Kevin Costner has said that he has severed ties with “Yellowstone” and is “no longer under contract” for the Paramount Network drama, raising fresh questions about the conclusion of the hugely popular series.
In court documents related to his increasingly acrimonious divorce from his second wife, Christine Baumgartner, the actor explicitly states that he is not expecting to receive any monetary compensation from the series, apart from “back-end contractual participation rights.”
“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,” Costner said in a June 30 declaration, which was obtained by Insider.
The 68-year-old actor — who in 2022 earned a reported $1.3 million per episode of the show — said that the fixed amount “pay-or-play” and episodic compensation he received for the neo-Western series had ceased, and “so far in 2023 I have yet to receive any participation compensation from ‘Yellowstone.'”
Reserved for in-demand actors, directors, and other high-profile individuals in Hollywood, a “pay-or-play” deal guarantees participants payment, even if they are released from their contract.
Costner continued: “Now, any compensation I earn from ‘Yellowstone’ will derive only from my back-end contractual participation rights, which amounts are not fixed.”
“The most recent report from the producer for ‘Yellowstone’ shows I am not now owed any participation money,” he said, adding that he has “disputed this.”
It was previously believed that Costner would appear in the final run of episodes to wrap up things for his character, John Dutton, who audiences last saw in the January 1 midseason finale facing impeachment from his role as Montana governor.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter last month, series cocreator Taylor Sheridan seemed to be under the impression that Costner would be reprising his role as the aging rancher, and further hinted that the ending of “Yellowstone” will see Costner’s character killed off.
Sheridan said that while the “Field of Dreams” star’s decision to leave the show “truncates the closure of his character,” he has had the character’s fate, and the ending of the show, planned out since the early days of “Yellowstone.”
However, there’s now a question of whether that death will have to occur off-screen if Costner does not return to set to film scenes, given that he no longer has a legal obligation to do so.
There are also other issues hanging over “Yellowstone’s” final run of episodes.
It was previously announced that the latter half of season five will debut in November 2023, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely given that Sheridan has said the episodes have yet to be written, let alone shot and edited.
In the Hollywood Reporter article, Sheridan said he is currently not writing in solidarity with the ongoing writers’ strike, something that is also delaying production on the second season of the prequel series, “1923,” and has put a pin in the development of the upcoming “Yellowstone” spinoff starring Matthew McConaughey.
Representatives for Costner, Sheridan, and Paramount Network did not respond to requests for comment.
Costner made the comment about the status of his “Yellowstone” contract while clarifying his cash flow for the calendar year after his estranged wife requested $248,000 in monthly child support to maintain the lifestyle the couple’s three children — Cayden, 16, Hayes, 14, and Grace, 13 — are used to.
The actor, who began starring in “Yellowstone” in 2018, also said that he first made his soon-to-be ex-wife aware that he was thinking about leaving the hugely popular television series last year, and told her that “2023 would be a difficult year financially.”
Costner said he also communicated to his wife that he was going to “defer” his salary for his upcoming four-movie Western saga, “Horizon,” which he is co-writing, producing, directing, and starring in, leaving the family with less disposable income than the previous few years.
Handbag designer Baumgartner was married to the “Dances With Wolves” star for 18 years before she filed for divorce in May, citing “irreconcilable differences.”