It seems like screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has been the talk of the town lately because people can't seem to get enough of his hit Paramount Network TV show, Yellowstone. Though he's certainly made a name for himself as a filmmaker, Sheridan actually got his start in front of the camera instead of his current preferred place: behind the scenes. He didn't actually transition to writing until he was in his 40s, proof that it's never too late to follow your dreams.
Sheridan grew up in Cranfills Gap, Texas on his family ranch. As a student at Texas State University in San Marcos, he started acting, which was where a talent scout discovered him and suggested he move out to Los Angeles. According to his IMDB, Sheridan booked roles on NCIS: Los Angeles, Walker, Texas Ranger, Veronica Mars, and more before he landed the main role of David Hale on Sons of Anarchy, but he was making significantly less than other actors on the show. He explained to Deadline that was really what prompted him to quit acting entirely.
"We were renegotiating on Sons after the second season and I had one idea, and the studio had a different idea. Everyone on the show was making twice what I'm making, the other series regulars. We're not talking about the stars. And I'm on the DVD [cover] bro; only two people on it. I say, "Why is this all you're offering me? It seems unfair." I'm told, "That's all you're worth and all you'll ever be worth." I took that in. And I said, "OK. I guess I'll tell my own stories."
Well, there ya go. Not only did Sheridan go and tell his own stories, but he was clearly meant to do so. The first time he wrote a feature film script, it was a major Hollywood hit. Sicario, starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro, was a renowned thriller when it was released, earning Sheridan a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It even got its own sequel in 2018, Sicario: Day of the Soldado.
His second script, Hell or High Water, starring Ben Foster and Chris Pine, earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and proved that he had some serious skills for writing westerns.
As Sheridan told Deadline, he was in it for the long haul.
"I wasn't among those precious few actors in the position to choose things, so I spent the first 20 years of my career compromising," Sheridan said. "I decided I would spend the next 20 never compromising."
Sheridan's directorial debut Wind River, which he also wrote, was released in 2017. The film, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner, centers on a wildlife officer and FBI agent working to solve a murder on a Native American reservation in Wyoming.
After that, Sheridan decided to create his own television series: Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner as John Dutton. The show is doing incredibly well with a fourth season airing later this year due to its incredible cast and intense storytelling week after week. Sheridan has even appeared in front of the camera multiple times.
Sheridan explained to Deadline that it was important to ensure that the series' writing and ranch setting was authentic.
"The challenge to this world is...it's not a terribly difficult plot. But if you didn't grow up with cowboys and in this world, and you don't know this world, it's a really hard world to write because you're going to fall back on the clichés of that world," Sheridan said. "People tune in to the show for varying reasons, but the authenticity of the show is its bedrock. From the saddles that are used, from the kind of horses that we use, to the situations that I place them in that if you don't spend your afternoons moving cattle, you don't know those situations exist."
This article was originally published in 2020.