Taylor Sheridan Revealed The Major Screen Legend Who Agreed To Play John Dutton When ‘Yellowstone’ Was In Development For HBO

Before Yellowstone became the crown jewel of the Paramount Network and turned creator Taylor Sheridan into the architect of a massive TV empire, the western series was knocking around HBO.

However, short-sighted execs at the premium channel weren’t entirely sold on the sprawling cowboy drama and voiced concerns that it felt “too Middle America.” Determined to make the series work, Sheridan continued to jump through hoops and even went so far as locking down a major actor to play Yellowstone patriarch John Dutton. It was quite the casting coup, so the prolific writer was not exactly thrilled to learn that HBO didn’t expect him to take their instructions literally.

Via The Hollywood Reporter:

“They said, ‘We want Robert Redford,’ ” Sheridan recalls. “They said, ‘If you can get us Robert Redford, we’ll greenlight the pilot.’ “

Being a can-do type of guy, Sheridan went to visit Robert Redford.

“I drive to Sundance and spend the day with him and he agrees to play John Dutton,” Sheridan says. “I call the senior vice president in charge of production and say, ‘I got him!’ ‘You got who?’ ‘Robert Redford.’ ‘What?!‘ ‘You said if I got Robert Redford, you’d greenlight the show.’ “

“And he says — and you can’t make this shit up — ‘We meant a Robert Redford type.’ ”

The Robert Redford incident was the beginning of the end of Sheridan trying to make Yellowstone work at HBO. (He’d later hang up on execs during a notes call.) Normally, that would’ve been the end of line for the show, but to Sheridan’s credit, he had impressed then-programming president Michael Lombardo, who was always supportive of the show. Just before Lombardo fired during a regime change, he managed to return the rights to Yellowstone to Sheridan, and the rest is TV history.

(Via The Hollywood Reporter)