Kevin Costner is leaving ‘Yellowstone’ before the final season is over. Here’s a complete timeline of the behind-the-scenes drama.

Kevin Costner announced that he won’t be returning to “Yellowstone,” leaving the hit show without its star for the final episodes.

On Thursday, Paramount announced that season five part two, the final season of “Yellowstone” will premiere on November 11.

On the same day, Costner shared a short clip on Instagram telling fans that he won’t be returning for the second half of season five, which is the show’s last season.

“I loved it, and I know you loved it. I just wanted to let you know that I won’t be returning,” Costner said.

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The news is a big blow to “Yellowstone,” which in recent years became one of the most-watched TV series on cable in the US, without the help of critical acclaim or media coverage.

The ranch drama story appeals to viewers in many smaller cities across the US, bolstered by the star power of Costner, who has built a reputation for starring in Westerns.

But last year, rumors started that the series was going to come to a premature end due to a disagreement over the filming schedule between Costner, “Yellowstone” showrunner Taylor Sheridan, Paramount Global, and Paramount Network.

Paramount denied the rumors for months and then announced in May 2023 that the series would end with season five, which would be split into two parts.

Costner returned for the first half, but it was unclear whether he would stay for the second since he told his child support hearing in September 2023 that he tried to negotiate against the split season decision. He said the filming schedule would conflict with his own Western film series, “Horizon.”

Here’s a timeline of the events that led to “Yellowstone” premature end and Costner’s departure.

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In February 2023, it was reported that “Yellowstone” may be coming to a premature end.
Kevin Costner and Taylor Sheridan of ‘Yellowstone’ speak onstage during the Paramount Network portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 15, 2018 in Pasadena, California.
Kevin Costner and Taylor Sheridan of “Yellowstone” speak onstage at the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour on January 15, 2018, in Pasadena, California. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
The biggest cliffhanger in the latest season of Paramount Network’s wildly popular drama “Yellowstone” wasn’t delivered on screen but behind the camera.

Viewers learned via a Deadline report a month after the midseason finale aired that the future of the Dutton saga was in jeopardy following an alleged falling out between creator Taylor Sheridan and lead star Kevin Costner.

The outlet reported that cocreator and showrunner Sheridan, Paramount Global, and Paramount Network were looking to end the neo-Western drama after its current fifth season because of disagreements with Costner over shooting schedules.

The actor, who has been portraying protagonist John Dutton in the rating juggernaut since 2018, reportedly wanted to cut back his number of days filming on location for the remaining episodes of season five.

According to the report, the “Field of Dreams” star limited himself to being on set for just 50 days across the eight episodes which have already aired and wanted to only spend a week filming the remaining six installments.

It added that the scheduling conflicts had become a sourcee of frustration for Sheridan and caused morale problems for the other stars of the show.

The same report stated that Matthew McConaughey was in talks to lead a new as-yet-untitled spinoff that will continue the franchise.
According to rumors, Matthew McConaughey has been approached to star in a new “Yellowstone” universe series.
According to rumors, Matthew McConaughey has been approached to star in a new “Yellowstone” universe series. Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Alongside the news that “Yellowstone” could be ending, Deadline also reported that the team behind the series was developing a franchise extension starring Matthew McConaughey after rejecting Costner’s latest attempt at a compromise over his shooting schedule.

It was reported at the time that the “True Detective” actor was still in the process of negotiations.

A Paramount spokesperson denied the claims but said that McConaughey is a “phenomenal talent” with whom they’d love to partner.
Matthew McConaughey leaning against a viewfinder
Paramount denied the reports but described Matthew McConaughey as a “phenomenal talent.” John Nacion/Getty
“We have no news to report,” a Paramount Network spokesperson responded when Insider reached out for comment in February 2023.

“Kevin Costner is a big part of ‘Yellowstone,’ and we hope that’s the case for a long time to come.”

Still, the statement didn’t exactly put to bed the rumors, going on to add: “Thanks to the brilliant mind of Taylor Sheridan, we are always working on franchise expansions of this incredible world he has built. Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we’d love to partner.”

Days later, Jamie Dutton actor Wes Bentley assured fans that it was a “bit of drama over nothing.”

Wes Bentley
Wes Bentley. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly at SCAD TVFest in February 2023, just days after the report, Bentley said that fans have nothing to worry about.

