Is ‘Yellowstone’ Based On A True Story?

Paramount's 'Yellowstone' seems to be what everyone's talking about and the premise isn't exactly completely fictional.

The fourth season of the Neo-Western ranch drama Yellowstone on the Paramount Network wrapped up with its finale episode on January 2nd. Just like its preceding season, the fourth chapter of the show was met with critical acclaim, hitting an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A fifth season is yet to be confirmed by the network, but there would be an uproar among the ever-growing fan base was the show to be canceled. With such an incredible following, it is normal for people to wonder – is the series based on events that actually took place?

Throughout the history of cinema and television, true stories have resonated massively with audiences when translated to the screen. A good example is the Alfred Hitchcock horror classic, Psycho, which was apparently modeled on an actual serial killer from Wisconsin in the ’50s.

It is a slightly different situation with Yellowstone, though. With an illustrious cast that includes the likes of Kelly Reilly and Kevin Costner, the show depicts ranching life in the State of Montana. While elements of the show are inspired by real-life settings, the story itself is very much fictional.

‘Yellowstone’ Was Developed By ‘Sons Of Anarchy’s Taylor Sheridan

Yellowstone was born in the brain of Taylor Sheridan, previously best known for his role as Deputy Chief of Police David Hale in the FX series Sons of Anarchy. After nearly two decades of performing in front of the camera, Sheridan reportedly grew tired of acting and made the decision to delve into screenwriting and directing.

His first pro gig behind the camera was in a horror film called Vile, which was released in 2011. The Texan was credited as the movie’s director, although he has a slightly different view on the matter. Sheridan previously explained that he only helped out in directing the film as a favor to his friend Eric Beck, who wrote and produced it.

This happened within one year of Sheridan leaving Sons of Anarchy, in a moment of epiphany that saw him transition from actor to writer/director. In a 2016 interview with Creative Screenwriting, he revealed the catalysts for this move.

“We were in the process of re-negotiating,” he explained. “And I had one idea of what I was worth and they had an idea that was vastly different.”

Taylor Sheridan Quit ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ Because He Was ‘Tired Of Telling Other People’s Stories’

His wife, Nicole Muirbrook was at the time pregnant, and the thought of seeing his family get ‘stuck’ in Hollywood triggered a different way of thinking. “I was doing the math and I was realizing that I couldn’t be living in a two-bedroom apartment in Hollywood for the rest of my days,” he continued. “I didn’t want to raise my kid there.”

There were also creative reasons for making that choice. “I had also reached the point where I was really tired of telling other people’s stories and I wanted to tell my own,” he said. “I quit [Sons of Anarchy], and sold just about everything I owned and sat down and wrote Sicario.”

Sicario was followed by Hell or High Water, which he both wrote but did not direct. The two films were incredibly successful all the same, with the latter even getting nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay.

His proper feature debut as a director came in 2017, with Wind River. In May of that year, Sheridan had his Yellowstone concept greenlit for development at Paramount.

‘Yellowstone’ Borrows Some Elements From The 825,000 Acres King Ranch In Texas

IMDb summarizes the plot of Yellowstone as the story of ‘the Dutton family, led by John Dutton, who controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, under constant attack by those it borders – land developers, an Indian reservation, and America’s first National Park.’

In that sense, elements of the story have indeed been inspired by the 825,000 acres King Ranch in Texas. Sheridan also fleshed out the plot with bits from his own upbringing, as he himself grew up in a ranch in Cranfills Gap in the Lone Star state.

“I strive for authenticity. I strive to show people the world I grew up in,” he said in a promotional video with Paramount in December last year. This is something that he then tries to transmit to his actors.

“The better I can make them understand the thing they’re acting out, the better the performances, the more authentic the scenes look, then it looks real,” he expounded. “I just take my actors and put them to work. And so when they perform their character, they’re just doing another formula job.”

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