On Taylor Sheridan

James Hibberd

Hollywood Reporter


“We’re sitting behind one of his houses on his massive Four Sixes ranch. The property is wedged up in the remote Texas panhandle, several hours’ drive from the nearest major city. (The Montana ranch in Yellowstone is fictional, but the Four Sixes, or 6666 — which is also featured in the series — is real.) Sheridan finalized his purchase last year, and it covers a staggering 270,000 acres — nearly the size of Los Angeles”

““I grew up in the shadow of the Four Sixes,” Sheridan says. “To just get one of their horses was a status symbol, because they’re so well trained. This was the ranch I based [Yellowstone’s] scope and operation on, because it didn’t exist in Montana. Most ranches there had already been carved up. They’d already lost it.””

“Acquiring the property, however, wasn’t easy. Sheridan says he renewed his overall deal at Paramount in 2021 and started pumping out prequels and pilots to help pay for all this. It was an extraordinary burst of get-the-ranch productivity that’s resulted in green lights for six series”

“What Yellowstone is really about is a dying American way of life, a clash between traditions that respect the land and the unstoppable intrusion of modernity. Yet by the time he was making season three, Sheridan was starting to worry that his not-so-secret mission to save ranches in real life was doomed”

“The things Sheridan cares about — and what he doesn’t — sometimes align with his protagonists, who likewise tend to be determined bosses who are used to having things done their way. They feel deeply for their family, close friends and respective missions in life — never mind other people’s opinions”

“Take Sheridan’s feelings about the Emmys. Sheridan has never been nominated, and his shows have been largely snubbed. Asked if he cares about winning the respect of his industry peers, Sheridan tells the backstory of his movie Wind River, which highlighted a grossly unjust law enforcement loophole”

““[Wind River] actually changed a law, where you can now be prosecuted if you’re a U.S. citizen for committing rape on an Indian reservation, and there’s now a database for missing murdered Indigenous women,” he says. “So keep your fucking award. Who’s going to remember I won an award in 10 years? But that law had a profound impact. All social change begins with the artist, and that’s the responsibility you have.””

“Then there’s the whole conservative label, which has never really fit. Yellowstone was unfairly branded a red-state show for years (it’s popular everywhere). Now Sheridan is amused to hear there’s been right-wing backlash declaring his shows “too woke” after Yellowstone introduced an animal rights activist character and 1923 devastatingly explored the historical abuse of Indigenous people”

“Yet his most politics-scrambling stance is his obvious passion for the environment. It’s one thing to advocate for the natural world like half of Hollywood does, quite another to put your overall deal on the line for a sizable chunk of the great outdoors. “This ranch looks like it did 150 years ago, and it’s a constant fight,” he says. “Business-wise, it was a terrible decision. But they’re just not making any more of this and someone’s got to take care of it. I felt a duty.””

““The real impetus behind Yellowstone was always that if you’re the owner of an amount of land that vast, you’re kind of a king, and morality doesn’t apply,” he says. “I was surprised by the amount of political influence that we have [with the ranch]. I don’t know why I was surprised — I wrote it into Yellowstone. But what we do or don’t do can influence a market. So even though I wrote about John Dutton having that kind of influence, I never really fathomed myself having it.””

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