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How Kevin Costner's Yellowstone Was Able To Use Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven Theme

kevin costner yellowstone

TV westerns are few and far between these days, but Paramount Network's Yellowstone sits squarely among recent efforts. Creator Taylor Sheridan, of Sons of Anarchy fame, is a genre fanatic through and through, having penned 2016's acclaimed feature Hell or High Water. In fact, Sheridan spearheaded the effort to get the rights for Clint Eastwood's "Claudia's Song" from Unforgiven, despite the fact that no one had gotten permission before. Here's how he put it in an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip.

As far as Claudia's theme goes, I had 45 minutes one day, and I didn't know exactly how I was going to intro that episode. So I turned to Ben [Richardson, Producer and Cinematographer] and I say, 'Let's just shoot a music video to this song. I'll never get it, but let's do it anyway.' So we started throwing up cameras, since the light was dying, and we filmed it. And I reached out to Clint Eastwood, and I sent him the scene and asked him permission if I could use it. Because he's never allowed anyone to use it, in any capacity.

But guess what? Regardless of anyone else's previous failed attempts, Taylor Sheridan's request was accepted and allowed. It appears the iconic Clint Eastwood took the consideration to heart and decided that both Sheridan and Yellowstone were genuine and authentic enough with intentions for "Claudia's Song," and he gave his ultra-rare permission for the track to be used in the series.

"Claudia's Song" shows up at the beginning of "The Remembering," which was Episode 6 in Yellowstone's freshman season. Taylor Sheridan, who wrote and directed all nine episodes, had to have felt pretty magnificent once he got the O.K. from Clint Eastwood to go forward with the scene, Unforgiven music fully intact. In the video, Sheridan also explained how important the song and the movie are for him.

You know, it's the theme of Unforgiven, which, for me, it's the film that made me decide that's what I want to do for a living. So to have an opportunity to pay this abstract homage to the man who both directed that movie and wrote that song and performed it...that was a 90-second homage to Clint Eastwood.

One might presume that Taylor Sheridan would have found other conspicuous ways to honor Clint Eastwood and possibly other genre legends throughout Yellowstone had "Claudia's Song" not been authorized for use. Sure, his first directorial effort, 2012's Vile, was a horror film, and his first acting role was as Veronica Mars' Danny Boyd. However, he's gotten to show off his Western skills with Hell or High Water, 2017's Wind River (which he wrote and directed), and with Yellowstone. Here's hoping he continues doing such a great job, too.

You can hear him tell the story in the exclusive clip below.

Viewers are obviously in agreement that Taylor Sheridan knows what he's doing, with or without Unforgiven's iconic theme, which Clint Eastwood wrote with conductor Lennie Niehaus. Yellowstone has been a massive hit for Paramount Network, easily becoming one of the top new cable series of 2018. Averaging over 2 million viewers across its first season, and around a 0.4 demo rating, the Kevin Costner drama doubled its viewer totals and ratings for all but one episode when delayed viewing stats were tallied.

Yellowstone ended Season 1 back in August, but fans can pick up the DVD set in stores today. No one has to worry about its future, either, as Paramount Network renewed it for Season 2 just a month after it premiered. Everyone can look forward to seeing Arrow-verse vet Neal McDonough in Season 2 as another skeezy character who probably smiles too much.

While waiting for Yellowstone's Season 2 debut, head to our fall TV guide and our midseason premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are popping up in the near future.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

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.