Warner Bros. has released the first teaser for Kevin Costner’s new film series, Horizon: An American Saga. Costner’s sprawling Western passion project may have inadvertently led to the demise of Yellowstone after the film’s shooting schedule reportedly caused tension with the series’ showrunner Taylor Sheridan.
News of Yellowstone’s abrupt conclusion broke in May, after weeks of reports that leading man Costner and Yellowstone creator Sheridan couldn’t come to an agreement over scheduling and pay to complete the second half of the Paramount series’ fifth season.
One of those disputes was reportedly related to Horizon: An American Saga, a two-part film series directed, produced, and co-written by Costner, who will also star. The Western epic will span two installments, both set to release in summer 2024. Newsweek has reached out to Kevin Costner and Taylor Sheridan for comment via email.
Here’s everything to know about the Oscar winner’s ambitious new project, and how it may have led to the death of one of TV’s biggest shows.
What Is Horizon: An American Saga About?
Horizon: An American Saga is the first project Costner has directed since Open Range—also a Western—in 2003.
In an interview with Variety, the 68-year-old said that the Horizon films are separate stories that interlink. Set during the settlement of America’s Western frontier, the films span a 15-year period that covers before and after the Civil War.
“You’re watching a saga of these storylines that are happening,” he told the publication in June. Horizon will focus on both settler groups and the Native Americans that call the land their home — themes that are similar to that of Yellowstone and its prequels 1883 and 1923.
“It’s a really beautiful story; it’s a hard story,” Costner said. “It really involves a lot of women, to be honest. There are a lot of men in it, too, but the women are really strong in Horizon. It’s just them trying to get by every day in a world that was impossibly tough.”
Here’s how Warner Bros. describes the two films: “In the great tradition of Warner Bros. Pictures’ iconic Westerns, Horizon: An American Saga explores the lure of the Old West and how it was won—and lost—through the blood, sweat and tears of many. Spanning the four years of the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, Costner’s ambitious cinematic adventure will take audiences on an emotional journey across a country at war with itself, experienced through the lens of families, friends and foes all attempting to discover what it truly means to be the United States of America.”
When Will Horizon: An American Saga Be Released?
Horizon: Chapter 1 is set to release on June 28, 2024, followed by Chapter 2 on August 16, 2024. Originally, Costner planned four installments, with a new chapter released every four months. Production for the first two movies is complete, with the third chapter on hold due to the now-concluded writers’ strike and ongoing actors’ strike.
Who Stars in Horizon: An American Saga?
Did Costner’s Work on Horizon: An American Saga Affect Yellowstone?
Although Yellowstone focuses on the sprawling Dutton family and those surrounding them, Costner’s role as patriarch John Dutton is crucial to the narrative—with the actor winning a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the ranch owner. In April, rumors began to swirl that Costner and series creator Taylor Sheridan had been at loggerheads over the show’s direction for a while, leaving its future uncertain.
According to Daily Mail, the 52-year-old showrunner—who also helms spin-offs 1883 and 1923—had “developed a God complex” behind the scenes, leading to a breakdown in his relationship with Costner, who is also an executive producer on the show.
“Kevin will forever be proud of and grateful for Yellowstone and the cast is like family to him,” a source told the publication.
“He just felt like Yellowstone is headed in a direction that was not in line with their initial vision and he was met with criticism, including that he should just stick to acting.”
Meanwhile, a report from Puck alleged “many of Costner’s Yellowstone cast, crew, and executives have been frustrated by his ego and his unavailability for a few years now.” The actor had reportedly negotiated short shooting windows for Season 5 in order to focus on Horizon, and only offered a week to film the back half of the season, followed by two days of pick-ups, which was said to have placed strain on the rest of the cast and crew.
In response, Costner’s attorney Marty Singer called the reports “an absolute lie.”
“It’s ridiculous—and anyone suggesting it shouldn’t be believed for one second,” Singer told Puck in February. “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.”
Costner reportedly blamed script delays for the production issues; Sheridan writes every episode of Yellowstone and its spinoffs himself, and reportedly got behind schedule on delivering episodes. Costner reportedly made himself available for filming in both late 2022 and early 2023, but the scripts were not ready.
“Kevin’s been extremely cooperative with working with Taylor and his production company, 101 Studios,” a source told the New York Post. “They were supposed to shoot the second chapter of season five late last year, but they just didn’t have the scripts.”
Whatever happened between Costner and Sheridan behind the scenes, Paramount ultimately decided to end Yellowstone in its current form following the conclusion of the still-incomplete Season 5B. The studio instead greenlit a sequel series, which will reportedly star Matthew McConaughey and is expected to bring back a number of other Yellowstone cast members without Costner.
“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,” said Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios, in a statement in May.
“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,” added David Glasser, CEO of 101 Studios, who produces Yellowstone.
Sheridan is also working on a second season of Yellowstone prequel 1923, and another spinoff in the Yellowstone universe, set around the franchise’s rival 6666 ranch. The prolific producer also oversees a number of other dramas for Paramount, including the Zoe Saldana and Nicole Kidman series Special Ops: Lioness, Sylvester Stallone’s Tulsa King, Jeremy Renner’s Mayor of Kingstown and the upcoming David Oyelowo limited series Lawmen: Bass Reeves.