Yellowstone star Cole Hauser chose the role of Rip Wheeler despite the fact the character barely appeared in the pilot. He went through an incredible physical transformation to become John Dutton’s (Kevin Costner) ranch foreman. Even though he had no idea it would be the breakout role of his acting career that dates back to the early 1990s.
Cole Hauser was nearly unrecognizable in the ‘Yellowstone’ pilot
Hauser first broke into Hollywood in the 1992 film School Ties. And it was on that set where he met two friends who would change his life — Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Just a couple of years later, they were all still struggling actors when Affleck and Damon wrote the script for Good Will Hunting while staying at Hauser’s apartment.
They gave Hauser a part in the film, and that led to numerous other film and television roles over the next 20 years. But when Hauser showed up in the Yellowstone pilot, he was nearly unrecognizable to fans who were familiar with his work.
Hauser says that when he met with Yellowstone co-creators John Linson and Taylor Sheridan — two longtime friends of his — he already had his beard and his hair was the length he wanted. But because he is a “ginger,” Hauser decided to dye his hair black so he and Kelly Reilly (Beth Dutton) didn’t “look like brother and sister.”
Cole Hauser says there is 1 part of Rip Wheeler that is all him
When it comes to playing a cowboy, Hauser says that his top priority was making sure Rip was as authentic as possible. He told Awards Daily that being a cowboy is “not an easy lifestyle and your body takes a beating.”
“I’ve done a lot of things and through these war pictures and doing crazy things in life and stunts, and the walk of the cowboy is very easy for me,” Hauser explained. “I have back issues, and I’ve torn hamstrings, I’ve got torn cartilage in knees, my shoulders. My walk as Rip is real.”
Rip’s physical heft was also important to Hauser. He wanted the character “to be bigger than everybody.” However, that didn’t mean getting shredded and taking growth hormones.
“He’s not going to a gym, he’s lifting bales of hay and working, so he’s not skinny and muscular. He’s just a big country strong looking guy,” Hauser said. “So I put on twenty pounds and most of it, I won’t lie, was weight. It wasn’t tonal muscle.”
There’s ‘a certain freedom’ to playing Rip Wheeler on ‘Yellowstone’
As for playing a character that technically doesn’t exist — Rip has no legal identification and was a castoff child — Hauser says “there’s a certain freedom to it.” He loved when Sheridan told him that Rip didn’t have a driver’s license or bank account, and always carries cash.
“I was like man that’s the f***ing best thing I’ve ever heard. For me, it was exactly what I was looking for. That throwback to Americana. That man that we’ve kind of lost in this country. It’s unfortunate but true,” Hauser explained.
“I’ve met some of them along the way that live off the radar and off the grid and don’t even have phones. That’s how little they care. It’s refreshing for people to see in this country. I love that aspect of the character. It’s such a great detail.”
Yellowstone Season 5 premieres Sunday, November 13 on the Paramount Network.