“The news that’s come out recently about the show is, you know, it’s above my pay grade. Different people making decisions,” the “American Horror Story” actor said.

“I know that they’re still working on… working things out with everyone, to make sure we shoot. And I’m confident we will. We always have before. I think it’s probably a bit of drama over nothing.”

When Costner gave his Golden Globes acceptance speech for best actor in a TV drama, he didn’t acknowledge the rumors, nor thank his “Yellowstone” team.

Kevin Costner attends the premiere party for Paramount Network's "Yellowstone" Season 2 at Lombardi House on May 30, 2019 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Costner attends the premiere party for Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone” Season 2 at Lombardi House on May 30, 2019, in Los Angeles, California. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

After being forced to skip the ceremony due to severe flooding near his home in Santa Barbara, on February 14, 2023 — just a week after the explosive rumors came to light — Costner posted a video of himself unboxing the trophy from his bed and shared a few words of gratitude.

He said “it feels really good” to finally receive recognition for his role in the drama, but didn’t mention “Yellowstone” by name nor give thanks to cocreator Sheridan or any of the other cast members in his list of thank yous.

Costner’s lawyer said that claims that his client only wanted to spend a week filming the rest of season five were “an absolute lie.”

Kevin Costner as John Dutton in "Yellowstone."
Kevin Costner as John Dutton in “Yellowstone.” Paramount Network

Speaking to Puck in February 2023, the actor’s litigator, Marty Singer, said the reports about his client were “ridiculous” but didn’t speak to what Costner’s future on the show looks like.

“The idea that Kevin was only willing to work one week on the second half of season five of ‘Yellowstone’ is an absolute lie,” he said.

“It’s ridiculous — and anyone suggesting it shouldn’t be believed for one second,” he continued. “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.”

In March 2023, Paramount confirmed that McConaughey’s “Yellowstone” spinoff was officially moving forward regardless of Costner’s future.

Matthew McConaughey at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2019 in Austin, Texas
Matthew McConaughey at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 7, 2019, in Austin, Texas Tim Warner/Getty Images

In a wide-ranging interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount Media Networks president Chris McCarthy confirmed that the rumored McConaughey-led spinoff of the popular series was moving forward, regardless of whether Costner returned to the original or not.

The outlet reported that it was one of more than 10 projects that Sheridan has lined up for the network.

As for Costner’s future, he didn’t have any updates to share but did tell the publication that the flagship series “wouldn’t be what it is today without Kevin and we hope that that stays for a long time to come.”

In April 2023, the show’s main cast was expected to attend PaleyFest in Los Angeles but didn’t show up.

Yellowstone cast at PaleyFest 2023
The “Yellowstone” PaleyFest panel. Kirsten Acuna/Insider

Ahead of the show’s panel on April 1, 2023, attendees were promised a special screening followed by a conversation and Q&A with the series’ main cast.

The original list of those who were supposed to be there included Costner, Sheridan, and executive producer David Glasser, as well as cast members Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser, Luke Grimes, Kelsey Asbille, Wes Bentley, Gil Birmingham, and Jacki Weaver.

However, in a last-minute shakeup that felt like an April Fools’ Day prank, the entire lineup changed with none of the original talent present.

Instead, Josh Lucas, Dawn Olivieri, Wendy Moniz, and Mo Brings Plenty sat on the panel with Paramount Network development president Keith Cox.

Paramount Network’s president of development and production, Keith Cox, told audiences at PaleyFest that Costner wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Keith Cox, President, Development and Production for Paramount Network and TV Land on January 18, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
Keith Cox, President, Development and Production for Paramount Network and TV on January 18, 2023, in Los Angeles, California. Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Paramount+

Cox addressed the rumors about Costner as the panel, attended by Insider, kicked off.

“What I can say is our star, the face of our show, and executive producer, are very confident he is going to continue with our show,” said Cox.

When asked when we can expect production on the season to resume, Cox said an announcement will come “soon.”

He described the season’s remaining episodes as “phenomenal. I’m confident.”

Cast members confirmed that filming for the remainder of season five has yet to begin, despite the previous promise that it would air this summer.

The cast of "Yellowstone"
The cast of “Yellowstone.” Paramount Network

Speaking to Yahoo on the red carpet ahead of the panel in April 2023, the cast in attendance confirmed that the second half of season five — which viewers were promised would air “this summer” — had not yet started filming, nor have they been given a start date or seen scripts.

