The fate of Yellowstone — and its upcoming sequel series — is again in jeopardy.
Several of the hit show’s main cast, including Kelly Reilly, Cole Hauser and Luke Grimes, are all requesting significant increases in their per-episode fees to star on the upcoming follow-up show.
However, Paramount is balking at the raises, which amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars per star, according to Puck News.
Both Reilly and Hauser are reportedly seeking rates of over $1 million per episode of the new show, while negotiation requests for Grimes — who recently confirmed that he’s releasing his debut full-length album — aren’t fully clear.
However, a bigger sticking point appears to be some of the actors’ contention that they should appear first in the credits on the new show, ahead of the new lead actor Matthew McConaughey, who has not yet signed on for the series.
The latest slowdown in negotiations comes after original Yellowstone star Kevin Costner was written off the show for the second half of its fifth and final season after he requested more money and a significantly shorter shooting schedule to accommodate the two-part Western epic film he directing and starring in, Horizon.
According to Puck, series co-creator Taylor Sheridan — who is writing the follow-up series — didn’t originally plan to include Reilly, Hauser and Grimes in the new series.
An unnamed source says that Sheridan agreed to use the actors after they were pitched as a way to help bridge the original Yellowstone and the new series, though it’s unclear if that claim might be a negotiating strategy to make the actors’ role in the new show seem more tenuous.
However, Paramount appears to want to keep the actors on board to make sure that the sequel can achieve similar success as Yellowstone.
Kelly Reilly, who plays Beth Dutton, the daughter of Costner’s character John Dutton III, reportedly made an opening request of $1.5 million per episode of the new show, though she’s reportedly now asking for significantly less at $1.2 million per episode.
Her current salary hasn’t been shared, but she is reportedly still asking for a significant raise.
Reilly’s agent reportedly put together a collection of memes and social media posts about her character to show just how much of a fan favorite she is during negotiations.
Cole Hauser, who stars as Rip Wheeler, initially asked for $1.25 million, though it’s not clear if his current ask has gone down yet.
That would also be a major raise for him, as he currently makes just $700,000 per Yellowstone episode.
Paramount has allegedly offered him $850,000 for each season one episode and $950,000 per episode of season two, which is guaranteed.
Reilly and Hauser apparently see themselves as the top players on the new show, and they have reportedly requested to have their names listed above intended star Matthew McConaughey in the show’s credits, which seems unlikely considering his significantly greater star power.
Grimes is in a somewhat different position, as his is also requesting a raise, but his initial demands were either less significant, or he has negotiated them down faster than his costars.
Puck also reported that McConaughey won’t be signing on to the show until he has a chance to read a script, so his future with the show is still very much up in the air.
However, producers are reportedly much closer to signing Michelle Pfeiffer to the show.
They are said to be close to finalizing a deal within a week or two, though Pfeiffer could still walk away at that point if it doesn’t appeal to her.
She would play a female lead on the show, adding even more star power to the new show than the original Yellowstone, which large focused on Costner initially, though the supporting cast rose in prominence over time.
However, Reilly and Hauser’s demands related to McConaughey and Pfeiffer could complicate negotiations. They are both asking to have their names listed first in the credits — above McConaughey and Pfeiffer — despite both A-listers being significantly bigger draws.
That ask may just be a maximalist negotiating position, as it is unlikely to be approved by Paramount, which likely wants the two stars at the top of the bill to help publicize the new show.
McConaughey and Pfeiffer would also likely expect top billing since they are considerably more famous than their potential future costars.
In order to get around Reilly, Hauser and Grimes’ requests for bigger salaries, Paramount is proposing using part of their guaranteed salaries for the sixth season of Yellowstone — which will not be made — to help pay for those increases.
However, the actors are reportedly pushing back, as they say that would violate the original agreement, as they were promised that season six money regardless of whether it was produced, and the raises should apply to their new show salaries.
Paramount is reportedly trying to get the actors to live with the loss in exchange for potentially years of guaranteed high salaries on the Yellowstone sequel, assuming it can match the original’s success.
The studio has now reportedly sent a ‘harsh letter’ seeking to end the negotiations with a ‘take-it-or-leave-it deadline.’