Taylor Sheridan is the reigning poet laureate of modern Westerns but he credits one Clint Eastwood film with starting it all. In his tv writing and films, Sheridan has put the American frontier front and center. In tv, his biggest calling card is undoubtedly Yellowstone. Though the first season was met with mixed reviews, later seasons have been praised for their storytelling. The show has made Sheridan essentially a franchise maker for Paramount.
Yellowstone was created by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote almost the entire series. During the show’s five-season run, Sheridan even directed several episodes. However, his passion for the Western did not begin with Yellowstone. He’d been experimenting with the style in films like Hell or High Water which told stories of contemporary outlaws. Sheridan drew inspiration for his movies and television show from the films he watched during his young adulthood. These stories, often with ambiguous morality and violence, would eventually inspire him to create Yellowstone. Of all the Westerns he saw, one, in particular, starred Clint Eastwood and served as a catalyst for Sheridan’s future work.
Taylor Sheridan recently told Variety about some of his early influences. “I was very influenced by writers like Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, Toni Morrison, who wrote about the time around the Civil War, which is obviously very similar themes. There’s a lot of Westerns about it. And in terms of the movies that influenced me, it was watching Unforgiven when I was in my late teens or very early 20s. The same with Dances With Wolves, where you’re looking at the Western genre through a whole new lens that had never been explored before.”
How Unforgiven’s realism influenced Taylor Sheridan
Unforgiven is undoubtedly one of Clint Eastwood’s greatest acting and directing performances. The style and themes present in “Unforgiven” don’t only appear in Yellowstone, but also in Taylor Sheridan’s other pieces. Whereas Sheridan’s work is entirely original, Eastwood’s films can be seen as the blueprint for much of it.
Unforgiven has a strong grip on reality, without the romanticism that often comes with many other westerns. Most notably, Eastwood’s film provides a realistic perspective of violence and action, as opposed to glorifying it like many other films in the genre. Taylor Sheridan focuses on making his films as realistic as possible. There is plenty of action in Yellowstone, Sicario, and Hell or High Water, however, the violence shown has real consequences.
Sheridan’s journey to creating Yellowstone was set in motion by influential pieces like Eastwood’s Unforgiven. With any luck, Sheridan will continue to produce fascinating neo-westerns that will encourage other up-and-coming directors to maintain the genre. The new season of Yellowstone is set to drop on November 13th on Paramount Plus.