Hollywood Outlaw: Why Kevin Costner Takes Big Risks, Follows His Heart, And Remains Fiercely Independent

Imagine starring in one of the biggest shows of the modern TV landscape and thinking about an exit strategy.

That’s reportedly where Kevin Costner stands with “Yellowstone.”

The runaway smash, which already inspired two successful spinoffs (“1883” and “1923”), is reportedly nearing the end of its run thanks to Costner.

A Deadline exclusive says show creator Taylor Sheridan is looking to wrap the current show and extend the Dutton clan’s story into a new series reportedly anchored by Matthew McConaughey. Costner wants to work much less on the project, allegedly forcing Sheridan’s hand.

Paramount, which oversees “Yellowstone,” offered a generic non-denial denial of the Deadline reportage.

Costner craves time for other projects, Deadline reports, like his upcoming, multi-part Western, “Horizon.” The actor, who earned a Best Director Oscar for “Dances with Wolves,” is directing and starring in the ambitious oater.

Did Costner learn nothing from David Caruso, Wil Wheaton, and Sherry Stringfield, TV stars who later regretted leaving their popular shows?

None of those actors can measure up to Costner, a genuine Hollywood rebel.

He takes big, bold swings and often misses, but he has faith in his talent and ability to connect with the American public. Time has proven him (mostly) right over the years.

The actor’s most infamous role landed on the cutting room floor. The young actor played Alex, the friend whose death reunites the old pals played by Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Kline, Glenn Close and JoBeth Williams in 1983’s “The Big Chill.”

Costner’s big flashback scene didn’t make the finished print, but it only delayed his fame.

He anchored 1987’s “The Untouchables,” with his Gary Cooper-esque appeal making him a star. He followed it up with a string of pop culture smashes, including “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” and “No Way Out.”

The 1990 Western “Dances with Wolves” found him behind the camera, earning a Best Director Oscar for his troubles. More hits followed, including “JFK” and “The Bodyguard.” Even his terrible accent as the titular hero in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” couldn’t derail his stardom.

The 1995 adventure “Waterworld” did just that.

Costner helped sink his own fame with the gargantuan dud, which generated toxic press for its ballooning budget even though the bottom line proved less frightening than the media suggested.

His follow-up directorial effort, “The Postman,” similarly sank, but with far less fanfare.

Costner never stopped working, even if the misses (“The Guardian,” “Swing Vote,” “Draft Day”) began outweighing the hits (“Man of Steel,” “Hidden Figures”).

He struck career gold anew with “Yellowstone,” a neo-Western that appealed to red state viewers in a way few shows could. The sprawling saga, staged on Montana’s beautiful vistas, combined solid storytelling with classic Western tropes.

Costner may be bringing that chapter of his career to a close, but it shouldn’t surprise us.

The actor often sticks his neck out in ways that make little sense on the surface. The star’s Heartland appeal, never stronger than it is today, took a hit last year when he endorsed Rep. Liz Cheney, President Donald Trump’s fiercest critic.

He defended his stance during a USA Today interview. “I didn’t really care how the cookie crumbles, that people that liked me now don’t like me…that’s OK.”

That approach goes both ways.

Costner reached across the aisle at roughly the same time. He lent his gravitas to Fox Nation’s “Yellowstone: One-Fifty,” a four-part docuseries honoring the legendary park.

Most A-list stars wouldn’t go near an unabashedly conservative platform like Fox Nation, fearing the impact it could have on their career. Costner, who leans to the Left but not aggressively so, saw the project’s potential above and beyond any career recriminations.

He followed his heart, noting what the park means to him and the country as a whole. “The reality is that America’s so big and Yellowstone reminds you of what the country might have looked like before there was any outsiders that ever came,” he said.

Costner has used his celebrity clout to promote select causes over the years. He saw Pete Buttigieg as a possible presidential candidate during the 2020 campaign. His brand of politics is passionate, not ugly.

He doesn’t weigh in on every mass shooting, eager to score cheap political points. Nor does he directly insult Americans who don’t agree with his worldview.

At 68, Costner knows the juiciest scripts may no longer reach him. That means echoing the progressive line would do his career good. He’s not interested in that pragmatic approach, according to a 2020 chat with The Daily Beast.

“I’m an independent. I vote for who I think has the best interests of the country and how we sit in the world … If someone is lying to their base, lying to the general public, then they’re not serving any purpose — other than for themselves.”

This reporter once gleaned a behind-the-scenes story about Costner that speaks to his nature.

Actor Bruce Greenwood shared how Costner fought, and fought hard, for him when he battled throat issues during the production of the 2000 drama “13 Days,” set around the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The film’s studio considered replacing Greenwood, cast as President John F. Kennedy, due to the throat ailment. He couldn’t say his lines with the authority the part required. It’s hard to blame the studio for being worried.

Costner stuck by Greenwood, giving him the emotional support needed to battle through the issue and keep the gig.

“Thirteen Days” underwhelmed at the box office, but Greenwood won’t soon forget how his fellow actor, then a major Hollywood player, had his back.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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