A remote country boy to a small-time actor to a widely-acclaimed screenwriter to a director, Taylor Sheridan has worked his way through the industry.
Taylor Sheridan is one of the primary driving forces behind “Yellowstone.” He is the show creator, alongside John Linson, of the hit Paramount Network show starring Kevin Costner, Wes Bentley, Kelly Reilly, and Cole Hauser.
What is there to know about Sheridan besides the fact he is behind one of the most-watched ad-supported shows on cable television?
Taylor Sheridan Small-Time Acting Career
Taylor Sheridan has also been an actor earlier in his career.
He started out in smaller roles like “Dr. Quinn,” “Walker,” “Texas Ranger,” “Medicine Woman,” “Party of Five,” “Time of Your Life,” and “V.I.P.”
His most notable roles were in “Veronica Mars” and “Sons of Anarchy,” as both allowed him to play a recurring character.
In “Veronica Mars” he plays Danny Boyd. He is in the episode titled “Ahoy, Mateys!” in the second season of the series from 2005.
Sheridan is also recognizable for his role in “Sons of Anarchy.” He played Deputy Chief David Hale in the first three seasons from 2008 to 2010. He starred alongside other cast members like Ron Periman, William Lucking, and Jeff Kober.
He never went to school for writing. Instead, he learned everything he knows from being an actor and learning on sets of shows like “Veronica Mars” and “Sons of Anarchy.”
From Acting to Screenwriting
Taylor Sheridan made the transition to screenwriting once he turned 40. His very first film was “Sicario,” which is directed by Denis Villeneuve and came out in 2015.
His debut in the screenwriting world was a powerful one. It was given wide-praise critically and even scored a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also received a nomination for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay.
What was his critically masterful script about?
The film revolved around Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) who is an FBI agent who is a part of a government task force to bring down the leader of a powerful drug cartel. It also stars Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin. There was also a sequel to the film released in 2018. It is titled “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.”
His experience writing his script was a unique one in the industry. He wrote the script in only four months, escaped development, and then made the film off his first draft just four months after that. An eight-month timeline is almost unheard of in Hollywood.
Based on Real Imaginative Events
He was inspired to write the film based on the real drug war that was happening at the time on the border. In fact, in many ways, the film is based on a lot of reality that just doesn’t get much media attention.
“I didn’t have to dig too deep to find information (in the research process) … All of the violence that you see was based on actual events, taken completely out of context and fictionalized, but bodies on bridges and bodies in walls, I didn’t make that up,” Sheridan said in an interview with Deadline.
While the film was “an act of the imagination,” it still had elements that involved research and knowledge of current events. For example, he spent a lot of time learning about the different military and police organization to get a good picture of how they function.
Before Taylor Sheridan’s launch into screenwriting, he really only had very small roles on television. Now, as a writer, he used his past experiences to shape the way his move would play out. For example, he enjoys giving smaller characters, like he once was, their own development arc as well.
“There’s almost no exposition in my dialogue, and I intentionally broke a lot of rules of the structure of storytelling because I’d been held to them so long,” Sheridan said.
His goal was to give the audience a hat trick: entertain, educate, and enlighten.
Taylor Sheridan and ‘Comancheria’
After his success with “Sicario,” Sheridan wrote “Comancheria.” While he escaped development during his debut at writing, this time his film spent a few years in the development stage.
The movie even appeared on the Black List in 2012. This is a survey that is comprised of the most-liked non-released screenplays of the year. Other movies that were once on the list and are now award-winning films are “The Revenant,” “American Hustle,” “Juno,” “The Descendants,” and “Spotlight.”
Taylor Sheridan’s film was changed to “Hell or High Water” and was released in 2016. It stars Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster. He earned BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award nominations for his work on the film.
The film tells the story of two brothers who rob banks to save their family ranch. Two Texas Rangers are hot on their tails. The screenplay is an original, something that sets Sheridan apart from a Hollywood overrun by remakes and adaptations.
