Dustin Hoffman's TV Show Canned Over Animal Abuse

16 March 2012 | 1:35 pm | Staff Writer

HBO's Luck axed under PETA pressure

HBO's Dustin Hoffman starring Luck has been canned after animal welfare groups campaigned against three horse deaths.

Created and written by David Milch (Deadwood) and directed by Michael Mann, the show – based around the ethics and corruption of betting on horse racing in the '60s – was in production for its second season after an acclaimed but under-rating first season.

Controversy had emerged over the deaths of three horses during the making of the show, and the third death has proved to be the tipping point for the cable network.

A statement today (via LA Times) read, “It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the seriesLuck.”

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It adds, “Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures.

“While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won't in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.”

Recently the lobby group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to the network accusing them of ignoring expert safety advice, claims which the network denied.

A joint comment from Mann and Milch read, “The two of us loved this series, loved the cast, crew and writers. This has been a tremendous collaboration and one that we plan to continue in the future.”

Milch – who is believed to still be bitter over the premature cancellation of cult hit Deadwood – and Mann are known perfectionists and their combined artistic craftsmanship was one of the show's main appeals. However there seems to have been plenty of tension during its making.

In a recent interview with one of the show stars Nick Nolte, he claims that Milch wanted to kill Mann with a baseball bat.

“There was a day that David was going to kill Michael,” Nolte said. “I guess I shouldn't talk about this, but I've heard it going around so I guess it's not a secret. It's absolutely true. Michael hadn't turned the film in [for an episode] and David was livid. He said to John [Ortiz], who plays the other trainer on the show, 'I'm going to go down to the editing room and I'm going to kill Michael Mann'.”

He added, “The look on Milch's face was intense, and John was pretty upset and he says, 'David, you really don't want to do that. You don't have a gun, do you?' And Milch tells him, 'No, I don't have a gun but I have a baseball bat and I'm going to kill him. If I'm not back in a few hours, get my lawyers on the phone.' John was beside himself.

“An hour and a half later, Milch comes back and John asks him what happened. Milch says something like, 'I went down there and kicked in the door and Mann was there hunched over the Avid [editing console] and he looked back at me and then he just kept working.' Milch stood there for something like 15 minutes and Mann kept looking back every minute or two but he also kept working. And finally I guess Milch realized that Mann was working as fast as he could.”

Pictured: Duston Hoffman (right), in Luck