at odds on some aspects of the show's creative direction.
In June 2023, Sheridan admitted to THR that he and Costner had not always agreed on Costner's character, John Dutton, but explained, "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 added, "[Costner] took a lot of this on the chin and I don’t know that anyone deserves it."
As for his potential appearance in the still-to-be-filmed second half of season 5, the only hint Costner offered during the proceeding was to say that he "will probably go to court over," a payout for the episodes.
This note seems to echo previous documents obtained by Insider in July 2023, in which Costner wrote, "I will earn substantially less in 2023 than I did in 2022. This is because I am no longer under contract for 'Yellowstone,' the principal source of my income last year."
Though neither Costner nor representatives from Yellowstone have officially confirmed whether the actor will make any final appearances in the show's final episodes, these indications make that seem increasingly unlikely.
Yellowstone was originally scheduled to debut its final episodes beginning this summer. That date was later pushed back to November, however the ongoing strikes of both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have shut down filming across most of the industry (including the Yellowstone prequel 1923). The season has yet to be officially delayed, but it's widely expected that the second half of the season will be pushed back once again. CBS is set to begin airing previous season of the series in September.
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