Taylor Sheridan described the script as an ode to the American Frontier. It is a common theme from this film to even his work on “Yellowstone.”
“What are the consequences of decisions and actions that are a century old and today? I was exploring the death of a way of life, and the acute consequences of the mortgage crisis in East Texas,” Sheridan said to IndieWire.
He went on to say the goal was to make a “buddy road film which was also a heist thriller, with elements of the inevitable showdown of a western with some of the real consequences of the flawed characters of a real drama. For me, the greatest thing a movie can do is rivet you while you’re watching, but also give you something to chew on for days and weeks after you’ve seen it.”
‘Vile’ as His ‘Directorial Debut’
After getting a taste of writing, Sheridan also started on his directing career.
His first, although he does not agree, was “Vile,” a very low-budget horror film. A friend of his needed help and he provided some directorial support, but he doesn’t consider it enough to be his feature debut as a director.
“I would say this [Wind River] is my feature debut. A friend of mine raised — I don’t know what he raised — 20 grand or something, and cast his buddies, and wrote this bad horror movie, that I told him not to direct. He was going to direct it and produce it, and he started and freaked out, and called and said, ‘Can you help me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll try.’ I kind of kept the ship pointed straight, and they went off and edited, and did what they did. I think it’s generous to call me the director,” Sheridan said in a Rotten Tomatoes interview.
‘Wind River’ as His Real Directorial Debut
His “real” debut as a director was in “Wind River.” It was also his third screenwriting job. The movie stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. The movie is about an FBI agent and a game tracker that are investigating a murder. The murder took place on a Native American reservation.
It is the third installment of his “modern-day American frontier” trilogy. He never set out to make a trilogy, but the themes just came together perfectly.
“There were these themes that I was exploring now that existed in other areas, and that there might be a really interesting cinematic way to tie them together in a manner that I hadn’t seen before. As ambitious as it was, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t think anyone would ever buy any of these things so I felt pretty free to try whatever I wanted,” Sheridan said in an interview with Interview Magazine.
Taylor Sheridan said that “Wind River” sheds light on the oppressive nature and violence that occurs in the Indian reservation. He said that winter is the most oppressive time. Historically, they would have migrated to a warmer area, but are confined to the reservation.
A Passion for Native American Rights
Native American recognition is something Sheridan is passionate about and continues to express in his work.
“It is the great shame of my nation the manner in which it has treated the native inhabitants of North America. Sadly, my government continues that shame with an insidious mixture of apathy and exploitation. (…) There is nothing I can do to change the issues afflicting Indian country, but what we can do as artists – and must do – is scream about them with fists clenched. What we can do – is make sure these issues aren’t ignored. Then the people who can effect change will be forced to,” Sheridan said, according to IMDb.
His film “Wind River” is particularly dedicated to the cause of awareness. Sheridan has said that he has friends in the reservations and when he visits, he sees the hardships. Particularly, underreported violence against women.
“It’s unknown … ignored by the media. It’s not that the leaders of these tribes aren’t screaming about it, it’s just that no one’s listening … one of the great things about film: We can give a voice to those that are not being heard,” Sheridan said.
Sheridan’s Personal Life
Sheridan is from Cranfills Gap, Texas. He was from a lower-income, minimal family.
Sheridan graduated from Texas State University. He then set off to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
He is currently married to Nicole Muirbrook, an actress and model, since 2013. They live in Weatherford, Texas together.
In his interview with Interview Magazine, Sheridan shared that his family didn’t grow up with cable. He would instead watch the same movies over and over. They were films like “The Graduate” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
It’s clear his country, remote lifestyle played a factor in the kind of movies he makes and the issues he deems are important.
“Yellowstone” has its fourth season coming some time this year. In addition to that, he is expected to work on “Disorder.”
This is an American remake of the drama-thriller written by Matthias Schoenaerts. It was announced in 2016 that the originally French film is in the production process.