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Yellowstone: This Cast Demand Enraged Taylor Sheridan & Made HBO Drop The Show

These days, Taylor Sheridan is one of the pre-eminent creative minds in all of Hollywood, seemingly able to conjure ideas for hit television shows in his sleep. His first small screen hit was, of course, Paramount Network's beloved Western saga "Yellowstone." The series debuted in 2018 with screen legend Kevin Costner headlining the cast, and has remained a ratings juggernaut for Paramount ever since. It seems, however, the series almost debuted with another screen icon in the lead, and on another network entirely. 

That network was reportedly HBO, whom Sheridan pitched the idea for "Yellowstone" to some years back. As the story goes, HBO was initially very interested in Sheridan's "'The Godfather' in Montana" concept, assuming he could land a major star to play the role of overbearing patriarch John Dutton. Specifically, Sheridan claims HBO said if he landed Robert Redford, then "Yellowstone" would get a quick green light. That seemingly savvy casting note would come to enrage Sheridan, however, not because he couldn't land the legendary actor, but because he actually did.

Sheridan candidly recounted that story to The Hollywood Reporter during a recent interview, telling the publication he quickly set off to Park City, Utah and succeeded in convincing Redford to play the part. But according to Sheridan, when he reported the good news, his HBO bosses infuriatingly told him they meant to cast "a Robert Redford type," and not the star himself. Things understandably degraded from that point on, with HBO eventually killing the project altogether.

Yellowstone became a smash hit despite the casting debacle with HBO

Continuing the saga, Taylor Sheridan told The Hollywood Reporter the one saving grace in the almost comically absurd HBO casting debacle is that then outgoing boss Michael Lombardo (who'd long championed Sheridan's vision for "Yellowstone") was kind enough to return the series' rights. As noted by THR, the move was a rarity from HBO which, like many other networks, tends to retain rights to even shows they reject lest the become a hit for another network. So even as Sheridan's falling out with HBO should've been the end of his Montana melodrama, it somehow served as a new beginning.

Despite the new life bestowed upon "Yellowstone," the show's path to the small screen was very much of the uphill sort, with Sheridan claiming the show was rejected by virtually every studio in town before Paramount Network finally got on board. And even then, Sheridan points out that the cable station was hardly a hotbed of creative activity before "Yellowstone" debuted. In fact, the series pretty much put Paramount Network on the map.

As for the role of John Dutton, Robert Redford obviously did not stick around to play the part in the cable realm, with Kevin Costner stepping into the role for the show's small screen debut. Though things have reportedly soured a bit with Costner ahead of the final run of "Yellowstone" episodes, few could argue the actor hasn't carried the role of John Dutton with fiery sort of stoic grace over the series' blockbuster run. So much so it's hard to imagine anyone — even the great Robert Redford — playing the part any better.