Kevin Costner Wants To Be Nominated For Yellowstone, And His Explanation Why Is So Relatable

John at the dinner table on Yellowstone
(Image credit: Paramount Network)

Given how long and successful Kevin Costner’s Hollywood career has been so far, one might be inclined to believe the ongoing surge of popularity for his Paramount Network neo-western Yellowstone is par for the course, and that he might take some of it for granted. That’s almost definitely not the case, however, as the Oscar- and Emmy-winning icon remains as humble and down-to-earth as he’s ever been. And though it may be almost stereotypical at this point for actors (and audiences) to voice the notion that entertainment awards aren’t so important, Costner offered a relatable explanation for why he’d been keen on winning the gold for playing John Dutton.

Kevin Costner was speaking with press to promote UK streaming audiences now having access to Paramount+ subscriptions, and when I asked how he would feel about landing award recognition for his Yellowstone role — he’d previously won acting and producing Emmys for the 2012 miniseries Hatfields & McCoys — Costner adeptly explained why an award in this case would help to vindicate the belief and passion that he’s had for Yellowstone since the beginning. Here’s how he began:

When you're recognized, that does mean something. You know, we're doing the same work we did four years ago, and trying to do it better each time, and people are catching up to it. Does it lead to an award? I don't know. But if it did, there would be a satisfaction with me, because the idea is, when I started this one, no one necessarily believed in it other than the studio and the director/writer. So I had a belief about what it could be, not that it was better than anything else. But I had a belief that it satisfied a couple of things that are important to me. It was highly original in its own terribly familiar way. And when we do all recognize that the meat gets to the restaurant somehow, then all sudden, we have kind of confirmation. 'Ah, yeah, people are still doing this, right. This is what they do.' So the idea of that to me, and then that people around the world are starting to relate to it, there's a level of satisfaction.

Clearly, Taylor Sheridan has become synonymous with “gripping storytelling” in recent years, but that wasn’t necessarily the case only a handful of years ago. The Yellowstone-verse will likely be his crowning achievement for years to come, though, thanks in no small part to Kevin Costner’s John Dutton being such a perfect anchor to tie all the pieces together. And considering he’s never been known for his TV work, it’s easy to imagine Costner would have turned down the role if he’d been anything less than fully engaged by the material. But even if it was familiar in the sense that it fit into a “western” classification, it was still like nothing else on TV.

Thankfully for the millions-strong fanbase, Yellowstone’s scripts started off tight and have arguably only gotten better over time, so roping Costner in wasn’t much of an issue. And the actor continued speaking to the idea that the show’s fanbase and potential award recognition would validate his time-honored creative instincts. In his words:

And more than that, it's actually a confirmation to me that I have to kind of follow my instincts. I can't follow a trend. Because a trend now is to maybe make a movie like Yellowstone, or to try to duplicate it. I have to kind of chase the story that means the most to me at whatever time in my life I am. I've done that with little movies. I mean, my career was kind of built [on low-budget films]. I mean, if you go back and look at the breadcrumbs of my career - try to follow them back - my career was kind of built on movies that were $5 million - Bull Durham. $10 million, Field of Dreams. These movies meant something to me, I could sense them. I didn't know that they were still going to be around, and people'd still talk about them. But it's still the written word for me.

Though epic-sized films like the late-to-be-appreciated Waterworld and The Postman often come to mind when Kevin Costner’s career is discussed, it’s easy to overlook how many of his successes came from films that didn’t require more than meager budgets. It’s wild to think about a star-speckled movie like Bull Durham costing anything less than $30 million in today’s Hollywood. And much like Yellowstone, those projects are memorable for Costner’s presence as much as anything else. Which isn’t to say that the Paramount Network drama is cheap at all, since it certainly costs a pretty penny to film up in those gorgeous Montana locations with such a stacked ensemble. But the point is that the money can be more of an afterthought whenever there are massive crowds tuning in and enjoying the show. 

Plus, I can’t tell you how many good ideas I’ve had that went ignored despite success. Granted, I’ve never had the option of starring in a Yellowstone-esque project, but the fact remains: wouldn’t everybody love if our lesser-discussed thoughts and instincts were rewarded in some way? 

The actor also shared how fans’ assumptions play into his thoughts on awards. In the sense that we’ve apparently all been somewhat hilariously misinterpreting Kevin Costner’s natural state of being. Here’s how he put it:

The idea of maybe being recognized [with awards], there's a certain part of me that would go, 'Yeah, I would like that.' I've always taken my acting really seriously. There's some people, I think, that think that it just comes naturally to me. You know, 'Oh, you're a natural actor.' And it's really not the truth. My process is painfully slow. It takes me a tremendous time to memorize. Because I can't act by just learning my lines the night before; I have to live with them, and try to completely embody what I do to try to make it natural. So you know, I get knocked for it looking just as natural. That's okay, too. But your fundamental question, I guess, I wouldn't mind having my children watch me get nominated, because I try to explain to them what I do, and I can't hardly even do it.

Could there possibly be a better way for Kevin Costner to have closed that answer out? Sure, some of his awards interest stems from personal pride and his enthusiasm for the work of those around him. But then some of it is also just to make his kids understand what he does that makes so many millions of people love him so much. I think we can all relate to that. I mean, sort of. 

Yellowstone may not have had much nomination luck at the Emmys in the past, but it’s likely the show taking over the zeitgeist will earn it more attention. Check out the first four seasons streaming on Peacock while waiting for the super-sized Season 5 to debut on Paramount Network on Sunday, November 14. 

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.