Kevin Costner makes 'Yellowstone' exit official, says he won't return for final season: How we got here

Kevin Costner confirms he will not return to Yellowstone now or in the future.
Kevin Costner confirms he will not return to Yellowstone now or in the future. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

After leaving the door open for a return to Yellowstone, Kevin Costner let fans know he will not reprise his award-winning role as John Dutton. The news comes hours after Paramount announced a Nov. 10 premiere date for the second half of the fifth — and final — season of Taylor Sheridan's western drama.

Costner, who's in the middle of a publicity blitz for Horizon: An American Saga, the first of his four epic Western films, informed fans of his decision Thursday on social media.

“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,” he revealed.

"It was something that really changed me. I loved it, and I know you loved it. I just wanted to let you know that I won't be returning," he concluded, “I love the relationship we've been able to develop, and I'll see you at the movies.”

Costner officially ended the will-he-or-won't-he narrative that's played out in the press for more than a year. Speaking onToday five days ago, he said he would love to return to the series "under the right circumstances."

Take a look back at how we got to this point.

Deadline reported Costner was likely exiting the series due to disagreements over shooting schedules. Sources claimed the Oscar winner was prioritizing his Horizon films over the series. (He disputes this, but more on that later.) It was shocking given Yellowstone's Season 5 premiere broke records as did the midseason finale in January 2023.

"We have no news to report. Kevin Costner is a big part of Yellowstone and we hope that’s the case for a long time to come," a Paramount Network spokesperson said in a statement.

A Puck News report outlined alleged tension between Sheridan and Costner.

Rumors of behind-the-scenes issues escalated when series leads canceled a planned appearance in front of media and fans last minute. Some of the cast confirmed to Yahoo that the back half of Season 5 had not been filmed and scripts were still being worked on. Keith Cox, president of development and production at Paramount Network, told the crowd he was "very confident" that Costner would return.

"Yellowstone" show creator Taylor Sheridan signs autographs for fans at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo in February 2023. (Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
"Yellowstone" show creator Taylor Sheridan signs autographs for fans at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo in February 2023. (Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) (Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Getty Images)

Sheridan addressed the rumors to the Hollywood Reporter: "My last conversation with Kevin was that he had this passion project he wanted to direct. 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."

Sheridan said he was "disappointed" by Costner's decision to exit. "It truncates the closure of his character. It doesn't alter it, but it truncates it."

In the same article, sources close to Costner disputed claims he was the one who held up filming as there were no scripts. An insider claimed Costner was unfairly portrayed as prioritizing the Horizon films, in which he stars and directs. "How can you schedule something when there are no scripts? [Sheridan's] doing eight other shows," the insider claimed.

Costner spoke out as part of a child support hearing amid his contentious divorce from Christine Baumgartner. He wanted to return for another season, but said it couldn't happen.

"We tried to negotiate, they offered me less money than previous seasons, there were issues with the creative," he testified.

Costner was set to receive $12 million for each part of Season 5. Before walking away from the show, he told his agents, "Have them pay me whatever number, we came up with a number, and they [Yellowstone] walked away." He said he'll "probably go to court over" whether he gets a payout for the second half of season two.

"I'd like to be able to do it but we haven't been able to," he told Entertainment Tonight. "I thought I was going to make seven [seasons] but right now we're at five. 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."

Speaking to the press for the first time since drama unfolded, Costner said he did not prioritize Horizon over Yellowstone.

"I made a contract for seasons 5, 6 and 7. In February, after a two- or three-month negotiation, they made another contract. They wanted to redo that one, and instead of seasons 6 and 7, it was 5A and 5B, and maybe we’ll do 6. They weren’t able to make those. Horizon was set in the middle, but Yellowstone was first position. I fit [Horizon] into the gaps. They just kept moving their gaps," he told Deadline.

Costner said he's "taken a beating from those f***ing guys and I know a lot of times where it's coming from."

"But if you know me well enough, I made Yellowstone the first priority, and to insinuate anything else would be wrong. I did not initiate any of those things. They did," he declared.

Costner told Today's Savannah Guthrie on June 17 he'd "love to go back under the right circumstances I think that all of us want." He added, "There's always a chance."

"I love the thing," he declared. "You’ve got to be really clear about that."

In an interview with People published on June 19, he lifted the lid on his Yellowstone contract.

"When it was first pitched to me by Taylor it was one season and [like] a long movie, which [is] speaking my language," Costner explained. He said he happily "stepped up" and said he'd do it for three seasons. "I ended up doing it for five."

Coster said he would have continued on: "There was a moment where that show for me stopped for 14 months. ... That's the fact. I could have done a lot of things in that time, but I wasn't aware that that [hold-up] was going to happen."

The actor said he was disappointed that no one came to his defense in the press when rumors were flying a year prior. "There came a moment where I thought, 'Wow, when is somebody going to say something about what I have done versus what I haven't done?'"

On June 20, Costner addressed fans directly and said definitively he wouldn’t return: "I'm not going to be able to continue Season 5B or into the future."