“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, who plays Lynelle Perry, said.

Plenty also confirmed that production had yet to begin, but said: “There’s some dates floating around.”

In May 2023, a new report stated that Costner would not be returning to “Yellowstone” after season five.

John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo) star in "Yellowstone."
John Dutton (Kevin Costner) and Summer Higgins (Piper Perabo) in “Yellowstone.” Paramount Network

Sources close to production said that Costner would exit the show following its fifth season, according to Entertainment Tonight.

The unnamed source told the outlet that there was still no news about when the cast and crew would be returning to set to finish the season. They did not speak to whether the show plans to continue without the actor after season five.

The news came just a day after it was announced that Costner was also facing some personal problems after his wife of 18 years filed for divorce.

It was announced on May 5, 2023 that “Yellowstone” is officially coming to an end, with the final episodes debuting in November 2023.

A new report in May stated that Costner would not be returning after season five of the show.
A new report in May 2023 stated that Costner would not be returning after season five of the show. Paramount Network

Just a day after ET’s explosive report, fans of the show got the news they were dreading: “Yellowstone” will indeed be coming to an end with its current fifth season, which will be making its return in November 2023.

However, the blow was softened by the news that a new untitled “Yellowstone” spinoff has been greenlit straight-to series and will premiere on Paramount Network and Paramount+ in December. Full casting for the series, it was promised, will be announced shortly.

Sharing the bittersweet news, Paramount exec Chris McCarthy said in a statement: “‘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.”

David Glasser, CEO of 101 Studios, the production company behind the franchise, added: “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.”

Production on the series was put on indefinite hold in July 2023 due to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA Hollywood strikes.

image of striking actors holding up picket signs in Hollywood
SAG-AFTRA union members went on strike on July 14. CHRIS DELMAS/Getty Images

After the Writers Guild of America strike was called on May 2, 2023, Sheridan stopped script work on the upcoming episodes, he revealed to The Hollywood Reporter.

Two months later, it was announced that the American actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, was going on strike over labor disputes with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, essentially putting “Yellowstone” — along with countless other television shows — on an indefinite hiatus.

The combined Hollywood strikes have also delayed production on the second season of the prequel series, “1923,” and have put a pin in the development of the upcoming “Yellowstone” spinoff starring Matthew McConaughey.

Costner broke his silence on his “Yellowstone” exit during a child support hearing in September 2023, revealing that the decision to split season five in half finalized his decision to leave.

‘Yellowstone’ has made Kevin Costner the most well-paid actor on television. Here’s how he makes and spends his millions.
Kevin Costner. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

In a child support hearing on September 1, 2023 — as part of his ongoing divorce from estranged wife Christine Baumgartner — Costner said that a “long, hard-fought negotiation” about breaking season five into two parts was behind his exit, according to People.

While on the stand, Costner stated that filming the series twice a year didn’t work with his plans for his four-film Western saga, “Horizon,” which he is cowriting, producing, directing, and starring in.

Costner said he “changed” his schedule to work on the second half of “Yellowstone” season five, per the outlet. “That’s a big deal in this world,” he added.

Costner added at the time of his departure, there were “no scripts written” for the second half of the season and that “they still hadn’t finished” the first half.

According to the actor, he made one final effort to return to the show, telling his representatives, “Have them pay me whatever number, we came up with a number, and they walked away.” He said he believed that number was $12 million.

People reported that when asked whether he’d receive a payout for the second half of season five, Costner said: “I will probably go to court over it.”

Costner reportedly wasn’t shy about making his demands known for his potential return.

Kevin Costner with his two sons
Kevin Costner. Getty Images

According to a report from Puck’s Matthew Belloni published in September 2023, Costner’s producing partner, Rod Lake, flew to New York earlier this year to meet with Paramount executive Keyes Hill-Edgar to convince him to reverse course after the show’s ending (without Costner) was announced.

While both parties reportedly seemed open to the possibility — Sheridan, who had finished the remainder of season 5 without Costner in mind, even offered to rewrite the scripts to feature Costner’s character John Dutton — things soon deteriorated, per Belloni.

During a call with Sheridan, Costner reportedly made some aggressive demands of the showrunner and Paramount, including a higher salary, limited shooting schedule, and the right to potentially turn down any scripts from Sheridan that he didn’t like.

