HomeEntertainmentTVYellowstoneCould Matthew McConaughey Be ‘Yellowstone’ Franchise’s Next Dutton Patriarch?

Could Matthew McConaughey Be ‘Yellowstone’ Franchise’s Next Dutton Patriarch?

by Jon D. B.
Julia Schaepfer as Alexandra and Brandon Sklenar as Spencer Dutton in 1923. (Photo: Paramount Plus Press). Matthew McConaughey filming 'Free State of Jones' in Louisiana, USA, April 2015. (Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images)

If Matthew McConaughey joins the Yellowstone Universe, is he destined to represent his home state? Or become a Dutton patriarch?

Yellowstone headlines have been dominated by two things the last week: Kevin Costner’s “departure” and Matthew McConaughey’s “hiring.” Yet neither has been confirmed (hence the quotation marks). Instead, it feels as if Paramount is amidst yet another period of rapid growth/change, trades caught wind of it, and the rest is history.

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And while it’s highly doubtful Costner will walk away from Yellowstone, the chances of McConaughey becoming a franchise lead are far higher. Why?

Matthew McConaughey is a phenomenal talent with whom we’d love to partner,” Paramount replied to both Outsider and Deadline of the swirling rumors. Feels like beating a dead horse at this point, but honestly that’s a bold statement from a studio that’s piloting the biggest franchise on television. They didn’t rebuke reports of his involvement. They didn’t name Kurt Russell or Jeff Bridges (my personal top picks for the next Dutton patriarch) alongside – they named McConaughey.

What Does Matthew McConaughey Bring to the Table?

McConaughey is not a modern Western icon like Russell or Bridges, or Costner or 1883‘s Sam Elliott, for that matter. Yet neither is Harrison Ford, despite having starred in his fair share of Westerns over an illustrious, decades-long career.

More aptly, neither was Tim McGraw before winning all our hearts as James Dutton. The country music megastar had never filmed a true Western before 1883. But McGraw had something far more important than genre experience: life experience. As steeped in the country music of America as anyone alive today, McGraw helped define the sound of a generation after growing up as country as can be via his (adoptive) father’s 18-wheeler traveling the south.

Similarly, Matthew McConaughey is entrenched in the cultural fabric of his home state, Texas. From teaching at his alma mater, UT, to deeply-rooted humanitarian work, McConaughey has become inseparable from the Lone Star State. Which is exactly why, so far, speculation has been on McConaughey leading 6666, Taylor Sheridan’s modern Yellowstone spinoff.

As a Texas native himself, Sheridan’s show about Texas’ biggest and most historic ranch is a passion project. So much so, in fact, that he now owns and operates the actual Four Sixes with a trust. And for McConaughey, all of this has to be a huge draw; the kind of draw it would take to get McConaughey to return to an on-screen project after a multi-year hiatus (his last non-voice role was in 2019’s The Gentlemen).

Destined for the Four Sixes or the Yellowstone?

Yet there’s another possibility entirely. As perfect a fit as he is for 6666, McConaughey is also well-suited to become a Dutton proper. It’s not like Costner (California), McGraw (Louisiana), or Ford (Illinois) grew up in Montana. So why not pull the Texan in to true Dutton territory?

If McConaughey takes the reigns in 6666, he won’t be a Dutton. That ranch has already featured heavily in Yellowstone‘s recent plot lines, and no family connection has been established. Instead, he’d likely be the ranch foreman and a sort of frenemy of John Dutton. This sounds fun in theory, but also feels a waste of an actor of McConaughey’s caliber when you consider both Costner and Ford have done some of the best work of their careers as Duttons (and McGraw redefined himself as an actor by joining the family, too).

Matthew McConaughey also bares a strong resemblance to Josh Lucas, Yellowstone‘s 90s-era John Dutton (below). He’s got the look, energy, and intensity of the Duttons to a tee.

Yellowstone Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey ( (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images for Wild Turkey). Josh Lucas as Young John Dutton (Paramount Network Press)

He’d be an excellent fit to play Dabney Coleman’s John Sr. (the father of Lucas & Costner’s John) as a young man. For this to happen, however, 53-year-old McConaughey would need to be given a Yellowstone spinoff in the 1970s. And that’s not one of the three Sheridan currently has in the works.

Which Dutton Era Could Matthew McConaughey Rule Over?

As for what Dutton spinoffs Sheridan does have coming, a studio rep has already “let the cat out of the bag” on a 1940s-based Yellowstone spinoff. While at an event in Montana, Tom Prince, executive vice president of production at 101 Studios, described a forthcoming “1944” as a follow-up to 1923.

The 20-year gap between these two prequels provides a very interesting possibility for McConaughey. At 53-years-old to Brandon Sklenar‘s 31, he’s the perfect age to take over the mantle of Spencer Dutton for that rumored 1944:

Julia Schaepfer as Alexandra and Brandon Sklenar as Spencer Dutton in 1923. (Photo: Paramount Plus Press). Matthew McConaughey filming ‘Free State of Jones’ in Louisiana, USA, April 2015. (Photo by Murray Close/Getty Images)

These two actors share a steely, undeniable charisma, too. There’s certainly more than a passing resemblance physically, too. Moreover, Elsa Dutton’s first narration in 1923 makes it clear that Spencer is to lead the Dutton family through “every hell the 20th century hurled” at this family. And Paramount will be hard-pressed to find an actor more capable of taking over Spencer’s mantle. Clearly, Sheridan is going to need someone to finish his story. So why not try to bag one of Hollywood’s most capable performers?

If Not Spencer Dutton, Then Who?

Or, the Texan could play a different, unexpected Dutton we’ve yet to meet, similar to how Harrison Ford’s Jacob Dutton, the previously-unknown older brother of 1883‘s James Dutton (McGraw), appeared for 1923. As the Dutton family “faces extinction” in 1923‘s first season, however, it feels as if such convenient storytelling opportunities are all used up on Sheridan’s end.

The Yellowstone mastermind could choose to skip the 1960s for the 1970s and completely change his next spinoff (which he has done before by switching “1932” to 1923) in order to accommodate McConaughey as the next John Dutton Sr. But for now, this feels like the least-likely option of the above.

Either way it shakes out, we have plenty more 1923 and Yellowstone heading our way in 2023. And chances are, we’ll learn Paramount’s plans for Matthew McConaughey (if any) during.

For more on Taylor Sheridan’s upcoming work in the franchise, see our previous coverage here.