The actor reportedly even has a “moral death” clause in his “Yellowstone” contract, to ensure that his character John Dutton isn’t killed off in an embarrassing or awkward way.

Costner says he hopes to return to “Yellowstone.”

Kevin Costner speaks onstage during CinemaCon.
Kevin Costner speaks onstage during CinemaCon at Caesars Palace on April 9, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jerod Harris/Getty Images for CinemaCon

In April 2024, Costner told Entertainment Tonight at Cinemacon that he would like to appear in the final episodes of “Yellowstone.”

“I’ve loved making that series. I made five seasons of it, thought I was going to make seven,” Costner said. “So how it works out, I hope it does, but they’ve got a lot of different shows going on. Maybe it will. Maybe this will circle back to me. If it does and I feel really comfortable with it, I’d love to do it.”Costner said he has his own ideas about what should happen to his character, John Dutton, but he’ll leave that for Sheridan to decide.

Costner blames Paramount and 101 Studios for the “Yellowstone” negotiations drama.

Kevin Costner as John Dutton in "Yellowstone."
Kevin Costner as John Dutton in “Yellowstone.” Cam McLeod/Paramount Network

In May, Costner shared his side of the “Yellowstone” negotiations drama during an interview with Deadline, saying that previous reports about the situation weren’t “truthful.”

Costner accused Paramount and 101 Studios of mismanaging the situation and not sticking up for him when stories came out that he didn’t want to be on set.

Costner said he was initially contracted for seasons five, six, and seven, but the deal was renegotiated in February, though Costner did not specify which year.

“They wanted to redo that one, and instead of seasons six and seven, it was 5A and 5B, and maybe we’ll do six,” Costner said, seemingly referring to Paramount and 101 Studios.

Costner said he always made “Yellowstone” his “first priority,” but said the show kept moving shoot dates, which affected the schedule for his “Horizon” movies.

Costner also hit back at reports that he was the reason for production delays last year. He said that during their shoots for season five, the crew wasn’t able to finish 10 episodes like they normally would, but it wasn’t his fault.

“I have taken a beating from those fucking guys, and I know a lot of times where it’s coming from. I just elected not to get into that,” Costner said, adding that reports that he only worked 43 days were “bullshit.”

Costner added that he returned across three months to shoot season five, part two, but said the scripts weren’t ready, so they couldn’t shoot anything.

Costner said he offered them an extra week to sort out the script or what they would do with his character, but he said this was spun into the idea that he only wanted to work a week.

“Do you think that’s who I am? I’ve never missed a day of work. I’ve never left before fulfilling my contractual obligations,” Costner said.

Costner also said he was inspired to start “Horizon” after Paramount and 101 Studios shut down a season for 14 months and “didn’t tell anybody” so he couldn’t work.

“I said, ‘I can’t ever go through that again, where you shut down for over a year and I don’t have something in line to do,’” Costner said. “I didn’t do Horizon because I was tired of doing Yellowstone. That’s a bullshit story. I didn’t do Horizon to compete with Yellowstone. This is something I’ve had a long time.”

Costner also said he was still open to returning to “Yellowstone” at this point.

A spokesperson for Paramount Network told Business Insider in on June 21: “Kevin has been a big part of Yellowstone’s success. While we had hoped that we would continue working with him, unfortunately, we could not find a window that worked for him, all the other talent and our production needs in order to move forward together.

“We respect that Kevin has prioritized his new film series and we wish him the best.”

Costner confirms he is not returning to “Yellowstone” after the final episodes get a release date.

Hayes and Kevin Costner dressed in white jackets and pants
Kevin Costner and his son Hayes at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. Andreas Rentz/Getty

On June 20, Paramount announced that the final episodes of “Yellowstone” will premiere on November 11 on Paramount+.

The same day, Costner said in an Instagram video that he won’t be returning to the series for these episodes.

“I just want to reach out and let you know that after this long year and a half of working on Horizon and doing all the things that’s required and thinking about Yellowstone, that beloved series that I love, that I know you love. I just realized that I’m not going to be able to continue, season 5b or into the future,” Costner said.

Costner added that he loved the show, and it “really changed” him.

“I love the relationships that I’ve been able to develop. And I’ll see you at the movies,” Costner said.

It appears the writers will have to find some way to end John Dutton’s story without Costner.

 

 

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